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Saturday, September 30, 2017

**REVIEW** Black Tea 4 brands

A bit about tea

I always knew how to choose my coffee to get the strongest brews. I would look for a Dark Roast and avoid Breakfast or Medium and Mild roasts. With tea, I have only gotten as far as knowing that a good Breakfast blend is what I like best. I only recently learned to avoid Earl Grey blends (because of the bergamot), but I'm still getting the hang of tea. If you're in the same boat, check out this article to get started. If you just want to get some basic facts and quick-glance info, you want to go here.

I get my tea online or at a local grocery, but I did find this website that has reasonable prices. If you don't want to buy there, you can at sort and define what types of tea you might like. I will probably check out some of their offerings. If I do, I will let you know how it goes.

Don't forget to check out my reviews of Lapsang Souchong (smoked) tea. You can find the series here:


Teas I reviewed:

I finished trying out the Lapsang Souchong teas I was given to try. It was fun, but I'm glad to be back to my non-smoked black teas.

Because black tea is something I drink on a regular basis, I already had 2 brands around when I was thinking of doing this review. When it was time to replenish my tea pantry, I tried 2 other brands so that I would have more to review.

Before I even get going, let me mention that I love doing reviews. A while back I was offered a chance to try a cast iron teapot - a Tetsubin. I'd never heard of such a thing and, when I did some quick research, I was really interested in the offer, but... Ha. Being me, I wanted one that wasn't enameled. I didn't get a choice in anything except the color so I went ahead and accepted one that had interior enamel. Here it is, in case you are like me and had never heard of these before. I will do a review on it later.



Anyway, back to the tea!

There are some very important things for me to consider when choosing a tea:
  • Flavor I hate a weak tea more than I hate weak coffee.
  • Price/Value (That should have been the first on this list!)
  • Availability
I reviewed the following teas:
  • Tetley 80 count for $3.18 (or 0.04 per serving)
  • PG Tips 40 count for $.4.28 (0.11 per serving)
  • Bigelow 20 count for $2.48 (0.12 per serving)
  • Great Value/Walmart 100 count for $1.94 (0.02 per serving)
I was introduced to tea when I was married to a Brit and living on his turf in England. At the time, I never gave tea (or the husband) a real chance. I mostly bitched and moaned about how hard it was to find a decent grind of coffee. It wasn't until I moved away from Alaska back in June that I began drinking so much tea. I still have my coffee pot, a can of Cafe Bustelo and some Green Mountain pods, all getting dusty. Tea is cheaper. At least, it is if you find the right brand. And here we go...

Tetley 

"Tetley" just sounds so veddy British, doesn't it? Anyway, you could go over and read the little backstory about the two brothers who started the brand if you want. I just want to talk about how I love the tea.
In case you go looking for it at the store
I give this tea an A++ for flavor and aroma.

If you sniff a bag, this tea doesn't seem like it's going to be any different from any other decent brand. That's what I thought. But there really is something about that bag design that makes a great cup of tea!

I only noticed it when I was using the tea for the first time, but I didn't give it much thought. Until I saw how the bag sort of helped the infusion of tea into the hot water. Then I tasted the tea and was blown away. Now, remember, Bigelow has been my preferred tea for all this time. Tetley certainly gives Bigelow a run for the money. (Also, I think it's cool that Tetley is part of the Ethical Tea Partnership.

The one thing I don't like is that the bags are not individually sealed and the box just has a normal closing type lid. For freshness, I put the bags into a sandwich baggie.

An 80-count box is $3.18 (.04 per serving) online at Walmart. Also, I tested how well the bag did when I re-used it. It passed with flying colors. I didn't make a full cup with the used bag but it made a good half cup of tea. (Hey, you never know when you're going to get low on fresh tea!)

As far as availability, I had trouble finding it in most of the local stores that carry a decent variety of teas. On the other hand, I was able to get it at that great price via Walmart.com.

Flavor ★★★★★
Price ★★★★★
Availability ★★★★☆


PG Tips


This is a tea that I was only vaguely familiar with. Once I saw the box, it seemed like I should know the brand but I don't recall ever having had it. Oh well, it's apparently a pretty popular tea according to customer reviews at the Amazon and Walmart sites.


When I brewed this for the first time, I noticed that the inside of the bag gets really foamy while steeping.


See what I mean? That's a cup of Tetley brewing on the left. You can see how foamy the PG Tips bag is The bag is more a pyramid design than a regular paper tea bag.


Of course, because it's paper, the bag doesn't hold shape as well as some of the other pyramid bags I've seen, but I like that it is paper.

It didn't seem to affect the flavor, but I thought the PG Tips would be stronger in the end. It wasn't. It brews slightly less robust than the Tetley, but it still makes a great cup of tea.

I like the Tetley better just because it brews stronger with less steeping time. I didn't even bother trying to re-use this one.


So, while I enjoyed this tea and wouldn't be unhappy if it was the only choice, I can't rave as much about the flavor or the price.

Like with the other teas, it was easily found online but not so much in our local stores.

A 40-count box was $4.28 (0.11/serving) at Walmart.com.
Flavor ★★★★☆
Price ★★★☆☆
Availability ★★★★☆



Bigelow

This has been a favorite since I started seriously drinking tea. It is so flavorful and I like that the bags are individually packaged. It's the one tea on this list that I can find at almost every local store.


make sure to read the history on the box panel

I have to be careful when I go out to buy this tea. Once, I accidentally got the wrong flavor and I hated it.


