Tea of the Week – Char Lady Winchester

Today’s tea … Char Lady Winchester! I brought this tea to youth group this week, and 2 of the guys tried it and liked it … one of them said “it smells like cake!”. Hazel thinks it smells like jelly babies. I steadfastly defend it – jelly babies are much more artificial – but will admit that I can see what she’s on about.

Silver packet of loose-leaf teaSource: Char. Description copied from 2 weeks ago:

“Char, in Winchester – I went into the shop when visiting my sister. You can also buy online, or mail order over the phone – this is what the tea society at Cambridge University does, and if you call them you can ask questions about the teas as well, and ask for advice on which to buy. I hear they’re very friendly (and certainly the person I met in the store was very friendly).

Cost: £3.55 for a 100g bag.

Ethics: copied from 2 weeks ago:

“Char are a small and relatively young company (opened doors in 2006, see here). Most of their products don’t have any certifications, although they do sell a couple of certified Fairtrade coffees.

Spoonful of tea leaves heading towards infuser ...Their about page says that they import directly from growers wherever they can, and it looks like they’re a pretty small team (5 staff members are named), so I get the impression that they’re a small group of people doing things ethically but not big enough to go for certification of things. I may be wrong; “they’re friendly so they can’t be evil” isn’t logically rigorous, but it’s the impression I have.”

Leaves head towards infuser …

Brewing instructions: Brew with near boiling water for 3 minutes (or as desired). I used a timer, just to be precise … here’s the approximate colour of the end result, plus a bonus tea-leaf photo:

Colour of tea - dark slightly reddish brownTea leaves post-brewingI think tea leaves look rather cool …

Appearance: Deep brown, with hints of red – see photos above and below. It was lighter than this, in the flesh, but I couldn’t get the clarity of the colour to photograph well.

Add milk and it looks rather boring …

Mug of tea (on table)Tea with added milk

… but it’s all improved by the fact that I am making it in the AWESOME mug of AWESOME! Awesome mug! "Life - have a cup of tea and try again"(See Something about rowing …? – I had a small cafetiere I wasn’t using, she had a desire for a small cafetiere and a stash of AWESOME MUGS, so we swapped coffee-making-device for tea-mug :))

and yes, that is homemade marmalade in the background. Not made by me, though.

Nose: it smells of … warm, aromatic citrus. Normally I think of citrus as being sharp and zingy, but this isn’t, it’s … more aromatic. I’m also getting hints of malty tea – which makes me think of Assam – but this isn’t Assam-based, it’s China tea and Darjeeling … Google-ing gives hints that maybe Darjeeling could be malty. If I think of lemon I think I can just about pick it out (this is China + Darjeeling tea, flavoured with lemon, orange, grapefruit and bergamot. Don’t ask me how it manages to smell of cake.)

With milk added, the nose changes pretty dramatically. The tea is almost completely gone, leaving behind a sweet citrus-smell – definitely jelly babies. Having said that, that completely does not represent the taste.

Taste: Tastes different from how it smells …

Mug of tea (by window)Without milk: the different teas definitely come through – if I stop and think ‘black China tea’ then I get that (I’m not sure how to describe black China tea … the word “cold” is the one I want to use, but obviously not wrt temperature …) or instead thinking “darjeeling, comparatively light and gentle but full-flavoured” brings that to the forefront …

I can taste what I assume is bergamot – the thing that separates earl grey tea from normal tea – but can’t taste the other citrus fruits directly. However, there’s a fullness (possibly layered-ness?) to the flavour that I think they are contributing to.

With milk: milk mutes the flavours, and muffles them – not that this is necessarily a bad thing … if the tea without milk sings, then perhaps the tea with milk sits down on a sofa in the corner and is a comforting presence. Both things you might want at different times.

Tea and cake

Food match: Nothing too intense in flavour … something light-ish or plain-ish. Like this cake with raspberries:

I’m really pleased I did this today – don’t think I’ve tried this tea without milk before and it’s so much more interesting in flavour that way! Which is in itself interesting – I tend to prefer black teas with milk almost all the time. Maybe I should try it with lemon juice? Does one drink Lady Grey (which this is inspired by) with lemon juice? What do you think?

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4 Responses to Tea of the Week – Char Lady Winchester

  1. Hemet Neter says:

    Interesting. As a tea lover, I may try this (surprisingly, I just finished the newsletter for our local tea group). Thanks for the info.

  2. Darjeeling mostly isn’t malty, Assam actually is. Darjeeling is rather muscatel and less bitter (2nd flush can be bitter). I am sure if you explore Darjeeling more, you will love it.

    • Thanks for commenting! Those were my thoughts too … mind you, it didn’t *taste* malty, it was just the smell. And with this tea – for some reason, I don’t know why – the smell and the taste were very different anyway, so that’s probably the explanation.

      I am already generally a fan of Darjeeling, although I haven’t explored darjeeling much (I am the only person in my household who drinks lots of different teas, and I don’t have friends nearby who drink different teas – so I try to limit what I buy as I want to be able to drink it while it’s still fresh rather than one day finding I have 10 boxes in the back of the cupboard of once-lovely tea that has now lost its flavour).

      Is there anything in particular I should look out for if looking for an excellent Darjeeling?

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