Tuesday, 27 May 2014
Taste Test: Everyday Teas
I realise I am in a fairly small minority in that I always drink premium loose-leaf tea. Despite loving a cup of splosh I only tend to drink one or two cups a day so I figure that it's worth spending a bit extra to ensure they're of a really good quality. But for many people the supermarket is where they do their tea-shopping and I can't deny that for a famously tea-loving country like Britain, teabags are where it's at.
When I have visitors and people doing work on the house they often look with suspicion at my overflowing cupboard of tins of loose-leaf tea so I decided I should buy a box of regular old teabags for just such an occasion. Who knows, maybe a super-speedy cuppa will appeal to me now and then. But if I'm going to drink regular everyday tea I want to know which one is the best. Of course my "best" might not be everyone else's so I should say that this taste test is highly subjective and based on my own personal preferences; but I will try to give a sense of what each tea offered.
I decided to begin with the big four of British teas: PG tips; Tetley; Typhoo and Yorkshire Tea. All are readily available pretty much everywhere; all are cheap - around 3p per cup; and each of them have their champions. I decided to be quite scientific(ish) in my preparation as I didn't want factors such as strength to impact on my tasting. I brewed each cup for 2 mins and added 10ml of milk. These are the results.
PG tips - 2.9p per pyramid bag. I've always thought that I don't really like PG Tips and it turns out I was right. My first thought was "wow, that's bitter". A really malty brew - like an Assam but without any brightness - I just didn't find this cup in any way thirst quenching. There is a rounded quality to the taste that hits the side of the tongue, but it's totally lacking in any refreshing bright notes. I'm sorry to say that this is one cuppa I would never choose.
Typhoo - 2.7p per round bag. This was the brand I had always thought was my everyday favourite. Certainly it's a brighter tea than PG but lacking any strong personality. I found that my whole tongue was more involved when I drank it but I struggled to find anything to write in my notes. An inoffensive cuppa that I'd be happy enough to drink but I wouldn't get too excited about.
Yorkshire Tea - 3.1p per square bag. One of those teas that (in the south anyway) has come to dominate shelf-space in supermarkets in a way that I don't remember from days gone by. This is the most expensive of the teas and unlike the others they suggest you brew for between 3-5 minutes. That is clearly necessary as two minutes definitely wasn't enough and I had to put the bag back in for another couple of minutes. Once brewed I found it not dissimilar to Typhoo: it hit me more on the side of the tongue but I found its flavour quite like Typhoo and for an extra couple of minutes brewing time I'm not sure I would bother to make the effort. I was once told by a master tea-blender that although most teas need to be brewed for between 3-5 minutes, the big bag companies know that very few people will give it longer than 90 seconds and they blend accordingly. Obviously not at Taylor's of Harrogate who make Yorkshire Tea. That's not a bad thing of course but for the extra brew-time I'd go for a good loose-leaf tea.
Tetley - 2.9p per round bag. Wow, what a surprise. I really liked this cuppa. It was bright and refreshing with that Darjeeling quality and hit me right on the back of the tongue. I found it really thirst-quenching and compared to the other three it stood out. In fact I liked it so much I actually finished the cup with a slice of cake. Praise indeed when you consider I have hundreds of others to choose from!
Just for comparison I then did a blind taste test for Coffee Boy and interestingly he ranked them exactly the same as I had with Tetley at the top, PG at the bottom and Yorkshire and Typhoo pretty evenly rated in the middle. Of course this may speak more about our tea-tasting compatibility than anything else but it was interesting nonetheless.
So there we are: for me Tetley was a clear winner. I've read that in recent years Tetley has been the top seller in Britain and on the evidence of this taste test I can see why. If you have a strong preference I'd love to hear about it and if you're thinking of trying something new I'd say, give Tetley a go. I was genuinely surprised by how enjoyable this cup was and if I was in a rush I'd certainly be happy to drink a quick cup. After feeling pretty disappointed by the other three it was quite heartening to find that at least one of the brands that sell by the millions has a really enjoyable taste.
Coming soon: Premium everyday teas compared.