4 Tasting Notes
The purpose of writing an analysis of Lipton Hot Tea is simply twofold. First, in order to establish a baseline for my analyses (past and present) in order to facilitate the practical utility of my reviews. Nearly everyone, I imagine, has had Lipton Hot Tea at some point, so they can use this review to calibrate their understanding of how I taste, describe, and analyze tea. This makes it easier to relate to other reviews, which are approached in a similar manner. The second purpose of analyzing Lipton Hot Tea is simply for the sake of completeness—it is a tea I frequently drink due to the price and convenience, but even moreso for the incredible adaptability of this tea with regard to the accommodation of additives.
Lipton Hot Tea bags can make nice tea that is very simple to prepare and basically impossible to screw-up. The brew tastes better, I think, the longer the leaves are stewed (at least five minutes) in near-boiling water. The tea lends itself surprisingly well to blending with other additions and spices, as I discuss later. Lipton Hot Tea is a black tea that, in my sample, comes in a box of 100 individually-packaged teabags. The teabags are typical teabags, nothing special.
Deconstructing a teabag, the teabag contains approximately one teaspoon of pekoe-grade black tea. I won’t even attempt to decipher the blend. The leaves are the color of chocolate, mulch, and dried chilies. The average color is the color of dark chocolate shavings, with an occasional straw-colored piece scattered throughout. The fragrance of the dried leaves is slightly sour and malty with a slight sweetness—reminds me of dark rye bread. The texture of the leaves is uniform, dry, and brittle—but they do leave an oily residue when rubbed between the fingertips. The oils released by the dried leaves have a slight vegetal and malty fragrance.
The brewed liquor—when the leaves are stewed for excessive periods of time over five minutes, as I prepare it—has a deep, dark, rusty brown color with a deep, dusty-orange tint. The average color is comparable to some pu-erhs I have had before. The longer and stronger the brew is stewed, the deeper the color, aroma, and flavor becomes, and I don’t find that adding more leaves or over-brewing degrades the product in any way.
The aroma of the brew is malty and vegetal with a metallic sharpness on the front-end that I would be tempted to call “arcane”—but that, perhaps, is too suggestive. It is certainly a unique and sharp aroma (I think the company line is “brisk”) that, to my experience, is unique to Lipton Hot Tea. The aroma of the back-end is smooth and vegetal, in peculiar contrast with the initial sharpness.
When brewed according to my particular mode, the result is very smooth in flavor. (A complete divergence from the flavor profile obtained through a more “conventional” brewing method.) The beginning flavor is smooth and silky with a hint of vegetal, malty and metallic sharpness—and a little sweet. The middle flavors are vegetal, a hint of bitterness, a little metallic, and a sweet maltiness on the tip of the tongue. The aftertaste is slightly vegetal and gently malty and sweet. (In a way, reminds me of a stout—just a little bit.) The overall taste is smooth, rather subtle, and leaves a walnut-like impression, although no flavor component is explicitly “walnut” or “nutty” on inspection. The mouthfeel—especially as the brew cools—is silky, and gives the impression of body.
Because of the subtlety of this tea it is hard to limit the pairing options. In practice, I have paired it with practically everything, and not had anything to complain about. I doubt this tea presents a “best pairing” for any particular dish, but the tea seems very versatile and provides many good pairings. My favorite pairings for this tea include fried foods, yeast-rolls, potato salad, and the tea also acts well as a palette-cleanser after vinaigrette-dressed salads (goes well after anything with vinegar in it, actually), Lasagna, and beer-braised bratwurst with sauerkraut, and the like.
Perhaps my favorite quality of Lipton Hot Tea is its compatibility with additives. I highly recommend infusing any of the following with two or more Lipton Hot Tea bags per 4-6 cups of near-boiling water:
– 1 pod Star Anise
– 1 generously-sized sprig of fresh Rosemary
– 1 generously sized sprig of fresh Mint (any variety works, including Chocolate Mint)
– 1 pod Green Cardamom (seeds removed and crushed gives stronger flavor than stewing the whole pod)
– 1-2 stick(s) “Cinnamon” (Cassia)
– 1 stick Cinnamon/Cassia + 1 pod Green Cardamom + simmered Whole Milk to taste = a delightful chai! (Although I actually prefer this last recipe with Red Rose, Lipton is still good, and the sharpness enhances the flavor of the Green Cardamom more. For a Lipton preparation, you may wish to add another stick of Cinnamon.)
