Have you been taken in by tea sirens?
You’ve met those sirens of the tea world, all the promise in the incredible smell they offer. But when this tea envelopes your taste buds only bitter disappointment greets you.
Dull or even chemical tasting teas, why do you tempt us so?
That marvellous smell that greets you from the dry leaves, why does it rarely reach your taste buds?
So many reasons for this, and after 5 years of working with many tea producers all over the globe I believe the following guide to be key to ensuring you buy the quality of tea you deserve to ensure your best tea experience.
Sit down, grab your favourite tea and dive in.
You don’t like flavoured teas? Then you are in the right place.
Adding chemical or ‘natural’* flavourings is a cheap and easy way to increase the flavours offered by the tea creating a siren in the tea world. Ever tempting you with those incredible strong aromas.
Coating lower quality tea leaves with chemical compounds to mimic a certain fruit is so common. So is the disappointment when the taste does not match that incredible perfumed smell promised by the dry leaf.
Tea sirens sing beautifully when dry but in fact it no longer even smells much now it’s soggy.
So often I am asked what flavour my teas are, the short answer is they are tea flavoured.
The pomegranate flavoured tea gathering dust in your cupboard? Yes the very idea is “exciting” this is the perfect example of a siren singing to your olfactory nerves.
Poor quality tea is expected in our culture, so much so that some folks have never experienced good single origin teas.
My carefully curated collection of teas need no added chemicals in order to create an experience. They shine solo!
You will find no tea sirens here, in fact they often taste better than their dry smell promises.
Not unlike wine, single origin tea leaves offer notes unique to their growing conditions. The processing has a huge impact on the final taste of course, think of green tea and black tea both very different but both from the same plant.
Every year each tea will turn out slightly different, but don’t just take my word for it do try it yourself.
My no flavourings added philosophy does come with one exception, Empress Grey. My take on Earl Grey and no it’s not the same as M&S it’s better 😉
*so called natural flavourings are a whole other issue, did you know legally businesses do not need to tell you what makes up these compounds?
Due to my own horrific experiences with flavoured teas, I resisted creating an Earl Grey blend for years.
However, I do agree that a good Earl Grey is enjoyable, so I sourced high quality ingredients to develop Empress Grey. This journey was not uneventful, and many lessons were learned along the way.
Empress Grey utilises fine tippy (tiny buds) Assam tea hand coated in high quality cold pressed bergamot and sweet orange oils. You can taste the care that has gone into this blend.
These leave no chemical after taste, as they are high quality oils and have nothing extra added to them for fancy tea siren effect.
Our Empress Grey leaves can be reused for at least one more cup of tea. I was surprised to discover that if you enjoy it as I do there is even a third cup waiting for you from those same leaves.
Good luck getting 2 or three cups from any tea bag or even mass produced loose-leaf earl grey style teas.
I’m proud to say that Empress Grey is no tea siren, your taste buds receive what the fragrant leaves promise.
Why are green tea bags so dull and bitter?
So many reasons, the major one being it is poor quality tea leaf.
More than likely they have also been lying for a long time in unsuitable storage.
Green tea has higher water content than other teas and this water evaporates over time. The fresh spring notes fade with water loss. Resulting in tea the colour of dishwater and tasting of similar.
Think back to those dusty tea bags and how disappointing they were.
This is one of the reasons the following question is key.
When was this tea produced?
If your vendor can answer this question honestly then you are on to a winner.
Green teas bought from us are only available within a year of their production date.
Unless stored in a freezer, which can extend the life of green teas by up to 2 years (experiments ongoing!).
This is the very reason why you can still get fresh tasting Biluochun from last year in our online shop.
Other teas such as oolong and black tea are suitable for storing for longer periods of time in proper storage.
Tea is best stored away from sunlight (hi UV light, don’t dull my tea) in cool conditions.
Therefore, the teas we sell are packed in foil lined bags, so even after opening the freshness can be resealed in.
One rule I have had is to always isolate mint, our packs are good but I never trust the minty smell and taste to stay away from highly absorbent tea leaves (yes there’s a reason why people use tea leaves to deodorise fridges!)
Where do you get your teas from?
So important again! I realise there are a lot of aspects that I deem important, bare with me.
Going back to the issue of storage, if tea is stored in humid or too hot conditions, it will influence the taste and quality.
If a broker is involved then how do they know how well the tea has been stored?
My producers are invested in ensuring their carefully made tea arrives in the best condition as their reputation is at stake. Who would buy from a producer if they could not ensure the quality of their teas?
I often receive tea care instructions from them too.
If your tea vendor has a relationship with their producers they are able to gauge and ask questions about workers conditions and pay.
We cultivate relationships with our tea producers. Some are so small scale that only family members are involved in tea production. Others who outsource this work often pay more than UK living wage, as they employ skilled pickers with many years’ experience.
How do you make the best cup of tea?
If the response to this is ball infusers, consider running far away.
Please do not subject your tea leaves to this. But I’m getting side tracked, more on this later.
Personally, I will always say gongfu style, there is something about the experience and it really does make tea more immersive. This style of brewing also encourages time to be spent for maximum enjoyment.
Check out my guide on gongfu style brewing for an in depth look at this.
Once upon a time I was a novelty infuser magpie, but along the way I wondered why my tea was dull. Maybe I was just using bad tea?
Checking out the space for the tea leaves there was no room to allow these leaves to unravel. The leaves were stifled in that ball.
Chuck out those tiny infusers, the best infuser to use is a large basket (like these) which provides the tea leaves room to fully infuse.
If you feel like taking your tea with you, get some tea sacks, pop the tea in and roll them up. A tin to travel with good tea is a useful resource.
I hang my head and admit I used to offer novelty infusers.
Lesson learned when a disgruntled customer came to me demanding why my tea was so insipid (exactly the word used). Even when stuffing in more tea leaves than the instructions suggested. I discovered she was using one of my smaller infusers and jam packing it with leaves. Upon opening it she discovered dry leaves in the middle, but never once held the infuser responsible.
Lesson learned, sorry folks for irresponsibly selling bad infusers!
Please do get in touch if you were a bad infuser customer for an awesome discount on a good basket infuser.
I do wonder how many others I never saw again… Quite possible that some folks decided my offerings are tea sirens too just because of a tiny (but fun) infuser.
Say it with me: Ball infusers make bad tea!
Why do you not just use boiling water for all the teas?
Working so closely with my producers can be fascinating, long discussions are often had with my producers about the brewing parameters of their teas. Some years the leaves can be more fussy than others.
They do however tend to leave it up to me to work it out initially, which also gives me time to get to know the tea. And sets the scene for interesting discoveries.
Did you know that some green teas can even be brewed with boiling water? It can create an entirely different mouthfeel and taste to lower temperatures.
I relish in the fact that my view is not clouded with preconceptions and expectations.
The brewing guides I offer are based on my own subjective preferences for the teas, so please do play with them!