Posted by: ben | May 5, 2009

don’t go to peaces

peaceteaheader(title with apologies to Hope of the States)

Ben: Let me state this from the very start – I am not, nor have I ever been, a hippy.

Actually, far from it. I like property, man. (I like proper tea, too). During my Annual Personal Consumerist Day (known in most walks of life as a birthday), I was given a box of Steenberg Organics’ Peace Tea as a present from my youngest sibling along with a record voucher (oh boy!). On the box, he wrote a message:

Ben, I hope this serves as inspiration for both sides of your website. - Jack.

Ben, I hope this serves as inspiration for both sides of your website. Jack.

Jolly decent of him, I thought.

This is not the normal sort of tea I’d buy for myself. I like to scout about and search for esoteric blends, scouring for teas from a certain region or of a certain variety. The front of the Steenberg box tells me three things:

Peace Tea Packaging

Peace Tea Packaging

  1. this box contains some kind of tea
  2. this box pretends to hold to some kinda hippy ideal
  3. it’s FairTrade certified

So what, actually, is it? Worryingly, for something that’s got FairTrade certification, there’s very little in the way of variety or origin. It does mention that it is packed in Sri Lanka and it has the official Ceylon dragon symbol on the bottom, so let’s assume it’s a Ceylon.

So, why is it a hippy tea? Surely Ceylons are smoky and powerful, more reminiscent of old men in studies than beatniks round camp fires? It’s all branding to tie into the FairTrade certification, it would seem. On the side of the box and on the back of every teabag envelope are a few paragraphs headed ‘Our Message’ which sounds like the most amazingly contrived marketeer’s attempt at beatitude you’ll ever read:

Fair Enough

Fair Enough

Peace Tea is a bright and happy tea. It’s an invitation to relax and smile.

Peace Tea is a tea for a better world. It’s organic and Fairtrade certified. We also pledge a further 10% of profits to charitable projects for the environment and poverty.

Peace Tea stands for a more tolerant, more responsible world. It’s about saying no to war and violence, discrimination and hatred, and environmental damage

So, apparently, drink this tea and decrease the world’s carbon emissions, or something. I do campaign on FairTrade issues but I do so because I think it’s only right that people should get a decent wage for a decent days’ work, not because I’m an earth child wanting the world to be reborn into tolerance and karma, man. If anything, this spiel is more cynical than I could ever be – it’s being directly targeted at yummy mummies who probably buy into this stuff without really paying attention to the actual product.

But let’s sweep that aside for the moment. This is meant to be a post about me tasting the tea rather than slagging off the packaging.

Rubbish teabag design

Rubbish teabag design

Being a pretty conventional setup in terms of the actual product, Steenbergs haven’t made custom bags temples like teapigs and Jing. This is an old-fashioned kinda teabag like you used to get in hotel rooms next to the grotty kettle. It’s a tube of gauze folded in half and stapled shut. That’s nice in a retro kinda way but here’s a reason why that design has been dying away – it packs too many leaves into a very small space, making infusion slow and inefficient. Ho hum.

Adding boiling water to the teabag made it expand a little but the bag sorta floated at the top of the cup. You could see the red brew slowly circulating out from the bag and into the rest of the cup but it was clear that stirring was needed. Rubbish bag. Minus one point.

It’s a very nice, pleasing red colour of a tea, mind. Leaving it the requisite five minutes, I added a very small dash of milk and a little sugar and had a good, long slurp.

And was mildly surprised.

All of the above are major failings. Major failings, mind. This tea has very little going for it, so it’s a bit of luck that it brews a pretty decent cuppa. Now, this will by no means rock your world, nor will it be replacing the standard black leaves you go for whenever you’re that way inclined (hello, Golden Monkey) but what it might do is make you reconsider stocking PG Tips. Like the previous Ceylons I’ve discussed in the past, this is a round, smoky drink which is pleasing to the palate but is not so strong as to completely overwhelm the senses. It’s a tea you can down pretty quickly without too much of a second thought but is more noticable than a regular supermarket blend.

Now, to me this isn’t particularly amazing. If you have friends or family who like the idea of trying different teas, this would be an excellent place to start them off. It’s ultimately unremarkable but gives a good hint at what else might be out there.

Ben was drinking Steenberg Organics’ Peace Tea, available from ¬£1.60 for a box of twenty tea bags.

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