Hampstead Madagascan Vanilla Organic Darjeeling – Tea Review

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

x

“Strike the senses” with Lipton’s Surprising Russian Grey

It has been a couple of weeks since I published my last tea review: life has got busy recently, and as for me, I was stuck in my tea rut for a while. But as it is the highest time to renew the wardrobe and switch into spring fashion, I feel like it is also the highest time to update my tea “wardrobe” and let some new flavours into my routine.

Being a huge fan of earl greys, I am a little surprised I still haven’t dedicated an article to this majestic sort of tea. The history of earl greys goes back to the 19th century, and rumour has it that that the first blend of the tea was a gift from the Chinese mandarin to the Earl (named Grey) back in 1803. The controversy around this legend lies in the fact that the use of bergamot essential oils that are characteristic for earl greys was then unknown in China and, hence, most probably the very blend was created in Britain. This way or another, the tea discovery named after the famous Earl Charles Grey has since become even more popular in the UK and spread all over the world, conquering more tea lovers.

Earl grey is a well-known fella’, but what about Russian Earl Grey? This variation only started to develop quite recently: many orthodox tea fans articulated strongly against it, whereas others welcomed it with an open mind. Russian Grey is considered a milder version of the famous earl grey blend, and I definitely felt drawn to shaking things up quite a bit.

What is different in Russian Grey? First of all, it is bergamot that gets replaced by (or added to) lemon peel and lemongrass – the ingredients less exotic and more familiar to the continental Eurasian climate. Brands like Twinnings or Lipton were pioneers on this market, and possibly the most affordable and easy to find picks.

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I went for Surprising Russian Grey from Lipton and now am ready to reveal all the “surprises” it harbours.

Packaging: is gorgeous! I mean, I am not a packaging victim, not at all, whatsoever (is it convincing enough?). The embossed writing, beautiful design in shades of turquoise and yellow, plus a pattern of Kremlin on the front of the box – I feel like nominating this tea for a design competition. As typical for Lipton, it comes in 20 pyramidal tea bags.

Ingredients: Black tea, aroma.

Scent: rich, intense and enchanting. A little fruitier than your standard earl grey tea, I dare to say.

Taste: just as with the scent, the flavour is a little fruitier and more refreshing than your typical earl grey tea. Lipton suggests it is “bold & vibrant” with a sharp lemon twist. Perhaps it is this “sharpness” that makes it “surprising”?.. Another claim of the marketing “brains” of the Lipton brand is “the empowering taste”. Not sure if it’s something connected with Russian empowerment that they attempted to suggest here? 🙂

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Serving: According to the instructions, I would recommend to steep a tea bag in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Since earl greys tend to get a little too intense, which is not everyone’s cup of tea (hehe), it might be a good idea to get rid of a tea bag after the first minute of brewing. It’s what I like doing anyways. Some add milk, but I like it as is, in its purity!

Overall experience: empowerment and boldness aside, I am a huge fan of this tea. As an earl greys lovers, I was eager to try something similar with a hint of difference – and Surprising Russian Grey served perfectly to this purpose. I loved how distinct and intensive it was, and truly looked forward to drinking it every morning. I like it as my morning tea (I even abandoned my trusty greens for a while), because it is a perfect day-starter.

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“Sharpen up!” – shouts the packaging of Lipton’s Surprising Russian Grey at you. “Brew more power?”, it questions when you reach the very bottom. This tea is not only an unusual experience for your taste buds, but also plenty of fun to drink. I went through the box pretty quickly, which is always a good sign: it was simply my “go-to” morning tea for the whole month of March. For all earl grey fans, and not only them – this tea is a good reminder that classic is great, however it needs to be shaken up from time to time.

And what about you? Are you a fan of earl grey? Ever tried Russian grey, or some other earl grey variation (I believe, there are plenty)? How do you like your earl grey – with milk/sugar or pure?

Tea Review: Lipton Black Tea Pear Chocolate Inspiration

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I have a couple aces up my sleeve – and by that I mean more tea from the Lipton Dessert Inspiration range that I reviewed previously. If you haven’t spotted my review of the Green Tea Lemon Macaroon, then you might not know that I am all about trying new, exotic and a little surprising tea flavours.

Things got darker since the last time though – now I’ve got black tea to try out and share my thoughts about.

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Official text on the packaging is, as per usual, especially eloquent when promising “fruity taste of juicy pears and incredible aroma of hot chocolate“. How do you feel about tasting hot chocolate in your tea?..

Yet again, 20 pyramidal bags per packaging.

Interesting fact: the shape of teabags is patented by Lipton. The company claims that the Pyramid bag enables tea leaves to “swirl and swirl for a delightful treat moment“. Apparently, this was Lipton‘s response to Harney and Sons tea bags design back in 2006. Unilever (the “umbrella” of Lipton) came with the pyramidal shaped bag when they started noticing a trend: “every consumer is becoming gourmand“. The Pyramid bag was proven to be the best option how to offer higher quality tea – long leaves instead of sifted and graded leaves, which used to be the case earlier.

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Back to the Pear delight!

Ingredients: Black tea, Aroma, Pears (2,2%)

Scent: gourmet, sweet with a hint of pear (surprise, surprise!) and a stroooong, extremely fragrant chocolate note

Taste: intense taste of black tea with decent sweetness to it. In comparison to the Lemon Macaron, I had a feeling that the pear flavour was blending in with the black tea tannin a bit better. Black tea and chocolate seem to be a luckier combination anyways.

Serving: this time, you should fully trust instructions on the packaging. Start with boiling water, let the tea bag steep for 2 minutes, and here you go – delicious gourmand tea could be served!

Energy level: 1-2 hours. Black tea always has less of a pinch for me in comparison with green tea.

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All in all, I liked the idea of this tea. Unfortunately, a bit more than the execution. However organic might the combination of black tea, chocolate aroma and pear seem and taste at first sight and sip, just like with the Lemon Macaron tea, this is not your everyday hot drink. I definitely do not recommend to combine it with sweet gourmand desserts, however a piece of dark chocolate would not harm 🙂 I went for the limited edition of M&M’s, the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Have you tried this tea or any other tea from the same Lipton range? Do you like your black tea in mornings or afternoons? What is your favourite black tea? Let me know, I’m always on the hunt!

x