The Good: Bold, if difficult to describe taste, Caffeinated, Good ingredient
The Bad: Dry aftertaste, Extraneous packaging
The Basics: A decent enough staple tea, English Teatime is a strong, black tea that most tea drinkers will enjoy.
Since I learned that black teas may be responsible for promoting kidney stones, I have been a bit edgy about recommending black teas. I've decided that for me to recommend a black tea at this point, it has to taste phenomenal and be environmentally responsible in its packaging. Bigelow teas, individually wrapped as they are with the extra paper tabs and strings certainly don't meet the latter criteria. So when I went into the box of another Bigelow adjective tea that was black, I knew it was going to be a tight review.
The tea I selected tonight was English Teatime, one of Bigelow's teas that gets away with not defining a flavor by simply naming itself something clever. English Teatime could well have simply been called "tea" by Bigelow, for all of the flavor it has. It's not a bad tea and it is a little stronger than an average tea, but the packaging. . . the packaging sucked it down the rest of the way into average territory.
English Teatime is a tea from Bigelow. It is a tea that has caffeine and it is one of the stronger black teas Bigelow makes and markets. English Teatime comes in Bigelow's standard individually-wrapped tea bags, means that each tea bag has a wax papery envelope it is sealed in for freshness. Each tea bag has a five-inch string with a little paper tab at the end, which is quite a bit more waste than I like from a tea bag. When I make pots of tea, I tend to use two bags and making a steeping pot of English Teatime reminds me of why I like the easy environmentalism of Celestial Seasonings' stringless bags. A box of English Teatime comes with 20 individually-wrapped tea bags.
English Teatime is marketed as a tea-flavored tea and it is adequate in that regard. If one wants something that is flavored like tea leaves - and strong ones at that - this will fit the bill. I tend to like flavorful teas, not the bland ones that are simply what they claim to be.
Ease Of Preparation
English Teatime is a black tea, which means preparation is as easy as boiling a pot of water! English Teatime, as the directions clearly state, require water that is boiling. A single tea bag will make the standard 8 oz. coffee mug worth of tea, though reusing the tea bags yields little more than hot water. These tea bags can be reused and the resulting beverage is about 1/2 strength and has a more potent dry aftertaste than the original brewing. I tend to make my tea using a 32 oz. steeping tea pot and that works well, even for a second pot.
To prepare English Teatime, simply boil up some water, and pour it over the tea bags in a cup, mug or steeping pot. This tea is recommended to take one to two minutes to steep and after a couple cups and pots, I've found that with boiling water, the tea is ready at the two minute mark and letting it steep longer does not truly change the results. Letting the tea steep more than three minutes does not net any additional flavor, nor does it denature the flavor of the tea.
English Teatime is a tea that tastes like what it is, much like Earl Grey. Unlike most flavors that either have a taste or scent that tries to be something else, English Teatime is a tea flavored tea. Like black coffee when it goes by the location (Columbian, Supreme, etc.) that tells one nothing about the actual flavor, English Teatime is an adjective tea whose name does not exactly describe the taste sensation that it is.
For those wondering, though, English Teatime from Bigelow is a tea that smells woody and tea-like. It smells like deep forest in autumn when there is that air of decay and death in the wind and the distant scent of something burning. It is pretty much impossible to nail the scent down in non-poetic terms because this is a tea-scented tea.
As for the taste, this has a rather bold and woody taste, like chewing on dried herbs or weeds. This has a strong, dark flavor that is forceful but unlike anything but tea. If Earl Grey is a flavor that is superconcentrated black tea that is almost like a coffee and like about five Lipton style tea bags in one, English Teatime might be best described as four times the strength of Lipton's bland, regular tea. This is a tea that if forceful, but lacks the aroma and energy of Earl Grey. This is truly tea flavored tea and the only real taste note might well be that it has a very dry aftertaste.
With a teaspoon of sugar, English Teatime maintains its dry taste as the primary taste and does not becomes sufficiently sweet to suggest it is anything other than tea. Strangely, my cups of Bigelow English Teatime have ended up accenting the taste of water in the tea when the tea has sugar added to it, diluting the sense of the tea flavor some. The aftertaste, very dry, is not cut in any significant way by the addition of sugar to the tea.
Similarly, milk does little for the tea and while it does not overwhelm the tea flavor, it certainly dilutes it some. As the tea becomes cooler, it continues to taste drier, becoming more and more sour as well. This is not an ideal tea to have iced, unless one likes cool, dry and sour for their beverage choices.
It is utterly unsurprising that the dominant flavor in English Teatime is tea as the only ingredient is black tea. English Teatime tea is all natural, gluten free, and does contain caffeine. There is not a ton of caffeine (the box does not say how much there actually is in this, but it does seem like it is sufficient to keep one awake, especially when drunk late at night).
Were it not for the sugar I add whenever I make pots of English Teatime, this tea would be devoid of any nutritional value. It contains no calories, fat, sodium, carbohydrates or protein.
English Teatime is a dark black tea. As a result, cleanup is rather simple, save on fabrics. The mugs and steeping pot easily rinse out. This tea will stain if it is left on fabrics, so simply do not let the tea cups or mugs linger on light colored materials that might stain!
English Teatime is easy to clean up after - the tea bags may be disposed in the garbage, or composted if you have a good garden and/or compost pile. One of the nice things about this tea - like most - is that so long as it is kept cool and dry, it can last for a long time and it is easy to clean up. However, like all Bigelow teas, there is extra waste from the strings, paper tabs and individual wrappings around each bag.
English Teatime is a good, but remarkably average tea and ultimately, I gave it a recommend because it is a decent staple tea for those who can accept the extra waste these tea bags generate.
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© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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