I’m somewhat torn about giving this a poor review. When I first became addicted to tea at the age of 19, four teas by Twinings became my favourite – Earl Grey, Russian Caravan, Ceylon Orange Pekoe and Prince of Wales. Russian Caravan and Prince of Wales complements each other perfectly, probably due to the Keemun being in both blends. If I understand correctly, Prince of Wales tea is Keemun blended with Ceylon or Indian tea, and Russian Caravan is Keemun blended with Yunnan tea and sometimes with the addition of Lapsang Souchong. Overall I had a slight preference for Russian Caravan as the Prince of Wales blend had a somewhat flat taste to – a surface taste of the Keemun with very little depth of flavour. Having said that, I still enjoyed Prince of Wales consumed with milk and got my flatmates hooked on it as well.
For about ten years living abroad, I couldn’t get Prince of Wales tea as Twinings no longer sold this tea in the EU so I developed a real taste for Keemun tea instead. I loved the nut-like flavour and beautiful aroma of freshly brewed Keemun tea in the late afternoon or evenings.
On returning to Australia, I was really looking forward to drinking Prince of Wales tea. The first thing I noticed was the flat taste and I forgot how much this becomes evident over time. In the last few months, I have started drinking most of teas black, occasionally with lemon. The Prince of Wales was completely undrinkable after the first cup, even with lemon and additional hot water. This may have been an off-day – maybe I brewed for too long, or perhaps a poor batch of tea. So I’m sitting down again with another pot of Prince of Wales to test.
Opening my Twinings tin (which must be at least 30 years old based on the lettering) I get a waft of that beautiful, nutty Keemun aroma. The tea leaves are standard Broken Orange Pekoe of fairly uniform length. The first cup I have made with soy milk. The taste is nutty, but the tea is pretty weak – possibly too much milk so I top up with the tea pot. Now this is more like it – there is still that nuttiness, but slightly sweet with a hint of chocolate and vanilla. There is a bit more depth and now I realise that what I had thought of as being “flat” is actually due to having one strong dominant taste, whereas Russian Caravan is a more complex, layered tea. I can’t really detect the maltiness that other people have found.
Now for the moment of truth – black without lemon. The aroma is lovely and strong, as is the colour. There is virtually no astringency or bitterness. The nuttiness is there and the sweet flavour, and it has a real ‘body’ to it. This wouldn’t be the first tea I would reach for if I wanted a cup of black tea as the milk tempers the tea and balances out the nutty flavour. Without milk, it tends to be a bit too strong and it is obvious that the actual tea is not the best quality (although it is far from being the worst). If I was going to drink black, it would be in the afternoon with something sweet like a few squares of chocolate.
So, an old favourite has been redeemed. :)