Sometimes it takes quite a bit of time to find a really high quality tea, when you want something no fuss, from the regular grocery store and easy to make (with other words, tea bags, please!). These three criteria often seem to be impossible to meet. Portioned tea in tea bags tends to be typically of a poor or decent quality – note that that’s already the point when you gave up on high quality and are willing to go along with a generic, mediocre, not bad though quality tea. Whenever you found the tea you like and that it takes you 2-3 minutes to brew, you drink it as going through a routinery doctor check: with no emotions, just with the sense of urgency.
Every time I discover a high quality packaged tea – be it in the specialised shop or, especially, at the grocery store – it feels like a little victory to me. My first encounter with Hampstead tea was a bit of a spontaneous manner: it was sold at the Easter market in the office building where I work. And since I can never pass by when tea is at stake, I slowed down my pace and started analysing the offer. Out of 6-7 sorts one immediately drew my attention: it was a Madagascan Vanilla Organic Darjeeling Tea.
I’ll be honest, my experience with Darjeeling is far from extensive: as of a non-British origin, I have never specifically been after this sort of tea. I’ve got a couple of Darjeelings on my record, but I am far less confident in this field than I am in the field of green tea. I wonder if any of my readers could drop some light on the topic and share their knowledge and experience with me. Vanilla, however, is a whole different story: being one of my favourite ingredients, be it baking, perfume or tea, it works as a natural aphrodisiac for me, and it draws my attention immediately, until I try it make a (ideally unbiased) judgement.
Being a product of organic production and self-sustaining environment, this tea was the first bio black tea that I’ve tried ever. Hampstead tea is certainly pricier than your regular Lipton or Pickwick, but it also guarantees the highest quality of ingredients, their fair trade origin and sustainability – all ingredients concerned are either organic or biodynamic, as stated on the packaging.
The packaging is minimalistic and very well-thought design-wise. Combination of whites and dark browns evokes authenticity and awakes appropriate associations with real vanilla … One packaging includes 20 separately packaged in paper envelopes tea bags.
Ingredients: Black tea, liquorice root, vanilla extract.
Preparation: Let the tea bag brew in freshly boiled water for 3-5 minutes. I can confirm that the tea fully develop its flavour very soon, perhaps after the second minute of brewing, however if you’re not afraid of facing a deep, intense flavour, you should go for the whole five.
Smell: Rich, with distinct sweetness and light (but not overpowering) herbal notes – for this I blame liquorice, even though it’s hard to put a finger on what herb could possibly be at stake. The scent is very potently aromatic and fills the room almost immediately.
Taste: Rich and deep. This is a real strong British (Indian) Darjeeling. Vanilla notes add a little “something something”, character and charisma. Liquorice is completely unrecognisable (thank GOD! as I am not a huge fan). Now, let’s turn to vanilla. Being my “safe” ingredient, it gives the tea aroma, and plays as a bonding ingredient between tea and consumer, it enriches the flavour with hints sweetness and warmth, without adding any sweetness to the taste.
As I mentioned above, my relationship with liquorice everything is rather problematic. I’m pretty glad I never studied the list of ingredients before purchasing the tea, otherwise I would’ve just let it be, which would’ve been a huge mistake, because the Madagascan Vanilla tea has slowly but surely become one of my all time favourites. It is however recommended to avoid liquorice if you suffer from the high blood pressure, which is definitely my case, however the reason I avoid the root has more to do with its truly specific taste and my painful experience with a number of herbal teas where liquorice was a cause of slightly sweetish flavour, which I cannot stand in tea. But to each their own, of course.
Madagascan Vanilla Darjeeling is a great morning tea – intense, rich flavour with much more depth and aftertaste than what is expected from a packaged tea. I definitely consider its organic/biodynamic origin played a crucial role in this factor, however it also affected the price. If you are into more premium teas, this would be a definite hit, as well as a great present for someone who is into widening their tea horizons. As Hampsted has stated on their websites, “as we pay premium for the tea, the tea pickers can use that extra income to invest in things they need, like child car, tree planting and school computers”. And nothing tastes better than a good deed – maybe that’s what explains enriching flavour and deep notes that go down to the bottom of our hearts.
Have you tried any of the Hampstead teas? Would you like to read more about the brand? After discovering the Madagascan Vanilla, I am really interested in the company, be it tea assortment, or their noble message to the fair trade community. How does your relationship with liquorice look like? Are you pro- or contra- liquorice in tea and food?
Let me know!