Fortnum & Mason
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Recent Tasting Notes
Right, had two cups of this yesterday – one as a “morning tea”, with milk and sugar, and one in the evening, plain. This extremely expensive Assam does not take milk and sugar well. It is, however, pretty good plain. There is the characteristic malty, slightly woodsy taste of Assam, but without any astringency. It reminds me of Postcard Teas Golden Tips Assam, but Postcard Teas Assam is better – sweeter, maltier, better balanced, and it can stand up to milk.
In a world without Postcard Teas Golden Tips Assam, where this tea costs about half its price (which would put it at Verdant Tea prices – i.e. not cheap at all), I would recommend this tea. At it is, it doesn’t get a recommendation. Invest your money elsewhere.
A proper English black tea. I infused this twice in my teapot I got from the London teapot company. The liquor is a warm amber color and the full-bodied taste has a malty, fresh baked bread quality to it. It’s a rustic tea that is great for cold mornings when you need to wake up and crave an acceptable splash of cream.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt, Raisins
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Yesterday I received a wonderful box full of high quality European Black teas to enjoy – what a treat! I could not decide where to begin so I randomly picked a bag for my first sample. F&M’s Golden Monkey was the choice and I sipped on it throughout the morning as my Sunday “breakfast” tea. Malted grain sweetness with dark chocolate flavors coming through. A richly bold morning tea. Many thanks to NofarS for sharing this one!
Tried some more of this last night. I remain unimpressed. It would have gotten a higher rating if it weren’t for the ridiculous marketing and the outrageous price. As it is, it is a pretentious blend that could have been better if it would have spent less time preening itself and more time balancing its flavours.
This tea, with a better choice of a darjeeling base, and a better price, is called “Darjeeling Earl Grey” and is sold by a company called Ronnefeldt. Buy it from them.
This is a blend of Darjeeling with Bergamot, fancily named after Prince George’s Christening – for the tourists. It epitomizes all that has gone wrong with F&M’s tea over the last few years. They could have called it “Darjeeling Earl Grey”. They could have called it “Light Earl Grey” or “Special Earl Grey”. They could even have called it “Earl Grey Superb”. That would at least give you an inkling to what’s in the tin. But F&M’s marketing department seems hell-bent on touting their connections with the Royal family, instead of focusing on really good and unique tea. As it is, it’s an Earl Grey Darj, which is a combination that I’ve already tasted from Ronnefeldt. The two go together well, but R does the combination more justice. F&M’s is slightly rougher, with the Earl Grey and the Darjeeling not really married together in harmony.
It’s an 80 from me, because I happen to love the combination, and the caddy is, as usual, pretty great. 5 points off for the price and pretentiousness, and no recommendation – you can get better for less from Ronnefeldt.
We have been on a somewhat Assam-and-Breakfast-Tea binge lately at work. This tea now comes in one of F&M’s new caddies (check out the picture here: http://www.fortnumandmason.com/p-5173-assam-tea-assam-superb-tea-indian-tea.aspx). The caddy looks great, but I wish they had kept the old design. The new design is a nicer colour, and has an easier to open lid, but otherwise is useless. You can’t stack it in the cupboard like their old caddies, and it has zero useful tea info on it. Nothing about the tea’s provenance , about steep times or strength. The design, touted by F&M as a change for the better, is indicative of the alarming change that I’ve seen in the company over the last few years. Gone are delicious blends like Piccadilly Blend, Fountain Blend and others. The only blends now have “Royal” in their name, or are somehow tied to the royal family. Useful information has been scratched from the caddies, they’ve become ridiculously ornamented, and many of them are available only for a short period of time. F&M, in other words, have become a tourist trap filled with “British” souvenirs or grossly overpriced “speciality” tea, and no longer a place where I can send people shopping for tea and know that they can’t really go wrong.
That’s a shame, because they used to have wonderful teas, and they still sometimes do. This “Assam Superb” was a very very good, bass-y, malty, deep Assam, brewing almost black in colour, and taking milk with great aplomb. High in caffeine content, we’ve had it several times over the last week or so, as a morning pick me up. Recommended.
This tea is a bit of a workhorse for me. It’s a well-balanced blend of assam and ceylon, but it brews strong, so if you’re not a fan of strong tea, it’s better to just “scare it” with the hot water rather than brew for a full 5 minutes. I use this tea as a base for my homemade chai, I drink it iced when I want a nice, strong black iced tea without flavoring, I drink it hot when I’m not feeling well or just looking for a well- balanced, unfussy black tea. So, to summarize, very versatile, very balanced, solid, but not a showstopper.