 The one on the left - the blue one - is the one I love. That other one, in silver, that one has oil of bergamot in it. I do love bergamot - as a scent and as a hair and skin treatment, but not in my tea!

So, this one is the one I love.



 Here's the thing, Bigelow is the priciest of the bunch. It's right up there behind PG Tips. Tetley tastes just as good - maybe even better - and it's one of the lower priced of the teas I tried. A 20 count box of Bigelow cost me $2.48 (0.12/serving). The one thing that might tempt me to buy Bigelow instead of Tetley is that I can find Bigelow in the local stores. I don't have to drive 8 miles to Walmart either - or order online - because the store 5 blocks away keeps it in stock.

I will get Bigelow in a pinch, but I plan to be smart and always have some of the better priced Tetley on hand.

Flavor ★★★★★
Price ★★☆☆☆
Availability ★★★★★

Great Value
(Walmart) Brand

Okay, folks, you know that I had to try this one. First, it is a Walmart brand and Walmart is I take my broke behind to do most of my shopping. Second, I had always seen this in the stores but never picked up a box. I don't know why. Maybe because I was so much more into coffee then.

I know that some people look down their noses at Walmart items, but I usually like the Great Value brand. The coffee is almost as good as the Yuban I used to favor and I will often save some pennies by opting for the GV brand of cleaners and other miscellaneous products. I figured the tea would be a decent as the coffee.

Anyway, you can see that this comes in a large quantity:


100 bags of tea.

Yeah. When it was delivered with the other teas, it took up most of the space. Or maybe that's because I decided it would be thrifty to stock up on such a great value...It wasn't.

 There's a reason the tea is priced so cheap. When this tea is steeping, there is zero aroma. The taste was so flat and bland that I had to spit it out. Since there were 100 bags to a box (and since I ordered four boxes... ~sigh~) I tried using two bags. Well, that didn't help. All I got was twice the blandness.

After I slapped myself for over-ordering this tea, I had an idea. Guess what? The one way this tea can be used it for an iced beverage. I tested this out by steeping a couple of bags for as long as possible - to suck out as much, um, flavor as possible - and still ended up with a very light brew that was perfect for pouring over ice. The only problem is, I'm not an iced tea drinker. I ended up giving all this tea to my brother and his family. They love iced tea.



Even the bags are cheaply made. Just about every time I tried to pull a bag from the envelope, either the tag tore loose or the string came off. Ugh. I finally managed to get a bag loose to get the photo.

I was so unimpressed with this tea that I wanted to double check that it actually was tea. 

Whatever.

The 100 count was $1.94 (0.02/serving), but the lack of flavor and the fact that even doubling up on the bags didn't help... Well, this one was a failure.

Flavor ★☆☆☆☆
Price ★★☆☆☆
Availability ★★★★★

This got the 1 star for flavor since it can be used (by some people) as an iced tea. I can't give any better rating to the price because Tetley is one one of my top faves for flavor and is also only slightly more expensive.

Bottom Line

I think that Tetley is my new all-time favorite. It tastes great, the price is perfect, and I can keep stocked up if I order up online before I'm almost out. Bigelow is my next favorite, but that price has to come down.

Just to give you a last look:

The winner, once again, is Tetley. 

This was a fun review to do. I was already drinking tea so I just had to switch them up cup by cup. Also, this was a nice break from working on the book. I will come back and do updates on any health benefits I'm experiencing but I already think that I am losing weight due to tea. My blood pressure has been so good lately that it's scared me! Don't know yet if that due to the tea or just a change in lifestyle and the lower stress levels. At any rate, I hope you like the review and maybe learned a little something about tea.

By the way, if there are any tea drinkers out there who are reading this, please let me know if you have favorite black tea. I'd love to try new ones.

Peace
--Free

**REVIEW** Lapsang Souchong Tea (Pt 1 Twinings Brand)

When I first heard of "smoked" teas, I wasn't sure what to expect. It just sounds like such an interesting idea for a tea to be smoke flavored, doesn't it? And it's not just the flavor either, these teas are actually infused with smoke. Part of the tea-drying process is done over a pinewood fire. Honestly though, when I was sampling these teas, I couldn't tell it was pinewood, just that it was smoky.

individual packaging is nice


Twinings brand flavor and aroma:

This one was actually the stronger brew of the three smoked teas I tried. The aroma was not the strongest or weakest of the 3. That was nice because, to me, the smoky scent can be off-putting when strong.. I did prefer the aroma strength of another brand.

Another thing I noticed with this one over the other 2 brands is that it had a smoother feel on the tongue and the taste lingered in a not-unpleasant way.

One thing I personally didn't like is the appearance. After adding my cream, it looked weak (it wasn't) and more like a watery coffee from than a good black tea. I'm so influenced by visuals that this put a damper on the experience.







Bottom line:

 This wasn't bad. I give it 3 of 5 stars. I can put it right smack in the middle of the 3 teas I tried. I wouldn't run out to buy this one again, but I wouldn't mind if it's the one smoked tea I had on hand.









By the way, I gave my brother some Lapsang to try and he fell in love with the smell. Different strokes, I guess. I will end up giving him most of the rest of these teas when I finish the reviews.

Peace
--Free