I love it when the postie delivers intriguing packages here at The Madhouse and we all excitedly gathered around to see what was inside the very posh-looking brown box the size of a hat box that was dropped off a little while ago. Taking off the lid didn't solve the mystery, it just revealed some objects carefully packed in bubblewrap and some rather fetching green and black tissue paper. Ahh with hindsight, the colour sceme could have been a clue actually - no, not Green & Blacks chocolate, even if it is Easter, but ... tea !
It was a lovely looking package from Kenyan Tea, which sounded very exotic to me, but it turns out that most of the popular blended tea brands that Brits drink contain Kenyan tea. Well, I bet you didn't know that ! I bet you didn't know either that 12 million cups of tea are drunk in the UK every DAY ! That's a lot of tea !
Although most people opt for the convenience of a rapidly dunked teabag, there is a growing trend for becoming more adventurous, with people trying honey or lemon in place of the usual milk with their tea, and over a third of tea drinkers now experimenting with the purer tastes of loose leaf, single estate and rare teas from around the globe.
I received three different Kenyan teas to experiment with, with tasting notes to accompany them to help appreciate their individual qualities but also to try blending them to find my perfect cuppa. There was also a very fetching cup and saucer and a very handy mesh strainer ball that takes all the mess and hassle out of drinking loose leaf tea. So on to the testing ...
I started off with the Kenya Estate Milima Leaf Tea. The tasting notes say : "This very rare, large loose leaf tea is a traditional orthodox tea with a bright liquor and a full, slightly malty flavour. It is aromatic, fruity and spicy with some sweet floral notes." This gave a strong, dark colour and intense flavour that is ideal for perking you up when you really feel in need of a good cuppa to revive you. It's like a more upmarket version of robust builder's tea!
Next was the Kaamba Loose Leaf Tea. Again, looking at my crib sheet, I learned : "This luxury black tea has a very malty flavour with light hints of currant and a bright golden colour when served with milk. It also has high levels of antioxidants." The first thing that struck me was the lovely orangey colour. Tastewise, this is another robust flavour with definite fruity and I'd even say citrussy topnotes. This is a very refreshing tea that is good for cleansing your palate and I could see this working well as iced tea too.
The final tea to taste was Kenya Marinyn G.F.B.O.P. The tasting notes said : "Marinyn is grown in the highlands at an altitude of up to 9000ft, resulting in this strong, brightly flavoured tea with a sweet quality and fresh, crisp aroma. The tea has a coppery colour, and is brisk and lively cup with a refreshing bite." Despite leaving this to brew for as long as the other teas, this produced a paler colour and I found the flavour to be lighter and more delicate. The GFBOP part of the name intrigued me so I went to investigate and discovered that it stands for Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe. Very poetic !
The tasting notes also have some advice on getting the perfect cuppa :
- Work on the quantities of 1tsp of loose tea for a single cup, plus one for the pot.
- Steeping times will vary according to taste so try a little after two minutes or up to four for a stronger taste.
- Tea blending is a personal process, so try the teas separately in small amounts before blending to determine which taste you prefer.
- When selecting your dried tea mixtures for use, it's best to crumble the dried mixture into a tea strainer or tea ball first, as mixing and crushing in metal or plastic bowls can alter the taste. If you do wish to mix your tea in a bowl, choose ceramic or china.
- Fruit such as oranges and lemons can also be dried and added to your tea blends for a more exotic twist. You can also use dried flowers, just check that they are safe to eat before using them. You can also add flavoured oils if you like, such as lemon, peppermint or even rose. Again, check the packaging to make sure they're safe to eat.
- Store your blended tea in foil pouches or a tin rather than plastic as this will impair the flavour.
As a rough guide :
- For a strong, malty taste try blending Milima with a small amount of the Kaamba loose leaf tea.
- For a fresh, crisp tea with an attractive bright colour blend Kenya Marinyn and Kenya Estate Milima Leaf Tea.
- Try the Marinyn and Kaamba teas together to offset some of the malty flavour for a bright, sweetish flavour.
And if you want to get really adventurous, you might like to try this recipe for a spicy Kenyan Chai Tea Blend:
1/2 cup Kenyan black tea leaves
3 crushed cinnamon sticks
12 crushed black peppercorns
5 crushed cloves
6 crushed cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
4 whole crushed allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
To make one cup of Chai Tea, mix half a cup of milk and half a cup of water together, then add 1 tablespoon per cup of the Kenyan Chai Tea Blend. Let it stand for ten minutes, then strain and serve.
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