Britannia Teas and Gifts
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Recent Tasting Notes
1.5 tsp for 300mL water @98C, steeped 5 minutes, drunk bare.
Liquor is very dark, almost like coffee, and a bit murky. Pu-erh and I have not gotten along; I am trying to change that.
No horrible fishy smell you get with some pu-erhs. I catch a scent and taste of rocks — this is very mineral. I also smell snow. It’s got that clean finish I pick up in Yunnan black tea. Still not sure if I like it.
1.5 tsp for 250mL, boiling water, 4-minute steep.
I love lapsang souchong and Carvan teas. Adore them. I drink them a lot when the weather turns cold, though on occasion I’ll take hot cup of lapsang on a hot summer day and get serious refreshment. (It just seems counter-intuitive to drink hot smoky tea on a hot day. Any hot tea on a hot day will help you cool down, of course.) This lapsang from my local indie shop is, as the copy promises, smooth and crisp. The smokiness is almost a bit salty. The tea does not gett bitter.
The main difference I find between lapsang and Caravan teas is the degree of smoke (natch) and the body. Lapsangs tend to be light-bodied, Caravans a little heavier. I am actually in the mood for a Caravan this morning, I’ve discovered, but I am still loving this lapsang.
1 TB for 450mL boiling water, 5-minute steep.
I don’t often choose a Ceylon tea, as I generally find them a bit bland and crying out to be blended. I have the same reaction to the Nilgiris I’ve tried. But the Lover’s Leap estate tea is different. This is a very coppery tea — it even brews up a coppery colour — and it’s quite bright, a bit like drinking afternoon sunshine. There’s a slight astringency that’s very agreeable and a clean mineral finish. A very good tea for this cloudy and rainy day.
Lover’s Leap is available through many different tea vendors; I got it from my local indie shop, Britannia Teas and Gifts.
1 TB for 450mL water, bare, boiling water, 4-minute steep. Rating: 85.
I’ve drunk a lot of orange spice black tea over the years. Bigelow’s Constant Comment and Stash Orange Spice come to mind. A few years ago, Stash changed the kind or oranges they use, and now that tea knocks me flat with wonderful orange flavour … but the black tea base they use is not the best.
This Orange Spice, from my local teashop, is much better balanced. You can smell the organes right though the bag, of course, and you can also smell the lime leaves. The cinnamon complements but does not dominate. And best of all, the Ceylon used is mellow and gentle, lending an overall surprising creaminess to the mouth-fell.
I don’t usually count flavoured black teas in my favourites, but this one is really good.
4.5 tsp for 750mL water @ 90C, steeped 4 minutes, Breville basket cycle on. Drunk bare.
I’ve made this a tiny bit too strong, but that doesn’t matter. The blend of toasty oolong, mild black (China?) tea, jasmine and orange is astonishing. First scent is quite exotic, with citrus and jasmine notes. Some black tea fullness and a really toasty oolong that makes me think of Formosa oolong … oh, just soooo good. Really special. I tried this blend one years ago, before I knew different teas needed different water temps, and I scalded the hell out of it, getting only a bitter black tea taste. Not this time. Gentle fruit and flowers and oolong, with a Keemun-like body and finish. Lovely.
Omnomnomnomnom…. almond-y goodness. If you like marzipan, you’ll LOVE this cup of tea. An almost calorie-free alternative to dessert… The rooibos is kind of a non-descript vehicle for the almond flavour, but it does the job nicely. Not an every-day tea because of its unique almond flavour, but certainly an enjoyable cup when I’m craving that slice of German stollen my husband so dearly loves. :)
1.5 tsp for 350mL water @ 100C. Steeped 2 minutes.
Two minutes is a very short steep on a black tea for me. I sipped this at the 2-minute mark and thought Whoa, even better! There is not even a hint of bitterness, and much more, well, floral creaminess. Longer steeps will introduce oak notes.
Ye gods, I love a good Yunnan.
1 TB for 450 mL water @ 98C, steeped 4 minutes. Rating: 100.
I really like Yunnan teas. They generally lack the maltiness and pucker of the India black teas, though Golden Monkey will give you some malt.
This Peregrine First Flush is a whole new experience for me. The leaves are wiry and go from copper to earth brown, with plenty of golden tips. The liquor is very complex, with layers and layers of taste. First I got honey in the nose. Then a slightly mineral and fairly typical Yunnan flavour. Then all this oakiness, which could get bitter if the tea is steeped too long, but the bit of astringency tailing the oaky notes brings out the final bits of honey and florals. It reminds me very much of a good malt whisky. No, the tea does not taste like scotch, and it didn’t get me drunk, just blissed, in my tea-dork way. It’s the nuances and complexities of flavour, the way each sip tastes different at different places in your mouth. Notes of oak, fruits, flowers and honey fusing with Yunnan smoothness: a really, really good cup.
1.25 for 250mL water @90C, steeped 3 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes.
The first infusion gave up so much cream I thought I would swoon. I got three excellent infusions from the one little scoop, and could probably have gotten a fourth, more orchid than cream by then. I needed this tea so badly this weekend that I shook out my bag for every loose coin — I’ve just gotten my kids ready for school and really have no business buying tea right now — but oh, oh yes, it’s worth whatever ya gotta do to get some. As I’ve noted before, I don’t know where my local indie tea shop, Britannia Teas and Gifts, gets their Quangzhou milk, but it is better than what DavidsTea carries. Delicious, fragrant, nuanced, and creamy — perfection.
1.5 tsp for 325mL water @85C. First steep 4 minutes. Second steep 7 minutes.
