Thursday, 19 February 2009

Tea Post #1 (of many to come!)






T E A

Post #1


Tea: Taylors Of Harrogate: English Breakfast
Type: Black tea (blend)
Grade: GBOP (Golden Broken Orange Pekoe)
Cost: £4.70 / 250g




So. As promised to Indyeah, here is the first post, of many to come, chronicling my love affair with the most mighty of all beverages, true perfection in a cup: Tea, Camellia sinensis, 茶.

And where to start with such a huge topic? Many terms will be unfamiliar for the non tea cognoscenti, but I'll slowly cover everything and it will become clear in time, for those that wish to join me on my journey. Tea and Philosophy. Is there ever a more natural combination?

Lets start simple. What is a cup of tea for most people?

It depends on where you live. A typical cup of tea in China is likely to be either a Green or Black tea, probably served without milk, perhaps (hopefully) still made from loose leaf tea. In Japan it is extremely likely to be Green, unless it is Bancha, which is a toasted and darker brewing tea. Bancha is made by lightly dry toasting Sencha, which is their normal grade green tea. In India it could well be Chai, a form of milk tea heavily infused - of course, given their mastery of multifaceted flavours - with a complex variety of spices. In the US, tea is just as likely to be in the form of something called "Iced Tea", such as under the Lipton brand, which is a rather unpleasant very sweet cordial with a hint of "tea" flavour to it. Fortunately, it does seem that at least times are changing, and a few people across the world are waking up to the true world of tea. Tea is a drink that can more than hold its own against any other: it is easily a match for wine, in terms of the sheer complexity and variety of types.

Meanwhile, here in Britain, of course, we as a nation are a notorious for our tea drinking obsession. We even built an empire on it. So what is tea for us?

For most people it is a very strong, dark brew, from a tea bag, tempered with milk and quite often sugar ('Army issue tea': "strong tea with 2 sugars, sir!"). As a nation we consume a rather phenomenal amount per head (although, I should add, that this particular head probably very significantly outstrips the national average in overall consumption!), but also, disappointingly, of a staggering poor quality.

Most people's conception of tea is based upon the extremely strong, almost black brew that you get from a very fast infusing tea bag from all the mainstream brands such as PG Tips, Tetleys, Liptons, etc...

First note. All tea, as a general rather than absolute rule, that goes into tea bags, is of poor quality and constitutes the lower grades of leaf available. In the case of typical British tea bags, the actual technical term for such a grade as is contained in them, is, in fact, Dust (D).

The extremely fine, broken up, very, literally, dusty grade of what is effectively almost a leaf powder has a very large surface area and therefore correspondingly generates a very rapid and very strong infusion.

Such an infusion is of course very bitter, which is why it generally needs to be balanced by milk, and for some people, sugar. Personally I think that sugar in tea is a great evil, much as with coffee, as it simply masks the actual flavour of the beverage and replaces it with a generic nondescript sweetness. The infusion is also characterised by a rather "flat", "wet" taste, lacking any real depth of flavour and also having a somewhat acidic and tannic finish.

Fortunately, this is not what a proper cup of tea is about.

So, for this first post, it was almost a necessity to start off with an exceptional tea, and in Taylors Of Harrogate's English Breakfast we have just that.

English Breakfast is of course probably the most famous blend, and derives it name, rather obviously, from the fact that it generally denotes a strong flavoured tea with a powerful caffeine kick, perfect for the morning with breakfast, to wake you up.

Or in my case, pretty much perfect all day long and all night long....

So, when people have their cup of "tea", they generally are not just having tea leaves from one estate, but more usually a blend of leaves from numerous estates in different parts of the world.

The different characteristics of the estate teas are blended to offer an excellent balance of flavour.

English Breakfast tea is certainly what most people associate with what a cup of tea in Britain is about. Now, if the mainstream tea bags in supermarkets represent the lowest and poorest attempt at it... then in this particular blend, we have the best of the best, an outstanding blend.

TOH English Breakfast blend is made from a combination of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and African teas. Ceylon teas are renowned for their crisp, clean, almost metallic flavour, African teas for their rich dark body. Combine high quality grades and types of the two, with care... and you have something superb.



Opening the tin it is immediately obvious we are dealing with a very superior class of tea. The leaves are Golden Broken Orange Pekoe grade: BOP is a grade of leaf used to denote a black, fermented tea, where, self explanatorily, the leaves have been processed sufficiently until they start to break up. Orange Pekoe is simply the term for a whole leaf grade. The Golden denotes the presence of a significant number of "tips", which are the light "golden" coloured tips from the top of the tea bush, which are rightly prized for their exceptional and delicate flavour. They are the most precious and treasured part of the tea harvest.

A BOP tea will generate a strong, dark brew, whilst still retaining a rich and complex flavour. So, a GBOP grade denotes one of the highest quality. In other words, what we have, is a strong tea, rich in flavour, that will balance beautifully with milk.

TOH only use the Traditional or Orthodox method, which basically means not using the CTC (crush, tear, curl) industrial machines which rather savagely process a lot of the life out of the tea (and is what is used to create the very strong infusing tea bag tea), and instead much more gently and slowly heat and roll the leaves to ferment and develop them.

