I've tasted many teas in my time, enjoyed most and hated others. The ones I hate are generally flavoured with some fruit or other. "So why pick up a mandarin flavoured tea?" I hear you ask. Well, to be honest with you, I have no idea. We were having a nice day out at Trentham Gardens and it was the first time I'd seen a Whittard's shop for ages. I guess I got caught up in the moment when Cinabar said the immortal phrase; "I'll treat you to a few boxes of tea." Greed took over. I must have thought at the time that this tea may taste a little like Ceylon Orange Pekoe, which is indeed one of my favourite tea blends. There is a subtle taste of orange there, so perhaps I was hoping for that here too?
On the box it stated that Puerh is a Chinese tea that once processed is then aged giving it an "earthy full-bodied" flavour. Not sure if that means without the addition of fruit this tea just tastes like mud. Does that mean that this tea will taste like mandarin mud? Did I mention that I don't like the taste of mandarin? I can only surmise I was having a frenzied moment of madness when running around the shop picking up random boxes of tea. Well, better brew up anyway...
Not that I'm the type of person who regularly sniffs teabags or sees anything wrong in doing so, but I couldn't help but catch a strong whiff of orange and grapefruit as I opened the packet inside the cardboard container. This was quite a pungent smell and it set alarm bells ringing straight away. Indeed there were bits of orange peel in the teabag, which tried to distract from the bitter grapefruit smell. I followed the brewing instructions leaving the teabag in the mug's freshly boiled water for almost five minutes. The tea was pretty dark by then, but the container stated not to add milk.
Once brewed I noticed this very dark tea had a woody smoky smell to it. Like the damp burnt charcoal around the muddy outer circle of a campfire on an early morning after a particularly heavy dew. After sniffing far too forcefully I gave up trying to find the previous strong orange and grapefruit smells from the teabag. This tea was going to be a tough customer. Yet on first taste I noticed the earthy smokiness had mixed well with the orange and grapefruit flavours. Instead of biting away at my tastebuds the strong flavour of grapefruit was offset by the orange peel, both working together to calm the muddy dark brown dead wood fire flavour of the Puerh. I can see why the tea masters at Whittards added the fruit flavours now, and fully appreciate the delicate fruitiness merged with the strong aged Puerh. Remarkable.
Information on the box;
15 tea pyramids at net weight 37.5g. Produced by Whittard of Chelsea. Ingredients included; Puerh Tea, orange peel, natural orange flavouring, and grapefruit flavouring.