49 Tasting Notes
Missed my morning Yorkshire Gold the other day, and didn’t want to get into my work stash, so I picked out the tea that they have at the office—Lipton. Brewed for 3.5 minutes with one packet of sugar. When I drank it, I mentally quoted Sherlock: “surprisingly ok.” Nothing great, and it has a bit of a strange peppery quality, but I was expecting something absolutely terrible based on most of the reviews here (I’d had it as a kid, but not since). I compare it to a decent American adjunct lager in the world of craft beer—not something I’d go out of my way to drink, but not something I’d avoid if I were offered one.
This is one of my absolute favorite teas. There’s a small British import shop in town which I occasionally visit, and I knew that they had this in loose leaf, so I had to pick it up. My wife had just bought me a teapot, so I was looking for a good, everyday leaf tea. I had heard good things about this one, but what made me decide to buy it for sure was reading an interview with Nigel Melican. His favorite tea for special occasions the same as one of mine (though I assume he has access to a much higher quality golden tippy Yunnan than I), so I figured we might have similar tastes. He said that Yorkshire Gold was his favorite “everyday” tea, and that it contained Rwandan leaves. This was when I made up my mind. I’ve got friends in Rwanda, and have visited there. I’ve ridden with fifteen other people in a matatu bus meant to hold nine or ten and looked down across the lush valleys filled with camellia sinensis. And I’ve drunk pure Rwandan tea black, and been pleased by the incredible smooth flavor and lack of bitterness. I had to try this tea.
So, we made our way down to Willy’s Emporium to get a bag. Not long after we got home, I fired up the trusty electric kettle, prepared the teapot, and made a pot full of Yorkshire Gold (well, not really full—we figured a six-cup pot would be more versatile, allowing us to have tea alone or with company). I was a bit worried that I’d been building it up too much in my mind. I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong.
This really is an incredible tea. It’s strong, full, and malty, and certainly has good kick. And yet, perhaps due to the Rwandan tea, it’s not bitter. Indeed, it has a remarkably brisk flavor in addition to its stoutness. The pour is golden and beautiful, and the aroma is pleasant the whole way through. It takes milk wonderfully, and sugar, too. I see what Mr Melican means—this has quickly become my everyday morning tea (I usually have other tea at work, where I don’t have access to a pot, a kettle, or milk). I’m down near the bottom of the bag now, and am already planning my next trip to the store to replenish my supply.
Flavored teas are generally not my favorite—RoT’s mango Ceylon is good iced, and I like a good Earl Grey every now and again, but I generally prefer the taste of plain tea. This is not something I would buy, but it was given as a gift. It’s not bad for a flavored tea—the ginger is rather strong, but doesn’t entirely overpower the tea (just mostly). With milk and sugar it’s nice, especially on an upset stomach, but I wouldn’t drink this regularly—in fact, I think it may be hanging around the cupboard for quite a while. Also, it doesn’t strike me as a real breakfast tea, but rather an afternoon tea.
After a month at my new job, I finally realized that I wasn’t going to buy a gaiwan for work, and my morning cuppa Yorkshire Gold just wasn’t going to cut it as my only tea until 5, so I bought a box of this, based on the facts that the Earl Grey Addict liked it, it was cheap, and it would probably be good without milk or sugar (we have creamer at work, but I don’t want to buy milk that will just sit in the work fridge). I use microwaved water, which isn’t the best choice, but it’s what we have (unless I can convince the other content writers to chip in for an electric kettle).
Anyway, this is pretty good. Nothing astounding, but a decent Earl Grey. The citrus smell of the dry bag is very strong, but it’s much more balanced in the cup. I probably won’t be buying another box when this one runs out, but that’s only because of the wonderful experience I had recently with Twinings Darjeeling.
I took my wife out to breakfast for her birthday yesterday, and we went to a great place downtown called Smiley’s. I placed my food order (sausages and fried ripe tomatoes—delicious), and was about to skip getting tea (last time we went, my mom got tea, and I seem to recall it being served in one of those leaky metal teapots that I used to hate when I worked in food service). I saw that they had a selection of Twinings, including Darjeeling, so I ordered a cup. I was happy to see them pull out a ceramic teapot (it was a rather unique-looking one, with a large spout and flattened sides). The water they used wasn’t boiling—it came from a hot-water tap—but it was very close, and I was able to time the steep, since I watched them pour the water. After a 4-minute steep, I removed the bag from the pot, and drank the tea without any milk or sugar.
I was really pleasantly surprised! Although it lacked the grape-skin flavor (which I’m informed is properly called “muscatel”) that I had experienced in other Darjeelings, it had a very pleasant taste. It was sweet and smooth, with pretty much no bitterness. I caught hints of “Darjeeling” flavors which I can’t quite isolate, but seem to have been present in all Darjeelings I’ve had. So, while this isn’t a high-end first flush hand-selected full-leaf Darjeeling, it’s an excellent cup of tea, especially when you want something without any milk or sugar. After my box of Stash Earl Grey is used up, I may buy a box of this to be my work tea.