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.