Hampstead Madagascan Vanilla Organic Darjeeling – Tea Review

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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.

DSC_0030

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.

DSC_0035

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.

DSC_0034

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.

DSC_0026.JPG

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

Tea Review: Lipton Bright Asian Fusion

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

And again I am coming back to you with a tea review. It’s been a while… In the meantime, I have collected a couple of teas to try and to share my experience, and am above eager to start with a good old green Lipton.

This time, it is a Bright Asian Fusion blend of “light white, smooth green with notes of lychee”. Lipton lures us into tasting with an exclamation “Turn over a new leaf”! Nice and positive approach, a promise of new beginnings. The box itself is cheery in the shades of green and yellow and, as typical for the brand, decorated with abstract designs.

dsc_0020

I’ve written it in my earlier posts, but as readership has significantly grown since, I will repeat myself. The pyramidal shape of teabags is actually 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.

The packaging includes 20 pyramidal tea bags, as usual.

dsc_0013

Ingredients: Green tea, white tea (11%), aroma.

Preparation: as with any other green tea, I would recommend brewing in water of 80-90 degrees Celsius. I would rather stay at the low end this range, as the blend includes white tea, which is recommended to be served at a slightly lower temperature.

Smell: very subtle, barely there, scent of tea leaves with a slightly fruity note (lychee, perhaps, but definitely not distinctively recognisable). Aroma doesn’t linger for too long, it’s rather light, everyday inoffensive tea.

dsc_0018

Flavour: that’s where the lychee sparkles – the fruitiness is distinct and definitely present, but not overpowering. As said above, this tea is a really light and inoffensive every-day option. Lipton’s marketing gurus proudly note that its”balanced taste” would definitely attract even the green tea beginners. Depending on the longevity of the steep/brew, the tea develops a slight bitterness, hence I’d recommend to remove the tea bag after approximately 3-5 minutes.

Energy level: white tea slightly “relaxes” the intensity of the green tea; nonetheless, this tea is amazing for early mornings or sleepy afternoons. It can guarantee a 1-2 hour energy boost.

dsc_0016

Lipton Bright Asian Fusion is recommended to everyone who is just starting with green tea. Thanks to the white tea note that smoothens the unapologetically green taste, it works as an every day companion for morning or afternoon tea ceremonies. Due to the amount of caffeine, I wouldn’t recommend it for evening drinking. All in all, this tea is approachable and goes well with any dessert, due to the lack of sweetness in the flavour.

Have you already tried white tea? What’s your take on it? Would you go for white or green tea on the daily basis? Let me know!

x

The battle of Sencha by Lipton: tea review

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

My tea love story began with green teas, and it’s no secret: I talk about it often. Getting into more complex and aromatic tea would not be possible for me, however, if it wasn’t for sencha.

Sencha is one of the most popular and loved variations of Japanese green tea. It is characterised by its strong aroma and deep flavour with light grassiness to it: the flavour, however,  usually depends on the region where, and season when the tea is produced. The sencha leaf is darker than other variations of green tea, and it often undergoes faster fermentation, at a lower temperature (with some kinds even at 60 degrees Celsius).

DSC_0041.JPG

Lipton, as one of the major tea trends pioneers, have introduced Sencha into their European assortment and offer in the early 2000s. Around 2010 they came up with Indonesian Sencha, following the new trend of pyramidal bags, which I addressed in several blogposts here. With the most recent content and form update they switched the silk material of their tea bags to the cotton, and the packaging itself has been designed more in-line with their current concept. Being an eager tea collector, I happened to own both variations of Lipton‘s Sencha tea and be able to follow their way from fragrant and floral Indonesian Sencha to sharp and strong Spectacular Sencha.

Indonesian Sencha by Lipton is an invitation on a “journey to Java”, an inspiration for flourishing green tea gardens of “long, stylish leaves”, a promise of unforgettable sceneries and scent of an enchanting island. The freshness of sencha is emphasised by the rose petals introduced to this tea mix, and fruity notes develop through the flavouring for a taste of Osmanthus pear. Light, floral, steamed flavour is the outcome of this blend that kicks off with potent and fragrant aroma. “Sip this tea and sip paradise” – we are already aware that Lipton is a master of merchandising poetry.