Yes, I am steeping these leaves to death. I am making tea by the cup and not by the pot today, and I keep getting distracted.
The second steep really interests me today. Most of the Quangzhou creaminess is gone, soaking out in the first steep. I am left with a liquor almost as sweet and delicate as a Dung Ti but with the creamy scent of a Quangzhou: a lovely surprise after cheating on the first steep and getting extra creaminess.
Much longer a steep and I’d get that bitter leafiness an abused oolong gives up. Second steep liquor is greenish gold. I shouldn’t play like this with such a precious and expensive oolong, but how else do you find out things?
1.5 tsp for 250 mL water. 1st steep: 2 minutes. 2nd steep: 3 minutes. 3rd steep: 4 minutes, sometimes longer. Sometimes I don’t time the first steep and just leave it be til it smells right. But tonight … 2 minutes in 90C water.
I could develop a serious problem with Quangzhou Milk Oolong. It’s that good. Yes. Yes, it is.
I don’t know where my local indie teashop gets their Quangzhou, but it’s more affordably priced than at the only other place in town that carries it, DavidsTea. I find the variety at Britannia is a tiny bit sweeter, a bit more floral, but with all the creaminess and brulee notes and smoothness and oh oh oh that makes a milk oolong so blissful. The liquor is pale creamy yellow, darkening slightly with longer steeps. Each sip carries a slightly different balance of sweet, floral and cream. Good for at least three infusions … and, when you realize how muc tea you can actually brew for these leaves, really not expensive. But it is preciousssss …
I would give up dessert forever if I could always have this tea instead.
1.5 tsp for 250mL water @95C, steeped seven minutes, drunk bare.
This tea has one delightful and unusual charactertisic: the longer is steeps, the sweeter the finish. A longer steep does obscure some of the nuances I talked about earlier, and it makes the liquor look like coffee, but the blend of tastes, now dark plums, dark honey, oak, and and toasted bread, is very agreeable. Body remains light as plain water. Finish is sweet, as noted, with some faint oakiness that could get bitter, and mineral. Superbly refreshing.
2tsp for 325 mL water @ 98C. Steeped 5 minutes.
I need strong tea today. Chronic illness and a thoroughly unproductive writing session last night shoved me into a dim little cave. I slept poorly, and then overslept. Weh weh weh.
And what will improve my outlook? Tea will definitely help.
This Monkey Picked Golden Hunan lives up to the packet copy. I should point out that I made it strong and steeped it long, yet it’s not bitter. Oddly, the scent does have bitter notes: oak and a very faint smoke. It’s nowhere near as smoky as a Keemun. The flavour is assertive, but the body is light. The liquor is a murky brown. The leaves remind me of a tippy Yunnan, being long and needle-shaped, a bit fluffy, and morphing from brown to bronze. It’s got more of a caffeine punch than I’ve come to expect from Chinese black tea, and the finish is sweet. Some agreeable leathery notes with a cup this strong. Make me long for some good Yunnan, which I haven’t had in several months.
This tea is on the more expensive side — $13.50 for 50 grams — but is worth it, if you like Chinese black tea.
1.5 tsp for 250mL water. 95C, 4-minute steep. Drunk bare.
Russian Caravan was the first ‘fancy’ tea I fell in love with, but my torrid affair with Darjeelings soon eclipsed that. Stash used to carry a very, very good Darjeeling, especially good for a bagged tea, just called ‘Darjeeling.’ It’s long been discontinued. Wah. Good muscatel and a sweet finish; I could drink 5 or 6 cups of it in rapid succession.
I could do that with Seeyok, too. I don’t know if it’s first or second flush, or a blend of both — I generally prefer second flush Darjeeling — but it’s got an agreeable astringency that never threatens to go sour, some earthiness from good soil (though certainly not pu-ehr earthiness), and that addictive muscatel note that makes me a bit weak in the knees, and in the head. I’ve made this cup strong on purpose to test for bitterness, but no: what develops in a strong cup is a wineyness. Nutty notes in the scent. The usual ratio of 1 tsp to the cup would better show off Seeyok’s charms.
I used 95C water (205/96 is closest I can get on the drag bar below) because I’ve found Darjeelings to be a bit delicate; too-hot water can bring out sharp bitterness.
1.5 tsp for 300mL. First infusion at 90 for 6 minutes, second infusion at 85C for 5 minutes.
I used to make this with hotter water. (The packet copy says to use boiling water — yuck, I didn’t care for that at all.) Tonight, I cooled it down a bit.
First infusion: Formosa oolong from Britannia: A darker oolong. Toasted. Smells like tobacco flowers and stonefruit. A strong taste that’s nuanced with oak, peaches, minerals, and distant smoke.
Second infusion: More stonefruit and some creaminess. Toast and oak in the scent but none in the taste. Upping the rating from an 80 to a 90.
Packs a caffeine punch, too.
1 TB per 500mL pot.
A twiggy oolong with gorgeous, varieated leaves. Not detecting any of the fruity notes Formosa Oolongs sometimes boast. This one brings to mind tobacco more than peaches. The leaves are not tightly rolled. It’s a bit temperamental and needs a careful steep. I like it, but I like my Ti Kuan Yin better.
1 TB for 450mL water.
Silly me. I tried drinking this beautiful oolong while preparing supper. The multi-tasking dstracted me from the oolong, and the cooking smells overpowered the oolong. Note to self: drink oolong while sitting down. Meditate a bit. Sip some more.
I really enjoy this ti kuan yin. A bit bakey, a mineral on the 2nd infusion. Clean. (Two minutes 1st, 4 minutes 2nd.)