This caddy is breathtaking. I saw that this tea was a blend of Darjeeling and Ceylon, thought to myself that that sounds unpromising, and still bought it (at a hefty price), because I just couldn’t resist the caddy. Also, I had just had afternoon tea in Fortums restaurant, with wonderful tea served in beautiful silver teapots, so I really wasn’t in any position to resist this tea.
I was faintly surprised by this tea. It’s actually decent. There is some astringency, but not much, and even a bit of sweetening gets rid of it, if you are sensitive to it. There are floral elements to this tea, but they are very muted – merely hints, not full blasts, as you can get from certain oolongs. Also present is the bright, “Teaness” of ceylon, but it too is subdued enough that even Ceylon haters will approve. The result is a delicate, light, complex brew that really does evoke the Edwardian era, with tea served in fine silver teapots on green lawns, and bees buzzing lazily in a gentle summer.
A tea for proper ladies and gentlemen.
I’m pretty sure that I reviewed this tea in the past, but Steepster shows no record of it. Ho hum.
I felt like something sweet and fruity, and I hadn’t had this tea in a while so I brewed me a cup. The caddy is more gorgeous than it seems, and the blend tends towards the Ceylon end of the spectrum – so stone fruit tastes and a good bit of astringency. I like it – it has a bit more complexity and depth than plain Ceylons, and there’s something about its light body that makes me think that it will make for an excellent cold brew.
Flavors: Fruity, Sweet
Thank you Adagio Breeze for this tea.
It is a little too mild for me but not a bad tea at all.
Very refreshing in those hot days here (36°c) and one of the few teas I am able to drink hot since 1 week.
It seems to be a straight tea but it is so much sweet and fruity it can make think to a light flavoured tea.
My daughter adores it. Lovely
Had a cup of this for breakfast. Deep, dark flavor. I really enjoy this. It has this slight bitterness (not from oversteeping, just from the tea’s flavor) that is really enjoyable. Complex, strong, flavourful. I recommend this tea if you like strong black teas, that is.
The best Earl Grey (in a tin) I´ve ever bought. If you ever want to have a complete Earl Grey experience, with the bergamot fragrance all over, this is the one to prepare. Quite pricey, but considering the enjoyment, worth every bit of it.
Last tea of the night since it’s getting rather late.
This is nice on the front of the sip, but horribly bitter at the back. I can’t really even drink it. And the astringency is pretty awful. Maybe it’s an error on my part, but I didn’t do anything off the company’s suggestion except maybe brew a smidge cooler than recommended.
Backlog. This is one of the teas that I picked up from Fortnum & Mason in London because for me, breakfast blends can never go wrong. That being said, this was a pretty decent breakfast tea, but nothing too spectacular. I think I would have preferred if it were a bit stronger. It would probably help to use more leaf and tinker with it some more, but alas, I had to leave it behind in California because I had too many other souvenirs to bring back to Boston as gifts for others. I will return to it soon, though!
Another back-back-backlog from afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason. This tea reminded me the most of my beloved breakfast blends: bold, smooth, but not bitter. Other than that, there were no other special flavors or anything that jumped out at me. It was especially good when paired with the scones & jam or the desserts because of it’s strength.
Back-back-backlog of this tea. A couple weeks ago on my trip, my mom and I went to high tea at Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly Circus. This was the tea that she chose, purely because of the description about Prince William & Kate Middleton, haha. It’s very light for a breakfast blend. It actually reminds me more of the afternoon blend from Fortnum & Mason (that I happen to be sipping on right now). I think it paired nicely with the finger sandwiches, but was a bit weak to accompany the desserts and scones.
The really good thing about this tea was that it didn’t get bitter quickly. And considering the fact that the leaves were just left to sit and steep continuously in the teapots, this was a very good attribute for our high tea adventure.
Alas, my great European journey has come to an end. I actually refrained from buying a ton of tea because a) not enough room in my luggage & b) family & friends not so patient with my tea habits. Anyway, I had high tea at Fortnum & Mason in London, and picked up two teas afterward: Afternoon Blend & Breakfast Blend. Of course, the first day I’m home, I’m breaking them open for a spin!
Afternoon blend is surprisingly light compared to the look of the tea leaves. I actually thought it may have been too light, so I steeped it a little further, which resulted in bitterness. It kind of seems like a weak breakfast blend to me. Next time, I will try with more leaf/water ratio. This tea also seems like a good contestant as a base for my fruit-infused cold-brewed iced teas. I have a whopping 4.4 ounces to play around with, so I can’t wait to experiment!