My tea adventures have ranged far and wide over the past year. While my focus has been on loose leaf teas (strongly preferred), a few bagged teas have crossed my path. PG Tips has been a favorite for years and has a long history dating back to the 1930s (although the company was started in 1869). However, a new kid on the block, Devonshire Tea, that’s only been around since 2006, is now a welcome part of the stock in my tea pantry. So, how do these two teas, both from Britain, compare in your teacup? Time for a tea showdown!
Here’s the blow-by-blow comparison:
The bags: They’re both made of hemp from the abacá plant. They’re both filled with tiny pieces of tea leaves (called “dust” or “fannings”). The PG Tips bag has the increasingly popular pyramid shape. The claim is that this allows for more interaction between the tea pieces and the water, that the bag acts as a mini-teapot to steep the tea. The Devonshire Tea bag is square and therefore easier to manufacture. Also, it allows for good interaction between tea pieces and water. To me, they’re both equal. I tend not to buy in on the whole mini-teapot claim. A teabag is a teabag. They both come between me and my tea. But for these teas, I make an exception.
The teas in the bags: Both brands have a blend of teas. Devonshire Tea is Kenyan teas from four different plantations, so it’s not a “wide-ranging” blend. PG Tips is a more typical blend of high-quality teas from India and China. Blending tea has its positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, you can get a more balanced and consistent taste, where a tendency to bitterness in one tea can be offset by a tendency toward sweetness of another tea. On the negative side, if you’re a tea drinker who wants to enjoy pure tea tastes, blends disappoint. Your tastebuds react to all the different tastes in the blend and often cannot sort them out. Of course, if the blend has been worked out to a harmonious level, you will experience a tea taste that is different from any pure tea. Just as you can perceive purple versus the red and blue that combine to make it. Both of these blends achieve that harmonious blending.
The taste and smell: This is a toughie, since when I smell the tea, I also smell the bag. Basically, though, the aroma of each was typical of a good black tea blend. There is an earthiness together with a plantiness. It’s what a lot of Western tea drinkers have come to expect from black teas.
The process: I used one teabag of each tea in 8 ounces of water each, not quite enough to fill the mugs, but necessary for this controlled steeping. The water was heated to boiling (212˚ F), and the teas were steeped for 5 minutes.
In the cup: Both teas steeped to a beautiful reddish brown color that practically sparkled in the light. However, when it came to taste, there was a significant difference. The PG Tips had a more robust nature, with a definite bitter edge that needed quite a bit of milk and sweetener to smooth it. The Devonshire Tea was fairly smooth when plain in the cup and even smoother with milk and sweetener.
Let’s face it, comparing bagged teas is sort of like comparing Granny Smith apples to Macintosh apples. That is, they both have their place in the world of tea (or apples). Granny Smith makes great pies, but rather tart eating. Macintosh gets too mushy for pies when cooked but can make great applesauce or good eating raw. Similarly, PG Tips can give you a bracing wake-up cuppa tea at breakfast, while Devonshire Tea will mellow you during your afternoon teatime, quieting your jangled nerves down to a mere tingling and leaving you feeling ready to tackle the rest of your day.
In short, each has its place. Enjoy a cuppa your favorite today!
For more excellent coverage of all things tea, check out A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!