Let me tell you a story about tea.
It begins with my childhood in Poland. You could say I was brought up on tea: I would have it at any time of day, with any food; apart from an occasional Happy Meal, I’d never drink “pop” or even water.
This trend continued until my adult life and to this day; once I get up I start with a black tea with lemon, later have it with my cake when I don’t fancy coffee, and follow a dinner with it – or, at least, I have, until very recently.
A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by The Tea Makers of London, wondering if I was keen on sampling some of their offering. I never reviewed tea before, but was up for the experience, so expressed my interest by giving the tea shop freedom of choice.
Another look back at my past experiences of tea: although I can safely call the black one (with lemon) my “daily water”, I never actually developed a liking for flavoured teas, and struggled particularly with the green variety; the former always smelled temptingly sweet, but disappointed in taste, while the latter I found incredibly strong and overpowering, and therefore not enjoyable (despite its arguable health benefits).
In learning all this I always opted for teabags for convenience. The beautifully-packaged boxes I got in Abu Dhabi during my November 2013 trip were the first loose teas I had acquired in a long while, but it took more than a year to finally get an appropriate teapot to brew them. Once that was done, I was motivated to begin discovering – and got only as far as buying a truly gorgeous white tea by Whittard – Chelsea Garden Blend.
Considering all this previous experience, I was excited and a little bit apprehensive when I began opening a delivery from The Tea Makers. Having known very little about the brand, the initial cues were very positive: elegant branding, high quality tin packaging, plus a tea and coffee strainer to make sure I brew the perfect cuppa – still no need for my lovely glass teapot then!
In fact, it looks like the packaging is a result of recent rebranding – according to the company’s website – to “truly reflect the superior quality of our products”. The business, founded by a former tea planter, offers more than 100 tea varieties, sourced from China, Ceylon, India, Japan, South Africa, Taiwan and Egypt.
“We love our customers to come out of the comfort zone and be adventurous, explore, experiment and discover that perfect cup,” they say – and although my exploring was limited to three varieties that The Tea Makers had chosen for me, I was eager to see if I could be converted from black to herbal…
No.50 Ceylon Silver Tips
Price from: £6.45 (25g)
Classed as a white variety, the first two things that strike you upon opening the tin are its shape and aroma: the pine needle-like tips emanate sweetness. Once brewed, the cup takes on a golden colour and the sweet smell of honey becomes even more prominent – and it remains in the flavour, albeit just as a hint on the palette. Otherwise, this is a very delicate and clean brew, which I found very soothing and – as odd as it may sound – reassuring. Definitely a more enjoyable option than your box-standard chamomile.
No. 51 Finest Japanese Sencha
Price from: £3.90 (50g)
So many elements of this one speak green: the shape and feel of the grass-like tips; the deep grassy colour; the smell is, in turn, lemony and so is the cup’s tone once brewed. The fine leaves leave a green sediment, firstly twirling round the cup, before setting on the bottom.
This picture painted, the taste was not what I expected, however – it instantly reminded me why I wasn’t a fan of green teas in the first place. In comparison to the previous one, it tasted super-strong, and grassy, hay-like – just as hinted by its original appearance. The tangy aftertaste lingered, and the sensation returned after every sip.
Having said that, I did continue to drink this one and I grew used to the taste, particularly earlier in the day to perk me up – and now I might even say I like green tea!
No. 56 Supreme Dragon Well
Price from: £8.95 (50g)
This baby is mind blowing from the start – you wouldn’t believe you can experience this many sensations with a single tea! Once you open the bag, it starts off with an aroma of chocolate truffles, captured in long, flat leaves. But when you then brew it, the smell that hits you is of a barbecued meat! I couldn’t believe my nose at first but every subsequent tea I made seemed to confirm it. This rather unexpected smell did distort my first tasting, as my nose tried to convince me I was drinking a meaty tea; it took a few more sips to get my head around the actual flavour which was, in fact, very clean and semi-sweet.
But what intrigued me the most about this one was its density – the concept of a full body is very familiar to me as a coffee drinker, but I don’t rememeber ever experiencing a similar mouth feel with a tea. The description on the tin could not be more acurate – this brew certainly featured a liquor-like texture, which felt extremely satisfying and moreish at the same time. Instantly, the Dragon Well had become my favourite – so much so, that it has now replaced the black tea with lemon I used to start my day off with, and I’m off to The Tea Makers website to put through an order for a new batch.
So, all in all, this was certainly an exploration worth undertaking – and I’m keen to discover what else The Tea Makers of London, and the tea world in general, have in stock.