The Subject: Darjeeling Tea from The English Tea Store.
Water temperature: 212° F
Steeping time: 3 to 5 minutes (see comments)
Tea type: Darjeeling
Scents, flavorings, etc.: Nothing added
Aroma, dry: Plant-ish, fresh, very “tea”
Aroma in the cup, plain: Fresh plant-like fragrance
Color in the cup, plain: Beautiful ruby-red, almost like red wine
Taste, plain: Mild bitter edge, plant-like taste evident
Aroma in the cup, enhanced: Milder plant aromas
Taste, enhanced: Bitter edge smoothed out, plant flavor enhanced
2nd Infusion: Recommended (see comments)
Chilled: Didn’t try, but suspect would be great with a bit of sweetener
Since Darjeeling is one of my favorite teas, I’m quite familiar with it and wanted this taste test to be a comparison of the sample I received from The English Tea Store (ETS) to other Darjeeling teas I’ve tried. The version I drink most often is from Ahmad Tea (which I bought locally at the Mideast Market), so this is the one I used.
The artist in me is anxious to address the color of the steeped tea, so I’ll get to that now (a little ahead of normal). The ETS version is a sparkling ruby red, almost like red wine (according to my hubby), while the Ahmad version is lighter, sort of an amber orange. Of all the different teas I drink, the colors of both of these are the most beautiful.
Dry, the teas are also quite different. ETS’s is more fannings (very small pieces but bigger than dust) where Ahmad’s is pieces (broken leaves). This difference becomes more apparent when you see the pieces after steeping. It also carries through to the steeped version where ETS’s is stronger and slightly more bitter, a taste disparity that I found jarring at first.
This difference put me in the same situation as when I reviewed the ETS Indian Spiced Chai — my tastebuds were accustomed to a certain flavor, in this instance the lighter and less bitter Ahmad Darjeeling, and had to adjust to the taste of the ETS Darjeeling. The Ahmad version is more along my expectations of what a tea called the “champagne of teas” should taste like. This could be my fault, though. Having observed the size of the dry tea bits and with several years experience under my belt of varying steep times according to those bit sizes, I should have tried the ETS Darjeeling after only 3 minutes of steeping. (As a general rule, smaller pieces brew up faster, darker, and stronger.) Thus, I put a time of 3 to 5 minutes for steeping. Try the tea “liquor” after 3 minutes to see if it is ready (should be a lighter red). If it’s not strong enough for your taste, let the leaves steep and try after another minute or two (don’t steep longer than 5 minutes).
Caution: As with most teas, don’t let this ETS Darjeeling steep longer than 5 minutes or you might end up with an overly strong and bitter tea “liquor.”
Hubby thinks a bit of sweetener is sufficient to enhance this tea. I, however, prefer mine with both milk and sweetener. They take away the bitter edge (mostly from the tannic acid in tea leaves) and give the tea a round, smooth flavor. While hubby preferred the ETS Darjeeling’s stronger, more bitter taste, I needed this tea enhanced, finding it too strong otherwise.
While I prefer the Ahmad version (rating: 4 teapots) to the ETS version, we both find Darjeeling tea in general to be a great one to drink while sitting curled up all comfy under a snuggly blanket. Dear Darjeeling!
Disclaimer: The teas reviewed here were provided by the company named, unless otherwise indicated. However, the rating of the tea and any opinions concerning it are strictly objective.
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