Mid-Level Red Tea great for blending.
This black tea comes in the distance square Twining tin. The tin was previously reviewed in detail. (Read about it in “Twining English Breakfast Tea”) The orange color of the box is enticing. It transitions from a citrus oil hue at the top of the box to a “Creamscicle” milk and orange color in the middle. There are faint pictures of jungle strewn mountains and palm trees swaying in the breeze. Clear imagery this tea comes from Sri Lanka and not China. The lettering is easy to read and tastefully arranged. The package date and import stickers are well placed.
An orange pekoe tea has no connection to orange flavor or even Chinese origin. It was a western nomenclature referring to the different grades of black tea. New leafs are named “Pekoe.” The youngest full leaf would be “Orange Pekoe” and the buds would be “Flowery Orange Pekoe.” This type of naming is greatly unknown within China. It's utilized as part of the marketing on western tea packages.
Among the four Twining teas offered in China these leafs are the most intact. Well over half show no cuts or tears. There is quite a lot of tea dust inside the tin. Perhaps a way to pad the contents of the tin while boosting the flavor of an otherwise subtle tea. Higher quality leafs mixed with the lowest quality as a way to meet in the middle.
The first brew gives off a bright orange color. Using a quick brew method (5g leaf, brew 30 seconds in 100C water) the taste is full of leaf with a hint of bitterness. The mouthfeel is not clear yet and I think a second or third brew would wake the tea. I suspect the bitterness stems from there being so much tea dust mixed with whole leafs. Cut or damaged leafs can produce bitterness. There is so much dust I had to use two strainers to prevent my cup filled with tea particles. There are no visible “white fur” in the cup. These white hairs live on fresh or high-quality leafs. While I did note there is a good amount of intact leafs I think they’re of lower-quality. More evidence to my thinking this is a medium quality offering from Twining.
With the second brew the color deepens to a low amber hue. Almost reddish in some light. The vivid nature are so unnatural it’s not hard to suspect artificial dye or colorants. The brew gives a more focused tea flavor but the bitterness has increased. The mouthfeel is low to medium with no astringent properties yet. It’s a subtle but pronounced black tea taste.
The third brew is tea and bitterness. There is a good amount of astringent to be noticeable. Many secondary flavors have disappeared. The flavor is gone by the end of the third brew.
With a total brewing time of only ninety seconds it makes me think this tea is best suited for a western style brew. (A longer brewing time with only one usable brew.) After a minute and a half all the flavors have developed. Other condiments can be added. Such as milk, sugar, lemon, orange, honey, etc… I think this is a good tea for blending flavors and not for drinking on its own.
The dry aroma is equal leaf and oxidization. There is a hint of tea oil between the foundational scents. During the first brew the aroma is light with notes of black tea, wheat and slight citrus. The second brew has more wheat and leaf but not much else. The third brew gives only tea and oxidization scents.
I found this tea to be a good cornerstone to blending red tea. It has enough flavor to brewed on its own. The distinctive notes work well with the palate when mixing other leafs. Mix orange pekoe and english breakfast for homemade hong kong milk tea. Combine with earl grey to make an orange powerhouse. Add in some darjeeling to bring zest to your afternoon. It has just enough bitterness to cover its imperfections. Just the right amount of character to be different.