Advantages: Tastes midway between normal and premium brands, get multiple cups for bag or a pot
Disadvantages: No company info.
I came across these on the highstreet in 99p Stores (also online though with reduced ranges at http://www.99storesltd.com) so obviously they were 99p, a bargain for 100 bags/250g of Black tea and 100% Black tea according to the ingredients or in this case ingredient list (note: this is not China Black tea).
Whilst varieties of Black tea are the most commonly consumed teas they’re not usually referred to by colour and many think of Black as different to ‘regular tea’ so to me it stood out as unusual and piqued my interest. I often find a health/alternative food product among the supermarket brands in that store so it was worth a gander to see if it was actually better. It doesn’t specify what type of Black tea it is/where it was grown but then most don’t.
I opened with a reference to chai because Black tea is often or customarily the base of it, chai being a spiced & sometimes sweetened version though Black tea is enjoyed by neat tea (no milk and/or no sweetener) enthusiasts too. It’s also easier to find than oolong, more palatable and sometimes a more digestible alternative to Green tea (less bitter, can drink it on an empty stomach) and cheaper than White. (I don’t mean Green or White matcha tea which are stronger, have yonks of benefits & tend to be more of a cultural or lifestyle preference.)
Difference to ‘regular’ tea
I was actually looking for a brand a bit different to regulars like Typhoo (not a PG Tips or Tetley fan due to their animal experimentation history) so was thinking of Redbush which is made like Black tea though caffeine free (it’s a different plant) but then saw the Penny Black stack and decided to try it.
Animal experimentation for tea:
My first cup was a delight and every cup thereafter has proved consistent, warming and soothing. The immediate difference is the softer, smoother and deeper taste to regular tea. It doesn’t have the sharpness/‘edge’ or slightly piquant/tangy taste (though if you’re drinking Twinings you might think this is stronger since all their teas I’ve tried were mild and don’t resemble pure teas in my opinion & that of other health tea drinkers I’ve come across, I surmise they’re processed in a signature fashion). It also doesn’t have the aftertaste that can stick to the tongue and throat especially for those drinking ‘builder’s tea’.
That said in my opinion it’s just as suitable to drinking neat or with milk and/or sugar as regular tea is and via the usual blending methods whereas I find herbal and teas suited to neat or iced tea drinkers tend to need a different method of blending when using milk (and then it depends on the type of milk!) For someone who drinks a variety of plant based milks freshly made hot or left to cool first – that’s a real time saver and means less having to be made use of in cooking after failed experiments. It’s also a great alternative for tea and cake since the taste is more versatile and less likely to clash with your treat ;-).
Interestingly enough this is also easier on my stomach and less likely to irritate or cause inflammation than regular tea does for me (doesn’t bloat and for those that have any swelling in general, caffeine can add to it).
Why is it different if regular tea is Black tea? The drinks classically known as Tea rather than herbal, fruity or naturally un-caffeinated ‘teas’ all come from one plant (Camellia Sinensis) but cultivated in different ways and then the companies can process and/or blend those too which is all I can really say as to why this is different from the usual shop brands and why those taste/seem different to others marketed by the colour.
Difference in taste to other marketed pure Black teas I’ve tried
Black tends to be a decadent tea; velvety smooth, rich and depending on the producer, aromatic – though usually made fragrant with spice (think fully loaded garam masala style). Like ‘regular’ tea it’s a rich Autumnal Orangey Brown but sometimes more Reddish (though not Red proper like Rose tea).
I personally don’t think it’s velvety, as rich, deep or aromatic as purer or health marketed brands so I equate this to a more affordable version and perhaps better for those who’ve never tried Black tea – a sort of taster between that and regular tea. From my testing this means it doesn’t make as readily a base for added ingredients as the full strength version; I tried to make it like chai and wasn’t convinced, and everything didn’t dissolve as well which isn’t pleasant. That said its fine adding a bit of cinnamon, cardamom and/or my favourite liquorice.
