Preferred black tea base for flavored teas?

So, our black tea base seems to be getting a lot of mixed reviews lately. I really want to make teas that people love. When I started doing this, I think I used a black tea base that – I – liked, and because I’m more of an iced tea drinker, that consisted of primarily Nilgiri teas with a little Assam in them. Because I am REALLY not a hot tea drinker, when I got a few complaints about the base being too astringent, I switched to what I thought would be a more popular base—Keemum, Darjeeling and Assam. But now I’m concerned that I’ve made a number of you unhappy.

Please tell me what sort of base you prefer for flavored black teas. I’m listening.

21 Replies

I fear I’m one of the complainers on the new black tea base! I really didn’t want to mention it at first, since I don’t want my tastes to influence anyone buying from 52Teas. But I really don’t like the flavor of the new black tea base. Honestly, to me it tastes like cardboard. Someone else said construction paper. I liked the black tea you were using before, but maybe that’s me. I think if people were having the tea turn out too astringent before, I’d suggest a two minute steep time. This would make the awesome 52Teas flavors shine better anyway. I think the longer a tea steeps, the more the tea itself drowns out any additional flavors. Some blends even work better steeped at 45 seconds.

However, the other black teas, like the chai, are still delicious, as well as the green and honeybush teas I’ve tried!

Also, maybe I consider the Keemum, Darjeeling and Assam base “cardboard” because usually those three teas are not combined? Maybe my brain doesn’t compute that one! It seems the Darjeeling shouldn’t be there though. Is that base set for all of the teas that use that base? Or is the combination of the three different with each blend? (ie: 40% Darjeeling for one blend or 20% Darjeeling for another?)

No, the proportions are set, and I don’t put much Darjeeling in there at all. Just enough to give it a little touch of roundness.

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Lala said

I definitely prefer the old black base as well. I find with the newer base, the flavours don’t shine through as much.

(Also, for me personally, I do not like Darjeeling).

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I do prefer the new base. However, if you want a killer base, here’s what I recommend: Fujian, Assam and Keemun. The Fujian will give it a really solid body. The Assam will give it some malty notes. The Keemun will give it a touch of fruit and smoke.

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Dustin said

How long ago did the base change? I have found I’m not a big fan of 52 blacks, but I’m not sure what base I have tried.

Sil select said

that was going to be my question Dustin, because unless there was a second change in bases, it’s been changed for a while.

OMGsrsly said

That’s my question, too! I’m also wondering if this reflects the SBT base as well.

It has been quite a while. We only changed it once, and no, the SBT base remains the same.

Dustin said

Ok, then I don’t think I have tried the old base.

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MissB said

I have no idea when the base changed, or even that it did. All I know is, there are some blends I love, and others not so much – and it extends well beyond just blacks. I’ve had a problem with a few of the honeybushes of late as well as a green.

The thing is, if you’re going to re-blend, you have to tell people: this is a different base than the original, because frankly, that makes it a different tea (in my mind). I base a lot of my buying habits for teas I’ve yet to try from reviews from Steepsterites that have similar palates and likes. If they say, “The Lemon Meringue Chai is amazing!” I buy it, and I did. Then I question myself as to why my experience is so different than theirs, and whether I want to keep on buying — and that’s a shame, because as you know, I buy a lot of tea from you on a regular basis.

Another note: regardless of the base you use, I strongly strongly suggest steeping parameters. I’ve found a two minute steep my fallback for all of your teas, however that took me a lot of time, and there are still some (like the greens, namely the Cherry Cheesecake re-blend) that I’m all confused over as to how to brew them to get the flavors you’re putting into them.

As I said above, the base has not changed for quite some time. Probably 2-years-ish. I’m just hearing about it a lot more lately.

As for getting different experiences from other tea drinkers, I think that’s just a matter of personal preference. One of the reasons I make so many different kinds is that people like different things.

As for the steeping parameters, I’ve heard a few people express the desire for me to include steeping parameters, but the problem is, again, everyone’s tastes are different. I used to put steeping parameters on every pouch, and then I had people insist that no, it should be steeped thus and so, and no, it needed to be steeped this other way. I finally gave up. I can offer general guidelines, but there’s no perfect steep for a given tea, except the one that works for YOU.

Sil select said

I’d suggest it’s not the base that has made folks less enamoured of the teas, if the change was 2 years ago.