I fully anticipate there being many other wonderful spice-infusions that can be successfully combined with Lipton Hot Tea, so please experiment! (And please let me know if you find find something particularly eye-opening. I love trying new things.)
This is a great everyday, anytime tea. Because of the enormous volume of tea I consume each day, I bought the 100 teabag pack about a month ago, and I’ve already consumed nearly a third of the amount. (Yes, this is a bagged tea; the teabags are typical—not silk, or pyramidal, or round, or anything too exotic.) The bags produce surprising quality for a bagged tea, and furthermore hold up to double-brewings of reasonable quality if time is carefully observed. Due to the price and convenience of a teabag—no infusion canister to clean out between pots—as well the general quality of the tea, this has become a staple generic green for me. (It comes in especially handy when I’m busy, and I don’t have the time or luxury to go through all the ceremony of preparing a more expensive loose-leaf tea in a respectful manner, yet wish to enjoy the indulgent flavors of tea nonetheless.)
Opening a teabag (I disassembled one for the purposes of this note) reveals roughly a half teaspoon of pekoe grade leaves with some dust. The dust is a bright matcha green, and the leaf pieces are a dusty grass-green—the less dusty ones have a satin sheen in the sunlight. The texture of the leaves is smooth and oily-feeling between the fingers, and the chlorophyll stains the fingertips slightly; the overall sensation is one of uniformity and smoothness—the leaves do not feel dry or brittle. The dust has a texture not unlike the texture of cornstarch.
The aroma of the dry leaves is surprisingly strong for the quantity, and reminds me of sweet, fresh-cut grass with some nuttiness and a hint of vegetal. From the aroma, I can identify the component that will become a gently vegetal bitterness in the aftertaste of the brew, when the leaves are brewed.
The brew liquor is transparent in the pour and translucent in the bowl, with a gentle, cloudy yellow-green tint. A very beautifully colored liquor, especially against white porcelain. However, the cloudiness of the brew allows the color to present even in a black mug, which I found surprising.
The brew aroma is simple and straightforward, but strong and pleasant. The vegetal aromas develop more fully, and the sweetness gives way to a buttery aroma. Some aspects of the aroma I can only liken to the aroma of undressed spring-mix greens. The most notable smell is the vegetal quality, however, which has an uncharacteristic lack of bitterness and sourness that I usually associate with a vegetal flavor-notes.
The flavor of the brew is vegetal and clean, from beginning to end, with some sweetness. There is some nuttiness and a hint of bitter at the beginning, but these notes quickly submit to a robust and long-tasting vegetal flavor profile—again, with no sourness or bitterness, but a slight touch of butteriness and a gentle sweetness. The aftertaste is fresh and long-lasting, and takes on some slight nuttiness while being predominately sweet. There is the slightest hint of bitterness at the very end—as I was expecting from the aroma—but the overall aftertaste is very “clean.” This brew also has a strange characteristic of being stronger in flavor than in aroma in my sample, although the general presentation of the bouquet is not in any way lacking.
In my opinion, this is a tea that can be enjoyed anytime, but especially midday, and with savory foods. It has the robust nature and unique flavor profile required to stand up in a complimentary way to even heavily seasoned, spiced, and cheese dishes. I could see this tea pairing well with spicy Mexican food, such as enchiladas, chipotle, salsas, mole, as well as sharp cheeses. Chile, citrus, and meaty flavors should be fine. This tea would also compliment rich courses that have strong vegetable, butter, or cream flavors, as well as being a good pairing with clam chowder. This tea might overpower some delicately flavored fish, but (in general) I don’t think it would be a terrible pairing. I am unsure of how the flavors would complement strong moldy flavors, such as Gorgonzola, walnuts, unsweetened chocolate and the like; I think it would be worth the experimentation. I would avoid serving this tea with sweets and breakfast fare, as well as most dishes with delicate flavor, since the predominant flavors are vegetal and can be overpowering.
A word of caution: under-brewing will overdevelop the vegetal profile, and the nutty, buttery flavors will not present properly. If the brew is only slightly over-brewed, the tea won’t be ruined, but the flavors will shift significantly toward nutty and buttery, and some of the vegetal and sweetness will diminish, and the brew will be less “clean” on the palette, aftertastes will be a little pithier. If the leaves are brewed a second time, I have found that there isn’t much to loose in stewing the leaves.
