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

Tea Review: Lipton Bright Asian Fusion

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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).

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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.

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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

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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.

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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: King’s Crown Vanilla Green Tea

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This time I’m afraid I won’t be 100% objective, because I’m up to reviewing one of my all time favourite teas. It’s a very affordable blend of green tea and vanilla under the German brand King’s Crown.

First disclaimer: this tea might not be easy to get everywhere. As far as I know it is distributed via the chain of the drugstores Rossmann, hence it will only be available in the countries where Rossmann exists as an established brand. Correct me if I am wrong.

Second disclaimer: just like in my previous reviews, we are dealing with the packaged tea of a cheaper price range, hence it will only makes sense to not expect unique, high-quality blends of tea leaves or intense flavour. Nonetheless, I consider this tea one of the best as your “morning-in-a-hurry” choice.

Universality is what I especially like about this tea. Its inoffensive, light, barely there vanilla taste blends so well with the green tea flavour. I guess you still need to be a vanilla fan, at least to some extent, to fully appreciate the miracle of this tea.

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It comes in a packaging of 25 flat tea bags, packed in a separate paper envelope (1,75g each).

Ingredients: Green tea, Vanilla aroma, Vanilla.

Scent: light, subtle aroma of vanilla. Aroma of green tea is not especially prominent though.

Taste: again, as stated above, the taste is an inoffensive, light vanilla blend with extremely soft notes of green tea. It’s very easy to drink, especially for somebody who is just getting into understanding and liking green tea. I reckon that the tea concentration is not very high in each teabag, which makes it a lighter alternative to more “heavy duty” green teas. This makes drinking King’s Choice Vanilla Green tea in the afternoon-early evening possible, without risking a “caffeine stroke”. 🙂

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Serving: leave boiling water to cool down for 5-10 minutes (if your kettle offers a temperature option, heat up to 80 degrees Celsius), then pour it over a tea bag. Let it steep for 3-4 minutes. The steeping time is longer than the usual 2-3 minutes, also because of the green tea concentration I am discussing above.

Energy level: 2 stars out of 5. Again, due to the very light tea concentration, this won’t be your typical “wake me up, NOW” green tea.

All in all, this tea means pure happiness for me. As a huge vanilla fan, I learned to appreciate this light, subtle flavour in a cup of tea. In my opinion, anyone who came with an idea of vanilla green tea might have been a genius. This combination strikes me as very balanced, delicious and simple at the same time, and could only be beaten by the unbeatable classics – green tea + lemon. I noticed that this combination is quite popular in Germany: there are plenty of German mainstream tea brands that offer green tea with vanilla in there assortment, it is almost as popular and easy to find as green tea with lemon combination.

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If you are a fan of flavoured tea like me, and love experimenting with new aromas and blends, you are on the right way here. I recommend pairing the tender flavour of vanilla with the Ferrero Rocher’s Ferrero Kuesschen white chocolates with a hazelnut hidden inside.

Have you tried vanilla-flavoured green tea? How do you feel about vanilla flavours in your drinks (I, for instance, love Vanilla Coke)? If there’s a German person reading this blog, do you often reach for Green tea with vanilla?

x