As a food blogger I’m fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to try new products. Lately I’ve had the chance to explore a whole range of different teas. Before you start reading I recommend making a cuppa (if you don’t already have one with you) and getting comfy as I take you on a tour of 17, yes you read that right, 17 different types of loose leaf tea that I been sent over the past couple of months from 4 different brands. I often buy different types of tea for myself anyway as I get bored drinking the same thing all the time so it’s been fun trying some completely new (to me) teas and from this selection I’ve found a few new favourites. I’ve also enjoyed seeing the diversity in what different teas look like both as loose leaf tea and a brewed drink.
Adagio Green and Herbal Teas
First up is Adagio who sent me 5 different teas to try along with a very cool teapot that I fell in love with instantly. It’s called the ingenuiTEA and it’s a clear BPA free plastic teapot (£16) with a capacity of 470ml which is perfect for brewing up one large mug of tea or two smaller cups. The clever bit is how you pour the tea out when it has brewed for long enough. Instead of pouring from the top, you sit the ingenuiTEA on top of your cup and then a valve at the bottom opens up and the tea flows down into the cup. It keeps flowing until you lift the pot up again so unless you have clear glass mugs you need to check how much tea is pouring into your cup so you don’t make a mess! The fine mesh in the ingenuiTEA also means that you don’t need a separate tea strainer. It’s also quite good fun watching the tea leaves release their colour.
Each of the tea samples I received from Adagio came in resealable packets with brewing temperatures and times.
The Citron Green tea (£4.50/85g) is a blend of Chinese green tea, orange peel, marigold flowers with natural orange and lemon flavours. I’m not a big fan of orange so I was initially put off by the orange fragrance, but I found that it didn’t taste very orangey which was good and the tea had a light green tea flavour. On the website it is described as being flavoured with lemon and lime and this is a combination I think I would have preferred.
The Hojicha (£4/43g) is a Japanese tea that is made from the roasted leaves of the summer Sencha crop and includes the coarser leaves and stems. This heat treatment reduces the amount of tannins and caffeine in the tea and Adagio recommend it as suitable for afternoon drinking and I agree. The tea has a smokey smell and taste with a darker colour than most green teas and tasted slightly nutty. I found it warming and comforting.
The Pouchong (£6/43g) is a green oolong tea from Taiwan that has undergone less oxidation than most oolong teas. This was my first tasting of an oolong tea and I really enjoyed it. The tea is strongly fragranced though light in colour and the smell reminded me of white teas I’ve drunk in the past with the aroma of peach. Taste wise the tea is light and delicate with a slight sweetness to it, a good tea for the summer.
The Honeybush (£5.50/85g) is produced from a plant related to rooibos aka redbush tea and is grown in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. The flowers of the plant smell like honey which is where the name comes from. This tea is caffeine free and tastes like a sweeter version of rooibos and I enjoyed drinking it in the evenings. I don’t like rooibos on it’s own but the natural sweetness of the honeybush is much more pleasing. There are also hazelnut and vanilla flavoured versions available.
The Berry Blast (£5/85g) is another caffeine free tea which is a blend of dried fruits including blackcurrants, cranberries, raspberries, elderberries, bilberries, hibiscus flowers and rose hip. It is a beautiful vibrant purple colour and has a wonderful natural sweetness. Unlike some fruit teabags from household names which can often be disappointing, this tea actually tastes fruity and I could clearly taste the different fruits.
Verdict on Adagio. I enjoyed all of the teas even the Citron Green even though I think it would have been nicer flavoured with lemon and lime instead of orange.
Steenbergs Herbal Teas
Steenbergs recently expanded their range of herbal teas with 5 new blends, I got the chance to try 4 of them for this post. Each tea is a blend of oat straw with various herbs added for their different effects. The recommended brewing time for each tea is given on the packets.
The Morning Brew (£3.50/150g) blend is caffeine free and combines redbush with ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and orange peel. It’s been designed to perk you up in the mornings but I’m afraid I’m too accustomed to having caffeine first thing in the morning and so drank this as my mid morning tea rather than with breakfast. I loved the spicy flavour with the citrusy zing from the orange and cardamom and actually felt for me that this was a tea to drink in the afternoon/early evening for a gentle boost. I think it would also be nice during the day in the winter for a warming caffeine free alternative to tea or coffee.
The Energising tea (£3.50/150g) contains caffeine as it is made with maté – a South American plant which is traditionally consumed as a type of tea – and is here blended with redbush, hawthorn tops, gotu kola (Indian Pennywort), nettle, peppermint and liquorice. I found that this tea tasted like a subdued version of peppermint tea but couldn’t distinguish any other flavours from it. The maté definitely gave me a boost and I could drink this first thing in the morning instead my usual tea or coffee as there is enough caffeine in it for me!
The Chillax tea (£5.50/115g) is a good one to drink in the evenings, at bedtime or if you need to try and relax as it is a blend of chamomile with St John’s wort, lime flower, skullcap, red clover, catnip and lemon balm. I have to say the catnip was an unexpected ingredient but nevertheless this made a nice brew and I liked the whole chamomile flowers in the tea. I’ve drunk similar bedtime tea blends from other brands and found that this one was OK but nothing special in terms of taste. It mostly tasted of chamomile with a slight hint of mint which I wasn’t overly keen on and which I’m guessing is from the catnip (aka catmint).
