5 Tasting Notes
AHA! A second steeping reveals the not-very-surprising secret to Tregothnan tea – it must be enjoyed in the English style, i.e., with milk added. The milk mellows the astringency in the tea and instead complements it into a warm, toasty flavor that is extremely enjoyable as a breakfast or dessert tea. The tea takes very well to sweetening (though one should use less sugar than one is used to, as the tea does seem to accentuate the sweetness upon mixing), and is light years better than the unadulterated cup. I suppose it was just a silly error to have attempted this tea without addition, as it was clearly blended and balanced with the typical British tea drinker in mind, and is definitely a vast, vast improvement over my earlier cup. So, if you enjoy “straight” tea this is not the one for you, but if you enjoy a typical British cuppa with milk and potentially sugar or honey, then this may very well turn out to be the internally warming, soothing cup you were looking for. The note on the tin, “enjoy black if you prefer” should almost certainly be ignored; this tea needs milk in order to complete its balancing act and fully express its toasty warmth. Is it a top-tier tea? Well, no, I’m not willing to say that, but it is definitely more than simply a novelty, and I would certainly be curious to see if Tregothnan continues to develop their tea over the years into a more formidable product.
Out of curiosity, I ordered a 100g tin of the English Estate Classic Tea from Tregothnan – proudly marketed by the company as “The First and Only English Estate Tea”. Of course, reading the fine print, the tea is actually a blend of “finest Assam and China” with some of the UK-grown Tregothnan tea (from the estate in Cornwall). It is hard to tell what proportion of this tea is actually from the UK, and how much is Assam/Chinese, and further hard to tell what quality Assam/Chinese tea is actually being used; one would assume, by the tea production of these countries, that the blend must be heavily foreign tea with only touches of the UK product, but of course this is all guesswork.
What is not guesswork is the tea itself which, while I wouldn’t call disappointing (as I didn’t have great expectations), is not a particularly fine tea. At 3 minutes’ steeping time the tea had an overly strong tannic bite, wooden flavors, and astringent finish; on my next steeping I will err on the side of caution and try 2 minutes (the tin itself recommends “2-3 minutes”, though oddly does not offer any clues as to the tea:water ratio). The tea was not unpleasant but certainly was nowhere near the quality one would expect from the price. A touch of sugar helped to mellow the tea and make it slightly more enjoyable, but did not inspire any warm feelings of enjoyment that one would expect from the British tea tradition.
Perhaps my opinion will change on further steepings, but on the first one I felt I’d had my suspicions confirmed, that while this tea is an interesting novelty, it is still a long way from being considered a quality black tea. I will certainly update my notes if further steepings indicate otherwise, but at the moment it’s hard to imagine I will be trying this tea beyond this first tin.
Lucky enough to have friends bring me some of this tea directly from Satemwa Tea Estates (not through a redistributor), and immediately one is struck by the vibrant reddish colors of the leaves and their robust, lively aromas. Even more surprising was the brewed cup itself – startlingly dark (at 5 minutes’ steep time, black as coffee), and upon adding milk one notices a subtle chocolate coloring to the tea, quite unlike any other. The final surprise is the taste of the tea itself – remarkably rich, smooth, with a definite undertone of cocoa (much like many coffees), and like its cousin Chombe tea, has a refreshing sweet finish that is extremely pleasing. A welcome addition to our tea cabinet and definitely one of the finds of the year for us, and we’re very excited to be sharing it with our customers during the upcoming cold months. If you can get your hands on this, and you also like coffee or cocoa, highly recommended!
We were given this tea as a gift from a friend who had taken their honeymoon in Tahiti; we can only presume the tin we were given was very old, as it had almost no aroma upon opening (from all accounts, the Tiare flower’s aroma is extremely strong). The tea is itself a Ceylon, and while being a serviceable morning tea it is nothing distinctive in and of itself, though it is warmly smooth and pretty enjoyable, even at this age.
This note should not be taken very seriously, as obviously we got a bad sample; the foundation seems fine on this tea so perhaps a full-flavored cup would be something special, we simply can’t tell.
Chombe Tea is a musty, robust tea at first, presenting earthy base notes and a significant amount of tannins. But it is noted for a distinct, unique finish, said to be a result of the high altitude of its plantations, which punctuates the tea with a zesty, sweet-and-sour high note, creating a subtle aftertaste vaguely reminiscent of pineapple. This bright finish complements sweetening and/or milk beautifully, so most Chombe is exported to be used in tea-blending for breakfast teas; on its own, rounding out with milk or sugar creates a warm, smooth tea with a perky finish, excellent as a wake-up tea.
Recommended: boiling water; 4 minutes steep; with milk and sugar.