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“Let’s have a brew and I’ll tell you all about it”. If you watch the soaps it’s a phrase you’ll hear a lot. Tea is such a big part of our national identity it’s hard to imagine life without it. Apparently in our lifetime we drink 74802 cups of the stuff. Although that’s an average. Whilst growing up I never really touched the stuff so my number will be a fair bit lower.
Tea tasted to me like watered down washing up water. But something must have happened to my taste buds in the last few years that has made me rather partial to it now.
Although, (this is going to make me appear like a snob), I only like the good stuff. You can pass on the everyday varieties. That will do for the builders who’ll be happy to sip anything warm and wet. Green tea infused with supple jasmine, raspberry or elderflower will only for me. Although let that not lead you to believe I am some sort of snob or connoisseur. I am no Edward Bramah (founder of the Tea and Coffee Museum, London) who I once heard speaking (at a short talk on the history of tea) about how he deplores the very act of flavouring tea (like Earl Grey, which is tinged with lemon and bergamot).
I’m not particularly fussy about the receptacle either. Porcelain or dumpy mug it matters not a jot to me.
I think that my growing taste for tea happened a few years ago when I stumbled across The Tea House in Covent Garden, London and tried a packet of loose-leaf green tea. Now I’ve found tea has some hidden depths. And so I’ve been keen to hunt out unusual varieties in the shops.
Clipper - Organic White Tea with Natural Blackcurrant Flavour – 25 tea bags is one of my latest finds.
“The finest single estate organic white tea, with a delicious natural blackcurrant flavour” it states proudly on the front of the pack.
I came across this one in Sainsburys. It was on those reduced to clear shelves full of items either knocked about or nearing their sell by date and was 69p (normal price - £1.49).
The ingredients are organically grown white tea, natural blackcurrant flavour (5%).
Other organic white tea flavours from the Clipper stable are: STRAWBERRY RASPBERRY ORANGE LEMON PEPPERMINT VANILLA CINNAMON GINGER
WHAT’S WHITE TEA?
I hadn’t the foggiest when I saw the pack. If someone said white tea to me I would have thought it was how you like your cuppa – i.e., with milk. The pack informs me ‘White tea is like a cup of serenity itself”. It goes on to say that it comes from the unopened buds of the tea plant and has a more subtle flavour than green tea. White tea has been used for centuries by the Chinese in the most formal tea ceremonies and is known to provide a “spiritual experience”. Blimey, on that last point, should they legally selling this stuff?!
I pop a tea bag in a cup, without milk, as recommended by the pack which just so happens to be my preference.
Then as the pack recommends not to use boiled water, as it can scald white tea and impair the flavour, I leave the boiling water in the kettle standing for about a minute.
The pack suggests I infuse one tea bag per person for between 30 seconds to 2 minutes which all sounds very precise. I go for one minute…
I expected the colour of the tea to take on a purple tinge from the blackcurrants, in the same way rose hip tea is scarlet, but no it is a rather pleasant caramel brown.
Going for the taste test, I find that the flavour of the tea is pretty much similar to green tea with a certain extra freshness to it than standard black tea.
Most black tea has a metallic bitterness to it from its high tannin content. They are right about being subtle it seems milder and not quite as bitter as green tea. The blackcurrant flavour is not all that potent either and mainly comes from the aroma than the actual taste. The aroma is pretty strong and I suppose dupes the taste buds into thinking they are actually tasting it. There is no sickly sweetness to it either. The blackcurrant flavour is present in all its natural wholesomeness.
I’m left with a sensation that feels refreshing and good for cleansing the palette after a spicy meal.
I have also tried the raspberry flavour, and although both comparable in terms of strength of flavour, I would say the blackcurrant one is my favourite.
The pack has a classy look to it, a metallic sage green background with a bit of Latin - Ribes nigrum (blackcurrant) - thrown in for good measure. Unfussy, a bit like Waitrose’s own-brand packaging.
Please note: The picture shows the standard White Tea, not the Blackcurrant flavour version.
The wording on the pack goes on a fair bit about how eco-friendly the product and packaging is. The paper and card are 100% biodegradable, the pack tells me as it is with all Clipper products. They are non-chlorine bleached, from managed, sustained forests and the tea bags are unbleached too.
The bags from not being bleached white are a natural looking beige colour. This might put off some but not me. I prefer the natural look if it means that my drink is not going to be polluted with traces of chemicals that I read about. Although the bags are not foil wrapped unlike Twinings teas tend to be, the freshness seems to up to par.
OTHER GREEN CRUDENTIALS
The tea is organically grown to a standard approved by the Soil Association.The methods used, Clipper tells us, “ensure the protection of the land, the people that live and work on it and the wildlife, sustaining a balanced, fertile environment.”
All of this sounds all well and good, making me put me mind at rest that by buying the product I’m not contributing to some environmental destruction or exploitative trade, on the other side of the world.
SO IS IT FAIR TRADE?
On the matter of ethical fair trade, which is becoming a growing concern now for shoppers… Tea plantations are known for having one of the worst working conditions with many workers dependent on the owners for their housing, food and sometimes their education. I note from reading an article in the Telegraph that although the work is labour-intensive the workers are poorly paid - in India the rate is as little as 61p (approximately) per day.
This concerns me so I’m interested to know if this tea is indeed fairly traded.
The product doesn’t carry the fair trade logo despite other teas in the Clipper range doing so. This surprises me as Clipper claims to be the first tea company to carry a Fairtrade logo on its products.
From a bit of research I find that Clipper is not part of a member of ETP (Ethical Tea Partnership) unlike some of the big tea producers like Tetley.
Some of us are keen to know where our food and drink comes from nowadays, food miles, carbon footprint and all that. Looking at the pack I find that it the tea is the produce of more than one country although it doesn’t divulge what those countries are. A bit of quick Googling and I find that 80% of our tea comes from India, China, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Indonesia –so I would guess it comes from a mix of those.
If you a real tea oficianado or simply have too much time on your hands you can call the freephone number on the pack (Monday to Friday) to find out more information about this product or Clipper. Or alternatively visit the website.
This has to be my favourite tea blend of all in terms of flavour – refreshing, pure-tasting and with just about the right hint of blackcurrant. The product is also reasonably priced and organically produced. On the downside, the fact that it doesn’t carry a fairtrade logo leaves a slight bad taste.
Clipper Organic White Tea with Natural Blackcurrant Flavour Pack