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.)