Note – for those who have to pay attention to their sugar levels or the types of sugar they have; I’ve liked this with date syrup, haven’t gotten around to argave or rice, I don’t have maple syrup, White or Golden sugar so couldn’t say. It tastes grand with molasses and muscovado both of which bring out the richness in the flavour, if you want a caramel type taste go for rapadura. Demerara is fine but needs more than the previous three. I haven’t tasted it with stevia yet… A tip is raisins or dried fruit like sultanas, sweet currents or bit of fig for straight up fruit sweetening and a nice treat at the end – they can be had by themselves or as a way to use less sugar (bear in mind that dried food with preservatives like sulphur dioxide can subtly change the taste to those with sensitive taste buds in comparison to a neutral vegetable oil). Tasting nice with raisins also infers that it should taste nice for Sweet Freedom lovers. I haven’t tried this as a chocolate tea (simply by adding cacao powder).
I’ve noticed a difference in spread per bag and it’s tends to be 50/50. Sometimes as soon as it touches the liquid the tea/colour spreads out immediately and beautifully like an ink, whereas other times they need a fair bit of squeezing/squashing. They’re last well upto 3 cups but have a tendency to rip at that point – the box says 1 bag per pot which I can believe since it only gets handled once but it might not be strong enough in taste and I’m personally not a fan of reheating unless necessary. At the moment both Mum and I prefer Indian style tea aka little to no water so the bags are good value but I used to only drink neat herbal tea (pre-April 2014) and still do have homemade from foraged & the leftover premiums that I bought in bulk on clearance so can say the bags take less prodding in water and make a lovely clear tea.
I’ve found that these don’t really need to be left to brew.
Differences to Health Branded Teas
I can’t find the company website for these neither by postal address or name or other retailers selling them so other than the packaging I can’t tell what the company policies are regarding fair/community trade and product quality except for the recycling logos (the plastic film that covers the box is sadly not recyclable).
Due to their address; Penny Tea, PO Box 25, South Elmsall, Pontefract WF9 2YN – I’m thinking they’re part of/a supplier/wholesaler or small trader/company that buys in bulk and/or packages to sell to or on behalf of other companies. Yorkshire is known for high quality tea and and this is probably leftovers/scraps from one of those repackaged for cheaper retailers/outlets.
Still 10% in 2013:
Problems with the Fairtrade Foundation (though that shouldn’t stop exclusive supermarket suppliers ensuring fair trade, supporting other groups or making more co-operatives:
Health brands also tend not to use bleached bags; not all mainstream bags are biodegradable or easily biodegradable, and is something people with sensitivities can notice taste wise. I find this less rich and deep in comparison to more costly brands like Teapigs, Yogi, Pukka et al but it tastes nearer to Clipper’s level who provide ethical teas with more per box at more affordable prices than the aforementioned. Although the pricier ones tend to have more ingredients for interesting & unique blends whereas Clipper tends to focus on pure teas so it’s a balance of preference.
Eco Friendly Teabags?
‘Unfortunately’ loose tea has generally gone from being cheaper than bags to more expensive; the brands tend to be more premium quality and less dusty.
Remember though tea is tea or with increasing age any water based beverage – don’t drink if you won’t be near a bathroom sooner rather than later 😉
These also don’t come individually wrapped ready for taking out e.g. to work or with cute little designs or fortune cookie style phrases but I find those to be quaint nuances per brand and a container or food bag is just as easy and less energy for recycling since you can re-use them for ages for dried items.
Other Benefits of
I won’t go into the dis/advantages of Black tea because then I’d have to compare it with the other types including Yellow and brick tea (where tea is made into blocks/bricks but the processing of can mean differences in the effects). Black tea has the most caffeine and least antioxidants out of them but is still overall seen as favourable to health and well being if taken in moderation not to mention the taste ;-).
Here though are a few other uses for the used teabags I keep that you might not have heard about (though unfortunately they tend to dry out and crumble faster than regular bags):
- Healer: Compress for bruises, blisters & itchy skin,
- Softener: Put them in the bath,
- Soother: Foot soak,
- Deodorizer: Kitty litter additive,
- Freshener: Ran out of sodium bicarbonate so put these in the fridge instead.