DSC_0045.JPG

As per the instructions, this tea needs a 2-3 minute brew for the full and flavourful experience – your perfect cup of tea. For me it has never been an everyday tea, rather a special occasion treat. One of those highly aromatic, intense teas that surprise you with light bitterness in the aftertaste.

Indonesian Sencha might not be this typical and favourable Japanese sencha – taste-wise it is less grassy, less deep in colour, but rather more fragrant and deep.

Ingredients: 89% green tea, 9,3% flavouring, 1% rose petals

DSC_0044.JPG

The re-designed sencha from Lipton was given a majestic name – “Spectacular Sencha“. Ingredients-wise, it reduced the list only to the green tea and aroma, leaving the floral and fragrant element of the rose petals behind. Accompanied by the call to “awaken the senses” it offers “sharp, strong and deeply exotic” flavour, “a carnival in a cup”.

Spectacular sencha is, indeed, less fragrant and aromatic. At a first smell, it strikes with the intensity, typical for green tea. With this update it, however, loses the depth of flavour and the multi-level taste development. The aroma of pear is still present, but in more light-weight, rather unnoticeable form. This sencha is more reminiscent of the regular, Japanese sencha and its grassiness than its predecessor Indonesian Sencha.

DSC_0050.JPG

I always welcome fruity notes in tea, it should be known to the readers of my blog by now, as I praise them in almost every post I write. Hence, it will be no surprise that I favour the older, now discontinued, version of sencha by Lipton. The newer variation – Spectacular Sencha – might be, however, much more suitable for followers of orthodox tea drinking ceremony and Japanese sencha lovers, as it fully develops into the delicacy of green tea with “a little something” in the aftertaste.

What about your experience with sencha? Have you experimented with different kinds, and if yes, which one is your favourite? What brand of sencha tea would you recommend? Let me know.

x

 

Tea Review: Kusmi BB Detox

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

After a longer while of writing about black, herbal and miscellaneous teas it is finally time to come back to my roots, into my comfort zone and to review a good ole’ green tea. Frankly, green tea is the variation I gravitate toward on a regular basis, and if I don’t have green tea in my stash (which would never happen, because I stuck up way in advance), I would be a very sad person. And a tired person, to put it that way.

I wrote about Kusmi tea already on my blog – I am a big fan. Tea of the month for April was their BB Detox, and after the initial hesitation I’ve decided to give it a go. Why hesitating? First of all, I am not a huge believer in mixing green tea with herbs – which was the case here. Secondly, word “detox” in a name always sounds a bit gimmicky to me. But detox or not, I went for flavour, and in the end, I was definitely not deceived.

This tea is representing a Wellness range of Kusmi teas. As per official text on the website of the company it is a quintessence of a liquid “beautifying balm”: green tea and maté as its main ingredients serve as refreshing and uplifting components, that at the same time work as natural antioxidants. Hand-picked dandelion and rooibos are two other friendly “helpers” who combat free radicals, leaving your skin plump and glowy. Basically, it unifies tea and beauty in one, so perfect for reviewing on this blog!

DSC_0068.JPG

Packaging: My tea comes in an “old school” paper packaging – so, no signature aluminium tins this time – and contains 20 muslin tea bags. It’s where it starts to be interesting. I’ve known about muslin use in a beauty department (ironically, I mentioned a muslin cloth in my last blogpost about multi-masking), but what about tea? It was the first time I experienced organic fabric in my cup – I am well aware of paper teabags, silk teabags and even polystyrene teabags, but muslin brings tea drinking to another level. Again, as I said in my previous article dedicated to Kusmi, with this brand it’s all about experience.

Ingredients: Green tea, mate, rooibos, guarana, dandelion. Scent of grapefruit. Well, that’s something! Quite a striking bouquet but somehow it makes sense, especially in connection with the name.

Scent: Aroma hits immediately with a sharp note of citrus (grapefruit, I believe) and slight bitterness. I would consider it rather exotic (perhaps, dué to mate and guarana), definitely without very typical or prominent green tea scent.