The Moon Brew tea (£3.50/100g) has been designed for women and is a blend of red raspberry leaf, nettle, peppermint, lavender and rose petals. The red raspberry leaf is apparently supposed to be good for women’s health. I thought the tea looked pretty with the red rose petals in it but wasn’t blown away by the minty,floral flavour combination. I think I would have preferred this and the Chillax tea without the peppermint as I thought it overpowered the other herbs a little.
Verdict on Steenbergs. The Morning Brew tea was my favourite and I enjoyed the Energising tea but thought the other two would be better without the mint flavour.
TeaVivre Green & White Teas
I’ve reviewed some teas from TeaVivre in the past and this time I’ve been given a different selection to try that covers a wide range of flavours, some of them completely new to me. The brewing temperatures and times are given on each packet. NB all prices from TeaVivre are given in US dollars because the tea is shipped from China.
The Taiwan Ginseng Oolong $11.90/100g) is harvested from the Dongding Mountain in Taiwan and is blended with 5% American ginseng. The tea had a light almost grassy fragrance and the flavour was slightly fruity whilst being light and very easy to drink. This is one that I would happily drink again.
The Gunpowder Green tea ($7.90/100g) is what I think of as a ‘classic’ green tea as it’s one of the first varieties I tried when I first discovered green tea over 10 years ago. The name comes from the fact that the process of drying, steaming and rolling the tea leaves results in them looking like little pellets of gunpowder. It has a strong deep somewhat earthy flavour but without any bitterness.
The Ripened Aged Pu-Erh Mini Tuocha ($9.90/100g) is another tea that is completely new to me. It comes as small ‘cakes’ of dried tea wrapped in paper. There are also larger versions available as 400g cakes of tea. These mini versions can just be dropped into a teapot whilst larger cakes need to be broken up. The tea was harvested in 2007 from the Yunnan Province and has been compressed into the mini cake shapes and then aged. The flavour and aroma apparently increase with age as does the value of the tea. The first thing I noticed about this tea after brewing was the smell which I didn’t find overly pleasant, it reminded me of the smokiness of Lapsang Souchong. From the colour of the tea I was expecting not to like it at all, just because it was so dark. However it ended up being quite nice with a deep slightly smokey flavour and just a hint of fruitiness. It wouldn’t be my first choice mainly because I didn’t like the strong aroma even though it did taste quite good.
The Chamomile Rose Silver Needle tea ($17.90/50g) is a blend of white tea from Fujian, chamomile from Sinkiang and rose from France. In traditional Chinese medicine this combination is believed to have beneficial health benefits. The fragrance is strong, sweet and floral yet the tea itself tastes much lighter than it smells. Although I enjoy the flavour of rose in small doses I did find that it dominated the flavour of the chamomile and the white tea.
Finally from TeaVivre I received a flower tea, this is one that unfurls in the water and looks quite pretty to watch, The name of this particular tea is Two Dragons & A Pearl ($7.90/5 pieces). The base of the flower is silver needle green tea and the flowers are globe amaranth, marigold and jasmine. Whilst the tea looked pretty impressive as it was unfurling I’m afraid I didn’t like the taste of this one at all. For me the marigold didn’t work with the green tea and tasted earthy but not in a good way.
Verdict on TeaVivre. The oolong was a pleasant surprise, I knew I would like the gunpowder anyway and the pu-erh was completely different to anything I’ve had before The floral teas were a bit disappointing.
The Tea Makers
The final set of tea samples were sent from The Tea Makers of London who sell a wide range of premium teas from around the world. I received a white tea, a green tea and a darjeeling to sample.
The Pai Mu Tan aka white peony (£7.35/50g) is from Fujian province in China, it includes the spring buds of the tea plant which are naturally dried by the sun before they open. The tea is named after the petals of the white peony flower. The tea has a light floral fragrance with a stronger flavour than I was expecting for such a delicate looking tea, the taste was fruity despite the floral aroma.
The Dragon Well (£8.95/50g) green tea is from Zhejiang province and is characterised by the green distinctively flat tea leaves which are dried by hand using a traditional pan firing method. The colour of the brewed tea is very light however it has a stronger aroma than you would expect from looking at it with a classic green tea flavour. I can see why it is referred to as the tea of the emperor.
The Jungpana Darjeeling (£17.95/50g) is the first darjeeling I think I’ve ever drunk and it was a revelation. It also happens to be the most expensive tea I’ve ever tasted and I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed it. The tea is harvested from the remote Jungpana estate in India and contains a high proportion of green leaves and silver tips blended with the spring flush black tea. It has a delicate fragrance with an almost slightly nutty taste.
Verdict on The Tea Makers. I enjoyed all of the teas especially the darjeeling.
Thank you very much to Adagio, Steenbergs, TeaVivre and The Tea Makers for sending me these samples to review. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring such a diverse range of teas. As always all opinions in reviews are my own.