National Afternoon Tea week brings to mind images of intricately decorated bone china, teapots and tea strainers, petite cucumber sandwiches, robust scones with luxurious clotted cream and all manner of cakes served on a tiered cake stand. However aside from the delightful theatre of afternoon tea I really am a day-to-day tea drinker and drink little else.
I like strong tea made with a tea bag in a mug with sugar and milk added after the tea is brewed. In Britain we call that builders tea. An unpretentious, refreshing and invigorating drink that at its best separates the men from the boys but at its worst can be crushingly disappointing. Just because the dark brew is indelicate and boisterous doesn’t mean it’s easy to get right and some tea bags are better suited to the task than others. English breakfast is one of the most popular teas in Britain and the best know household brands are based around this blend.
On a mission to find the perfect tea bag for the job I purchased a selection from those on sale at my local supermarket. I made a cup of each allowing them to mash for four minutes before removing the bag and adding milk and sugar.
Twinings English Breakfast. (£3.29 for 50 bags) Of all the teas I tried this was the mildest. It has a pleasant flavour without any remarkable attributes. I could easily drink this by the gallon all day long and it would certainly suit a guest who just popped in for a cuppa.
Taylors Of Harrogate Yorkshire Tea. (£2.49 for 80 bags) Another good all round tea. It is stronger than the Twinings and is slightly more interesting with more depth of flavour but it’s still rounded and not overpowering.
PG Tips The Strong One. (£2.49 for 80 bags) PG Tips have made a series of teas aside from their usual blend, which are differentiated by their overriding characteristic. This one is “the strong one”. They’re not kidding. It’s very tasty, possibly a brew that would suit the coffee fiend looking for something a little different. Not one for the more dainty tea drinker and certainly not to be served in your finest china.
Tesco Extra Strong Captain Scott’s Blend. (£1.55 for 80 bags) The back of the box tells me that this tea is blended to recreate the blend favoured by Captain Scott as found in chests still in existence from Scott’s Tera Nova Expedition. I can’t verify or deny this but I like the story and the tea is very good. It’s a punchy blend with a rich flavour.
Teapigs Everyday Brew. (£4.15 for 15 bags) The packet declares this to be the Teapig “builders brew”. It’s a flavoursome tea with some unusual layers that I’d associate with more floral teas. It doesn’t suit me but if you’re an Earl Grey drinker who fancies a builder’s tea this is probably the one for you. It’s by far the most expensive tea of those I tried but certainly the most interesting.
Of all the teas here the most pleasant surprise has to be Tesco Extra Strong Captain Scott’s Blend. It ticks all the boxes with regards to what I expect from a good cuppa and offers great value for money.
Let us know what your go-to tea is… and if you like experimenting and fancy a little twist try a drop of honey rather than sugar, that’ll open up a whole new world of flavours.