Brewed as per directions on container.
This is a very flavorful and interesting tea; “holiday spices meet black tea blend” would be a good description, and I find the “cheering-effect” very pleasing when served hot. I find it is also somewhat helpful in relieving minor headaches, perhaps because of the relaxing aromatic nature of the brew combined with the caffeine content in the black tea.
The leaves are mostly whole, in long, twisted strands, and in my sample there were not many stems, except for an occasional small piece. The leaf color ranges from deep, ebony brown to an much-less-represented mix of dusty yellow or faded spring green with deep brown stripes of color. The average color is between ebony and mahogany, when the spice-pieces are considered. As for the spices, most are chopped, except for the cloves which are left whole. There are also pieces of dehydrated orange-rind that range in size, but are on average the largest pieces in the tea (besides the cloves) and generously scattered throughout. Leaf feel is firm and silky, and is matte in terms of gloss or shine.
The blend is very aromatic; the dry leaves smell sweet and fruity, with strong citrus and cinnamon, clove, and vanilla—like holiday or Easter baking. Very nostalgic. The brew has a stronger smell of black tea, and the aroma of the orange and clove mellow—but are still present—as cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg-like aromas begin to present more strongly than in the dried leaves.
My palette is nowhere near trained enough yet to discern all the components of the tea blend, or to make guesses as to which teas from which regions were included, but I can say that the black tea blend shares a basic flavor profile common to other back tea blends from Peet’s—so far as I can tell. (Strong & clean, a hint of vegetal, and floral at the end.) As for the spices, they are listed in the product description, and are in balance with the tea. I think Orange, clove and cinnamon stand out to me the most, although the aftertaste is floral, vegetal and complex—there are a lot of things going on in this cup. In my opinion, the spices are most present in the aftertaste, and the tea and orange and clove tend to dominate the beginning. The middle flavors to me are the vegetal flavors of the tea blend and the cinnamon. I have to comment though, except for the aftertaste, the black tea blend is the chief flavor throughout, which is as I feel it should be.
I feel this is a great afternoon (or even dessert) tea. I think this tea is well suited to sweets, but would caution against pairing it with heavily spiced foods that might compete, contradict, or upstage the tea. (Although I could see following a lamb curry dish with this tea perhaps, and a palette cleanser.) For my taste and stomach, I think it would be a little much first thing in the morning, although I suppose that also depends on the breakfast served and the occasion. All in all, I think of this blend as being in the soothing, relaxing, reassuring category, and would pair it accordingly. (Although not with heavily savory or rich comfort-foods. Barbecue might be okay though, depending on the seasonings used.) Those are my thoughts on pairing.
I’ve only had a couple of different varieties genmai cha, and this one is good in my opinion. After several brewings, I find it is very important to keep the amount of leaves at a tablespoon or less per pot, or else the flavor becomes heavy in the vegetal direction quite quickly. I’ve been using water that is a little cooler than I typically use for green teas, and if I am careful to use a scant tablespoon of leaves brewed at 1 minute, I get a satisfying result.
The leaves look like a (typical?) Japanese green tea, deep forest-green in long pieces, some broken, some stems, speckled throughout with walnut-brown grains of toasted rice, with an occasional piece puffed-up reminiscent of popcorn. The leaves have a satin-like shine when held in the light.
The tea, ideally brewed, has a buttery beginning with moments of fresh-cut grass and tannins and ends with a hearty nuttiness from the toasted rice. The aftertaste is a little pithy and tends toward sour and bitter, somewhat like the aftertaste of grapefruit. Leaf aroma is nutty and citrus-like, and the brew has a vegetal and buttery aroma.
I think this tea would be best suited to lunch and midday use; I think it would go well as an accompaniment to “fresh” and “light” flavors, such as salads with vinegar- or citrus-based dressings, or with yeasty breads or sandwiches on breads that tend toward yeasty or nutty versus malty. I’m not sure I would like this tea paired with sweets or strong, hearty, savory flavors—with the possible exception of very dark or unsweetened chocolate in small amounts. (I think there are some common-points in the aftertaste that might work, but I haven’t tried it yet.)