TEAd-OFF with the taste of your Tea bag Cuppa
By Martin Isark
Over the last forty years shoppers have seen a massive improvement in the quality of the food and drink products that sit on our supermarket shelves. But tea, our national drink is still a national disgrace.
Almost unthinkable now, but up to the early nineties, London was the hub of the tea world, with most of the finest teas traded there. Tea was associated with Britain, and ‘English Breakfast’ and ‘Yorkshire Tea’ became very strong brands around the world. So much so that it wasn’t unusual for American tourists to walk into the London Tea Auctions at East India House and ask to be taken to the Yorkshire Tea Gardens!
No Tea Estates in Yorkshire, but British companies still own some of the finest tea gardens in the world. Unfortunately, for UK tea-drinkers, their best teas go anywhere other than Britain, with Japan and Germany being the main players. A tea estate manager in Darjeeling told me that even Harrods does not buy the very best quality.
So what went wrong? The problem, it seems, is our impatience. The British tea-drinker requires an instant cuppa, browning quickly and colouring well with milk. The mechanical production process of tea unfortunately results in many different sizes or grades of broken leaf, and only a small percentage of the full leaf, which is the best quality – and the most expensive. The other grades go down to mere dust – the lowest and the worst.
The smaller the leaf, the more the fine nuances of flavour disappear, until all that leaches into the drink are the harsh, bitter oils. It is these tiny broken leaves, which infuse quickly, that go into our tea bags. The worst contain mere powder integrated with fine strips of wood, to help retain the contents in the bag.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with tea bags if they are loaded with with proper sized tea leaves. Thankfully, a few of the specialist tea sellers are now starting to do just that! Hopefully, the big brands will follow their lead!
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Jing 100 English Breakfast Tea Bags
TEAd-OFF with the taste of your Breakfast Cuppa? Check these biodegradable mesh teabags out! They come loaded with Assam tea leaves, and when brewed, they deliver a full-bodied rich malty flavour. Tasted by Martin Isark. Available from Jing