(title with apologies to Supergrass)
Ben: Wow, the last few weeks have been manic! Not only have Dan and I both moved, I’ve also started a new job and the combination of paperwork from the two has left little time for much in the way of enjoyment. When I’m overwhelmed and looking to escape, I always fall back on old favourites. In a brief lull one evening I rummaged through my teas looking for something familiar to treat myself to.
Our recent parcel of lovely things from Lahloo Tea included some English Breakfast. I blinking love English Breakfast (I ordered some from Jing Tea a few months back but drank it all before I could review it) – a good blend is like honey in a glass but it’s so easy to get the mix not quite right. How does Lahloo fair?
Dan’s already mentioned this but it’s worth reiterating – Lahloo Tea’s packaging is an absolute joy. It ticks the looking nice and transporting the tea boxes but, crucially for wordy types like us, it has a lovely big blurb. Not only do we get a big run-down on the history of English Breakfast (always useful to novices like us), we also get detailed brewing instructions. The label reads:
SRI LANKA, NEPAL & INDIAThe Story:In the 19th century, Drysdale, a Scottish tea master, blended his secret recipe of black tea to be the perfect accompaniment for a typical hearty Scottish breakfast of pork, bread and beer!Having already embraced the idea of matching tea with food and enjoying ‘Afternoon Tea’, the English became aware of Drysdale’s special ‘Breakfast Tea’. Adopting it as our own, tea houses introduced ‘English Breakfast Tea’ and it became, and still is, a firm favourite.Far from ordinary tea, Lahloo Breakfast is our perfectly balanced secret blend. Bold yet refined; it’s great to kick-start or brighten up any day.How to enjoy:
Use 1 heaped teaspoon per cup, add freshly boiled water and leave to infuse for 3-5 minutes. Perfect steaming hot with a splash of milk.
How to keep it:
In a cool, dry place ideally a caddy. Use before September 2010 if you can keep it that long!
Compare this to the label on Adagio Tea’s English Breakfast:
black leaf tea
212 degrees 5 min
It’s fairly obvious which one wins.
The leaves have that familiar, warm smell to them. Putting the recommended heaped teaspoon into an infuser and adding hot water, I felt a pang of disappointment that the smell of the brewing liquid wasn’t sweeter. A good English Breakfast needs to kick you awake with a glow fire of smoke and sweetness and you can usually catch how potent an English Breakfast will be by it’s brewing odour.
It did brew to a wonderful deep red rather than a languid grey, though. That’s always a good sign.
I added a splash of milk and – because I am a heathen – a halfspoon of sugar. I then tentatively sipped.
And I felt good!
It’s got the creamy mouthfeel and the sweetness that you’d expect of the blend but there’s a good, punchy hit of smoky ceylon in there, too. It’s more substantial than a standard English Breakfast and is probably not the mug of honey you’re used to but it’s so peppy and warm as a result of that ceylon glow that it’s difficult not to feel affectionate for it.
Lahloo use the word ‘gutsy’ to describe this tea – it’s a word I’d use, too. Making a blend of tea inevitably involves trying other versions of that blend in the market and reinterpreting it as your own. Lahloo have taken the good bits from the standard version – the cream, the warmth – have muted the sweetness slightly and have added a big ole whack of smokiness.
Which leaves me in a bit of a bind. I do love this tea (I’ve just made a second cup!) but the overwhelming ceylon makes me think that this possibly should not be pitched as an English Breakfast. It’s similar, certainly, but you approach it with a certain expectation which doesn’t get met.
Ah, but, you see, this isn’t technically an English Breakfast tea. This is Lahloo’s own custom blend – a ‘Lahloo Breakfast’, as the packaging calls it. I’m not certain that it’s superior to a good English breakfast but if you can look past the ‘breakfast’ monicker and order some as a unique blended black, you’ll love this drink hopefully as much as I do!
Ben was drinking Lahloo Tea’s Lahloo Breakfast black tea, available for £4 for 50g.