DSC_0075.JPG

Flavour: Is smooth but refreshing. As a big fan of maté, to my pleasant surprise, I find this ingredient rather bold, however, not overwhelming at all. In contrast to the scent, it does not offer many citrus notes, but instead, strikes with a green tea flavour. I distinguish some presumably tropical notes, which I can almost with certainty assign to guarana. The BB Detox leaves a slight aftertaste, but all in all its very light flavour makes it so drinkable.

Serving: Each teabag, as well as the packaging, gives you quite clear instructions on how to. As is typical with green teas, you leave it steep for 3-4 minutes in the water preheated to 85-90 degrees.

Overall experience: This tea is addictive. So easy to prepare, yet so challenging. Why the name? I would justify it by the green tea and mate components in it – frankly, it’s a perfect companion for a “not so good” (read: hangover) day. As well as a day when you feel low on energy. As well as a day when you crave a boost of flavour. As well as a day… Basically, every day. BB Detox is a universal classic, and I am more than happy that a random merchandising activity brought me to this tea, which I normally would’ve left unnoticed.

DSC_0077.JPG

And what about you? Do you believe in “detoxifying” properties of tea? If so, which one is your “universal” recipe for detox? Have you ever tried tea packaged in muslin bags? Let me know!

x

P.S. I accompanied my tea with Minty Humbugs by M&S that added a perfect touch of sweetness.

“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.

DSC_0017.JPG

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? 🙂

DSC_0008.JPG

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.

DSC_0002.JPG

“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?

My Caffeine-Free Tea Collection + How I Store My Tea

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might already know that I am a huge fan of black and green tea blends, which pretty much sum up my daily consumption. In the last blogpost I went above and beyond and introduced my favourite herbal infusion that I like to diversify my tea drinking routine with from time to time.

Here, I’d like to present my current caffeine-free tea selection that I keep in my drawers for days when I don’t feel like caffeine (hardly ever 🙂 ).

DSC_0005.JPG

First things first, I got rid of the bulky paper packaging and stored the selection in the aluminium tin (purchased at Tchibo). It helps to keep the teas I usually don’t go for on my mind and all in one place. The tin itself has 6 compartments for approximately 15 tea bags each, hence it makes for handy storage for a variety.

The first tea to be found in my aluminium box is the Spring tea (Frühlings Tee) from Alnatura. Since I dedicated my last blogpost to it, I won’t get much into detail here. Maybe it’s worth mentioning that currently it is one of my favourite herbal infusions, and possibly the best one for when the days get warmer.

DSC_0008.JPG

Next stop, is a tea from Korres, a Greek brand of organic cosmetics. Yes, surprisingly enough, they also store teas. This tea technically contains caffeine, but due to the ingredients (Greek Red Saffron, Lemon and Spearmint) it has found its way into my selection. The flavour is quite specific, I won’t deny this, and it is surely not a tea I would go for on a daily basis, but Red Saffron and Spearmint definitely add something “extra” to the plain black tea. Korres teas are quite pricey, but you have to take into consideration the fact they are organic and that the majority of ingredients are rather unique.

Tea from the DM’s (drugstore) homebrand Das Gesunde Plus is, on the contrary, the cheap alternative to the organic teas family. One of my all time favourites is their Rooibos Vanilla Orange tea, that I find myself reaching for on a regular basis. I like my Rooibos with Vanilla, it is not a surprise, but this one has a tiny hint of sourness due to the Orange flavour. However unusual the combination might sound, in the end it makes a tasty and refreshing, aromatic blend.

DSC_0006.JPG

Another Rooibos of the collection is Pickwick’s Rooibos Vanilla tea. This one comes in “fancy” fabric tea bags, which is not too typical for me to keep in my collection box (I indeed, prefer when the tea is covered with paper for this kind of storage), but I go through it quite quickly and I assume that soon enough I’ll be able to replace it with a more “storage-friendly” tea. As noted above, Rooibos Vanilla tends to be my all-time favourite variation of Rooibos, and I am positive that one way or another, it will always be a part of my collection.

DSC_0007.JPG

King’s Crown, the affordable tea brand that is available in another drugstore – Rossmann – is always an attractive option considering their tea variations. I wrote a blogpost about its Green Tea that became the part of my daily routine, but its white tea is kept in my storage for when I feel like something special. This Pomegranate White Tea combines two of my favourite things: the pomegranate flavour with the freshness and lightness of white tea, which is always a good option when you feel like “real” tea, but not caffeine.

