The Great Tea Taste Test of 2009 – Behind the Magic

Conducted an elaborate blind taste test, Gentle Reader, on teas. This was an attempt to find a replacement for my beloved Trader Joes Organic Fair Trade Black Tea, which they have, of course, discontinued. This was my everyday tea, as I cannot afford to drink the imported Twinings gold label all the time. So finding an adequate American replacement is vital. The results were really quite startling.

Laboratory Analysis of Breakfast Blended Teas conducted at 10:53 AM April 21, 2009. Gail Carriger, supervising technician.

Scientific Instrumentation Needed
1 good electric kettle with filtered water, 2 measuring cups, 1 pint fresh whole milk, 7 teacups

The Sample
7 black teas, all breakfast blends. Included my personal favorite and 3 decaffeinated blends. Regretted not getting the American Twinings red box caffeinated English Breakfast. Prices ranged from $0.99 to $8.99 a box. Placed identification labels on bottoms of teacups and removed all other tags.

The Test
½ cup boiling water over each bag. 2 minutes of seeping and 3 swishes of the bag each. At this stage all teas had good color, the expected Lapsang dark red brown, although some had better dispersal than others.

Immediate removal of bag. Addition of ¼ cup good whole organic milk. Color differences began to emerge. Two were noticeably darker than the others (these turned out to be the imported Twinings).

Began tasting. Organized by preference from Left to Right.

Lab Notes
2 teas immediately eliminated: 1 is too fishy, the other far too spicy and exotic. 2 are quite mild, although one has the hint of perfume to it neither are offensive, both are simply unexciting. 1 is a nice medium blend, a good basic, but also unexciting. 2 are hands down my favorite, one – the darkest of the bunch – has a great full body and strong flavor with little tannin, the other is quite delicious with almost chocolate overtones.

The Results

Unsurprisingly, my favorite strong tea was the Twinings gold label English Breakfast. Surprisingly, my other favorite, with the chocolate overtones, was the imported Twinings Decaf English Breakfast – although it lost a lot of its appeal as it cooled. I knew that decaf was good, but to beat out all the others? Impressive.


The fishy one was Trader Joes Fair Trade Organic Decaf Black Tea. No surprise there, often decaf black teas have fishy overtones. It was binned immediately. I wouldn’t even return such an item to the store for resale, no one should have to drink swill like that. The overly spicy tea was Stash’s English Breakfast, also no surprise. They do like to tamper overmuch with their teas, those Stash people. I kept it, in case someone else wanted it. Just because it’s not to my taste doesn’t mean some more chai-orientated individual might not enjoy it.


The two mild ones were the American Twinings Decaf English Breakfast and Allegro Organic Breakfast Blend. I think the Twinings in its caffeinated form and seeped a little extra might just do for a daily tea, but the Allegro (c. $4) isn’t worth the price, not with such weak flavor. I’ll keep it but not bother to buy again. The good medium with the full body turned out to be the Tetley (and I’d guess PG Tips would also fall into this category). Since its cheep from Safeway at $5 for 80 bags, I’ve adopted it as my replacement daily. Still, with the regular Twinings unsampled more research may be needed.
Tetley for now, but the hunt is on for a good cheep source for the American Twinings English Breakfast – tomorrow I hit up Cost Plus.

Gail’s Daily Dose
Your Infusion of Cute:
Susan Boyle – On Britains Got Talent 2009
Your Tisane of Smart:
Finally someone’s done it! Power from stationary bikes. Now if only they would do whole gyms.
Your Writerly Tinctures:
New favorite podcast: Writing Excuses

CAKE in Space: Done with the red pen, working Draft 2.
Soulless: Awaiting ARC distribution.
Changeless: Gone poof. Starting to gather corrections.
Steampunk short: Rewrite stage for Draft 2.

Quote of the Day:
Mum: Found the turtle in the middle of the lawn and named him Aragorn.
Self: Strider would be funnier.

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Posted by Gail Carriger


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