MissB said

Oh I get it, all of it. It’s a business, and you have to run it according to the largest common denominator. If you start losing customers because of the base, then it needs to change. We all have differing tastes; what I’m saying is, if you’re changing the base on re-blends, you have to make that clear: this is a different base than the original. Then I (and others) can easily say, “Oh THAT’s why I like this less/more/am having a different experience”.

I know that if there are steeping instructions for a tea, I use my judgement – however I’ve had close to 40 of your teas now, and so I have a better idea as to what works for me. New tea drinkers, or those new to 52 Teas? They need some guidance. I know I sure did when I first started drinking your teas, and Steepsterites told me outright to start at a lower temperature for a short steep and go from there. I’ve done the same with every tea company that doesn’t offer steeping instructions, however I’ll be frank – with many, I just don’t order them again, because I can’t for the life of me figure out why/how to get them “right”. I would also think that with a different base, the steeping parameters/suggestions would change… I know I definitely steep a darjeeling differently than I do a fujian, for instance.

Your question comes down to this: it’s impossible to make everyone happy, so all you can do is focus on the aspects that you love (as much as possible), as well as what makes the most sense for the bottom line. Whether the base stays the same or changes, all that I ask is that whatever the base IS, it’s made transparent to your customers, and that any changes from original blends and re-blends are noted.

Sil – I still have some 52Teas from two years ago and it’s definitely the black tea base I’m not liking.

Miss B – Have you tried a 45 second steep time for the Cherry cheesecake?

MissB said

Tea Sipper: I can definitely try that. So far I’ve tried varying the temperature around 175-200, and sticking to 2 minute steeps.

Sil select said

Tea sipper – yeah my thought wasn’t fully formed last night…but what I meant was if it’s only recently that people have started commenting on things, then it might not be just the base that is the issue. A change two years ago that is only recently getting comments may be the result of ppl not liking the base (and is irrelevant to the “change”) or it may be other factors….change in flavouring that doesn’t complement the base as well anymore….I dunno…but I feel like the question isn’t so much about the change and just about the bases itself. Not that frank was asking about the change specifically – we started talking about that. His question was what sort of base do ppl like :)

Dustin said

I had difficulty with the Cherry Cheesecake too until I cold steeped it in the fridge for a few days. After that the difficulty was not going through the whole bag in a week, but it did nothing for me hot.

I’m not by any means new to tea, but I’m a flavored tea kinda gal and am really out of touch with what bases I’m drinking in my teas. Part of it has to do with companies not specifying anything other than black or black blend on their bags and the other part is me not taking the time to suss it out by trying a bunch of common bases plain. I’m wondering how many others are in the same boat and just don’t know what they like.

Total daydream tangent here and probably a huge PITA in real life, but I’m imagining kits where you get a variety of three black bases and the other ingredients are what holds all the added flavor so you can scoop 2 tsp of base and 1/4 tsp of flavor mix to try it out on each base. I need to stop dreaming in tea.

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I prefer the old base. To me the old base melds with the flavors (especially fruit flavors) very well. The new base doesn’t meld as well, so I taste the tea and the flavor separately instead of as a cohesive unit.

I hope that makes sense.

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Uniquity said

This is tricky because I don’t know that I had any of the new base but I was one of those who didn’t like the old one. I prefer Chinese blacks and found the old base harsh and bitter. I remember having to be very gentle with time and temp to get a brew I liked to drink. I like to see Chinese blacks in the base, but that is again my preference. I find them less likely to go bitter and more supportive of the added flavourings.

Is there anyone that taste tests with you that happens to be a fan of hot tea? Most teas are radically different hot from cold so it is tough to make a blend that excels hot when you only drink it iced. Best of luck with finding the middle ground that works for you!

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I’m revisiting this thread because I just tried the Coconut Peppermint Patty blend (that I suggested, thank you Frank!) and I personally do not find this blend to be too harsh. I think that the previous blend that you used to have was much harsher than this blend.

That said, I think that there is quite a bit of astringency to this black tea base. That could be curbed with less (or no) Darjeeling and perhaps instead using the previously suggested Fujian black tea which tends to be smoother, richer and have less astringency. I think that the Fujian would also help enhance your chocolate blends a bit.

PS: Cacao shells, Frank. :)

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