The other day, I did a side-by-side taste test of four teas that I had only a few bags each of. I get sent lots of individual tea bags in tea swaps, and often they are things I don’t buy for myself, since I spend my tea dollars on unusually-flavored, seasonal, and exotic teas mostly, rather than plain black teas. But the plain black teas that people send me in swaps are often the teabags I grab to make my first cup of tea in the morning, so they deserve some attention. These four I tried were plain black teas, commonly available from supermarkets and the usual large online retailers. There are a lot more teas available in supermarkets now than there were when I was a kid!
Bigelow’s English Teatime had a milder flavor than the other three teas I was trying at the same time, but those were all described as breakfast teas and this wasn’t, so that’s to be expected. Bigelow’s web site does not say where the tea comes from, but I am guessing that it’s mostly or all Ceylon teas in the blend, with no Assam or Darjeeling in there, since I didn’t get any extra flavor notes when I brewed it – no copperiness as Darjeeling has, no malty note from Assam. While I didn’t find it to be as full-bodied as Bigelow’s description suggests, it was a nice, ordinary, decent cup of black tea. It seemed of higher quality, and tasted fresher, than the couple of best-known tea bag brands in the US, the ones that come in boxes of 100 bags on supermarket shelves everywhere. Bigelow’s teas are also available in most supermarkets all over the US, and as I say, I feel this tasted better than the stuff in big yellow boxes.
This tea brewed up a medium brown in color, and medium-bodied in taste. Not as full-bodied as a breakfast tea, but not too mild. I like my tea plain, but I also tried this with a bit of sugar. It added sweetness but did not change the flavor at all, so it’s likely that artificial sweeteners would also work OK, since there are no special notes that require real sugar to bring them out. The sugar didn’t cover up the taste, either, so if you’re looking for a tea that maintains its “plain black tea” flavor, then this would work. And of course, one of the advantages of bagged tea over loose leaf tea is the consistency from one bag to the next, one box to the next – you can count on this bagged tea to be reliably good, though never spectacular. The foil packets that each bag is sealed in also keep the tea reliably fresh, compared to the paper wrappers that some tea bags come in. (Please don’t tell me I’m ending with a proposition – smile – ; this is English, not Latin, and ending a sentence with a proposition is perfectly OK. Let’s hear it for English while we’re celebrating English tea!)
When I tried this tea with milk, it nearly covered up the tea flavor entirely, so I don’t recommend using milk with this tea. The tea tastes fine without it, and is not at all harsh or bitter; it doesn’t need milk to tame it.
Bigelow describes this tea as:
[from the web site] Typically English, rich in flavor, and appropriate for any tea drinking occasion.
[from the packaging] For three generations, the Bigelow family has specialized in creating a variety of deliciously different teas. We use only the finest mountain-grown tea in English Teatime. This full-bodied tea is ideal for all occasions.
Note that this tea is kosher.
Bigelow’s Constant Comment is one of my favorite teas from when I was a child, and I appreciate the Bigelow brand for introducing me to teas that weren’t just big yellow boxes of 100. I even have a set of Bigelow tea mugs – four different labels from different Bigelow teas – that were available as a promotion, oh, a few decades ago. There are still Bigelow mugs available, but not the ones with the reproduction of the labels on them. Are you jealous?