DSC_0012.JPG

Red tea cannot be missing from the caffeine-free tea collection: and this time a Rosehip tea from Teekanne took over this role. For the moments when I feel a little low on vitamins and am craving something sour. This tea is also exquisite when served cool – very nice refreshing feeling, especially on hot summer days.

The “loner” of my collection is a Lemon Sky from Ronnefeldt that was purchased separately, out of curiosity. Obviously, I haven’t tried it yet, but the combination of Flavoured Fruit Infusion with Lemon Flavour sounds exciting enough for me to give it a go soon.

DSC_0017.JPG

What are your favourite caffeine-free teas? Do you go for herbal ones or rather fruit infusions? Is there a special way you like to store your tea? Let me know!

x

 

 

 

Tea Review: Alnatura Frühlings Tee

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Spring is here! Although quite unofficial, but let’s be honest, we’ve been awaiting it for quite a while, haven’t we? Meteorological spring officially started on March 1st, but spring in our minds has been developing since Christmas, I dare to assert 🙂 Basically, we are more than ready to drop warmer and heavier layers and commence a new page.

As for tea, every time I start noticing the first daffodils making their way to this world and blue sky smiling in accordance, I am eager to start a new routine. I tend to change my tea regiment every spring, when I slowly but surely start gravitating towards lighter blends and reduce caffeinated teas. By saying this, I mean that I switch my Darjeelings and Earl greys for Rooibos or herbal infusions.

One of my last year’s discoveries was a “Spring tea” (original name: Frühlings Teeof a German brand Alnatura.

DSC_0055.JPG

Being one of my favourite organic brands, Alnatura has never especially attracted me with their tea assortment (besides my all-time favourite Good Evening tea). Last year’s special edition drew my attention straight away, not exclusively by its colourful packaging, but I dare to confess that it was also a factor. 🙂 I don’t gravitate to herbal infusions as per daily consumption (I do need my caffeine), but this time I’ve decided to give it a go.

It comes in a packaging of 20 flat tea bags, packed in a separate paper envelope (1,5g each).

Ingredients: Lemongrass, Raspberry and Blackberry leaves (ummm, exciting!), Lemon Verbena, Mint.

Scent: A lovely combination of ingredients makes for a beautiful scent. Light herbal, with quite a recognisable note of citrus.

Taste: it’s a winner! Its flavour is light, yet rich. Refreshing, yet aromatic. I can distinguish blackberry and/or raspberry leaves (I might be a little more advanced at it, since I remember steeping fresh leaves straight off the berry bushes). Mint is not very prominent, but it’s clearly present, and I believe is responsible for the slightly tingly aftertaste.

DSC_0058.JPG

Serving: Alnatura recommends steeping the tea for 8-10 minutes in boiling water. I would reduce the steeping time: 5 minutes is more than enough for an herbal tea of this kind. However the temperature of water should be as recommended by the manufacturer. Herbal teas in general (unlike green and white teas) are supposed to be steeped in boiling water due to the time some herbs need for a so-called “decocting”. Many tea lovers even prefer to “cook” their herbal tea for a while, not just pour boiling water over it. For chamomile and mint infusions 90 degrees Celcius water is preferable, but since here we are dealing with a more complex blend, I’d definitely go for 100.

Energy level: being a 100% herbal infusion, this tea does not contain caffeine, therefore there’s no danger of any additional energy. For that reason, I might not recommend it for early mornings, however I find it perfect for a lazy weekend or late evenings, just before going to bed.

DSC_0061.JPG

Frühlings Tee was my tea of choice in the spring 2015, and I still have a couple of tea bags left for the upcoming months. I like the taste of it, I love how refreshing it is and that it goes perfectly with every meal at any day or night time. I will keep my eyes open for this year’s edition of Alnatura’s Frühlings Tee, as I know they tend to bring them out, slightly repackaged, every year. I love my routines, and I like imagining this tea for the spring time being one of them.

What are your favourite herbal infusions? Do you have any favourite tea blend for this spring? Do you also tend to switch your tea “wardrobe” as seasons change?

x