Brew quantity: 3 tea measures / 500ml water
Brew time: 5 minutes
Water temperature: 100C (rolling boil direct from kettle)
Optimum brewing vessel: Pre-heated Porcelain/China tea pot

TOH English Breakfast is a truly outstanding cup of tea. Balanced appropriately with milk, its character reveals itself to have a strong, almost woody, dark body, from the African tea content in the blend; this is accompanied by an initial, fractionally astrigent start, and a beautifully clean, rather copper like finish, from the Ceylon tea content. It reveals itself to be an absolute first class tea by virtue of the depth of flavour with continues to linger on the palate long after your cup is finished, and the wonderfully dry, and outstandingly "clean", almost polished finish. Above all, it has an incredible smoothness, which makes most other English Breakfast (i.e. typical tea bag tea) teas taste bitty, mucky, bitter, flat, wet, drab and almost unbearably rancid by comparison.



The art of a first class English Breakfast is to obtain strength and potency without losing richness of flavour, becoming to tannic, or simply just too bitter.

This tea is without doubt one of the finest of this variety, and one I can come back to time and time again.

When I wake up in the morning, and need a strong fine tea to start to day, or when I sit down in the evening after a long day at work, and need a tea to perk me up... well, I can't think of a finer or better choice than Taylors Of Harrogates superb blend.

Superb!

Side note: Yes, when it comes to typical "English" tea, I don't do small - certainly not when I'm making proper tea at home. I only drink it by - at least - a half litre at a time! :-)


6 comments:

Indyeah said...

yay!! you finally got down to writing these!!:))
thank you...
and tea and philosophy...yes..never thought of it in quite that manner..:)..but its so true...

''we as a nation are a notorious for our tea drinking obsession. We even built an empire on it. ''..:D..yes we have a lot of jokes on athat here..and how the britishers got us addicted to tea before leaving..:)

Is that your daily cuppa by the way?:)

will be back with more to comment..in a hurry now...but have so much to write..:))

am just hurriedly glancing through the post and am loving all of it..:))

Indyeah said...

sorry for being so so late after that promise:(

but I am here now right?:))

this post is very very beautifully written:)from the heart:)and thats why your love nay passion for tea shines through...


Camellia sinensis, 茶.
didnt know this..(I am so using your post when i write one on tea..:D)your link given will serve as a bible for tea lovers..:)

In India we do have a msatery of spices...though the tea that you would get at roadside stalls is quite sugary and milky...but awesome nevertheless..take my word for it..:)
and yes, we do rather have a tendency to put a lot of milk in it..:)cant imagine tea without it..:)

Tea and Philosophy. Is there ever a more natural combination?

''Lets start simple. What is a cup of tea for most people?

It depends on where you live.''

This is simply beautiful!Never thought of tea in these terms..:)(like I said before:) )but its a very interesting thought you know..:)


I love tea made from loose leaves but absolutely dislike tea bags..

''Tea is a drink that can more than hold its own against any other: it is easily a match for wine, in terms of the sheer complexity and variety of types.''

I so agree on this one..this is so darn true!

once you drink tea you are hooked for life!:)

err.. my cups of tea are very sugary...though not to the extent of having a ' tannish finish '..:D


''When I wake up in the morning, and need a strong fine tea to start to day, or when I sit down in the evening after a long day at work, and need a tea to perk me up... well, I can't think of a finer or better choice than Taylors Of Harrogates superb blend.''

well..except for that brand everything else is the same here:)

I cannot wake up or work without my cuppa..:)

it is such an addiction now that one can make out which particular brand one is drinking..:D


''Side note: Yes, when it comes to typical "English" tea, I don't do small - certainly not when I'm making proper tea at home. I only drink it by - at least - a half litre at a time! :-)''


half a litre?:D
really?
thats like me too to the T!coz I have to have 2 huge cups in an hour and that I guess equals to half a litre..:)


thanks a lot Aren for this beautifully written series the first of many I suppose..:)
would love to read more..and I love how you have broken down the technical terms for us laypeople..:D

thanks:))

Johan said...

So what size is a tea measure? (metric preferred but I can convert if you only know imperial)

Also, and this might be some sort of old wife's tale, but I heard that you're not supposed to let the water for tea boil, but rather pull it off just before (so you get the water close to but never into a boil). Can you dispel this as myth?

Aren O. Týr said...

Johan, a tea measure is basically just a heaped teaspoon.

Secondly, when water reaches boiling point it rapidly loses oxygen, so technically speaking the quicker you can get the water just at the point of boil onto black tea, the better.

So there is some truth in the old wives tale. This is why, for example, when you reboil the same old water in the kettle after letting it get cold, the resultant cup of tea never tastes as good: less oxygen content in the water!

Rather like how water goes "stale" and doesn't taste so good if you leave it out standing for a day or two.

(Of course, for other types of tea (e.g. green) you would never use boiling hot water.)

Triana said...

Aren, where have you gone? Your posts are beyond fascinating. Are you still smiling at all?

Aren O. Týr said...

My apologies Triana, been very busy the last couple of weeks.

Smiling? Yes... Life is a rollercoaster.

And Hope is a dangerous but precious prize.