It was a happy chance which led me to find Ten Teas. I love teas, as I’m sure everyone who gravitates to the Ten Teas site must. They popped up on one of those ‘targeted ads’, you know the ones, you just bought a fridge on line, and for months will be bombarded by ads about other fridges. So, these are mainly ignored. Though with tea, having an I-have-lost-count-of-the-number-of-tea-varieties-in-my-dedicated-tea-cupboard shopping identity, a targeted tea ad makes absolute sense.
I was intrigued, bought a selection of I think 7 teas, as they sounded interesting, and I always like investigating small independent sellers with a clear passion for something.
And I’m afraid I went quite madly bananas over my teas, and waxed fulsomely reviewing each one on this site
So when TT contacted me to ask ‘Would I be interested in reviewing their upcoming Explorer Box’ I felt I needed to celebrate (with many pots of tea!)
First up, the Explorer Box itself, the concept, the execution, the whole shebang of it. 5 Stars (obviously)
A tea lover in the hands of a tea specialist company can be pretty sure that taking a chance on a pot luck selection of teas chosen by that company, is bound to yield a big smile, and the surprise of sampling each tea will be great, as every tea will be quality and interesting. So much thought has gone into the box itself. One of each ‘category’ of teas. Everything in the packaging (other than the closure strips for each tea, easy to tear off when each envelope is empty) is recyclable, or compostable. Each type of tea has a colour coded informative sticker, and the colour coding is mirrored in the informative booklet. Full ingredients, and recommended brewing times, temperature, and tea quantity are on the information label. And for those of us into obsessive decanting of our tea leaves into a load of pretty tins (that’s me!) the labels are easy peel, and can be cut to fit your tins, for easy identification. And then First Time Explorers get a lovely, heavy ‘perfect tea measure’ tea spoon. And a packet of compostable tea strain papers. I must admit I haven’t tried these as I have a large collection (naturally) of various gypsy teaspoon cup strainers, a couple of mugs with integral tea strainers in them, several teapots with integral strainers, and even a couple of good old fashioned stand alone strainers. Friends buy a tea loving friend lots and lots of tea paraphernalia and teas, hence the full dedicated tea cupboard.
I do have a marked preference for herb teas over any ‘standard’ tea, and am more likely to drink green tea than black tea – unless it is a flavoured tea. My personal favourite tea tea, since discovering it decades ago, is Lapsang Souchong. And I hate tea with any kind of milk whether dairy or plant milk. Everything is taken without any addition, no milk, no sugar, no lemon. And very very weak. With black tea I tend to halve the recommended quantity of tea to water and infuse for the shortest time. Sometimes I’ll then do a second brewing from the leaves, as I can find the weaker the tea gets, the more subtle flavours are released on that second brewing
So now, ta..raa.. we must come to the teas themselves (at last!) A couple of them were teas I had already bought, and waxed lyrical on, in my initial Ten Teas Shopping foray, so I’m duplicating those reviews. I only drank ONE tea a day, to really keep my focus clear on each one. Working through each tea in their order in the TT booklet (not necessarily the order of my drinking of them)
Ten Teas No 1, Estate Tea : Monteviot Estate Tea 5 stars
I was somewhat nervous of this one, as a straight, unflavoured black tea (needlessly) – in part because the description said full-bodied, strong – my tongue puckered a bit when I read those words, in case the astringency might overpower my ability to taste nuance in the tea. So, I used 1 spoon to a 500ml teapot, and infused for 3 minutes. Oh my! The first heavenly flavour was, slightly peppery, rather than as ‘slightly spicy aftertaste’. Of course the astringency we like in tea is there – particularly when you take a big gulp of cooling tea, but sipped carefully when hot, I was getting a fruity sweetness, something flowery, floral. And not the taste of mint, but the airy clean sensation which mint leaves in the mouth. This is a really refreshing tea, which I ended up drinking, as if it were a glass of fine wine, with my evening meal. Summery evening indeed, this tea
Ten Teas No 2, Breakfast Tea: Russian Earl Grey 5 stars
I do love ‘perfumed’ teas, so I was excited to try this one. It’s much more robust and less delicate than traditional Earl Grey, and I think is perfectly placed as ‘Breakfast’ Traditional Earl Grey is one, to my mind, preferably accompanied by cucumber sandwiches and a selection of fine patisserie, tinkling piano music, the full afternoon tea experience! I’m not sure if the greater robustness of this one is down to the choice of tea leaf itself, or the addition of the lemongrass and orange pieces, rather than essential oil of bergamot. The astringency of the tea itself is really enhanced by the marmalade, bitter-sweet tang of the orange peel and the citrus of lemongrass. It’s a bracing, fortifying tea. All that was missing…couldn’t TT have provided this?...was a battered silver samovar, and to be warmly wrapped in furs (synthetic! No animals harmed in this vision) travelling across snowy wastes on the Trans-Siberian Express. Strange how a taste turns into a filmic image and the memory of Lara’s Theme! This tea, moreover, is so so pretty in its dry state that it almost seemed a shame to pour boiling water on it.
Ten Teas No 3. Chai Tea : Izmir Spice Tea 5 Stars
This was one of the ones I had previously bought, and 5 starred. I’ve repeated my review here, marginally edited of the annoying typos and predictive text errors which happen when I do things on a small device:
Maybe it's just the colour - but the happiest, gentle summer spice!
Firstly, be aware (as you will be if you read the ingredients) this is JUST spices, plus fruit - apple, orange, rose hip and hibiscus flowers - but does not contain tea itself. It really should be drunk from a tea glass, to get the added effect of pleasure to look upon. It's like rose wine, and just looks like happy sunshine days
A beautiful taste combination. Not overpowered by any one flavour, the zingy sharp ingredients - hibiscus, rose hip, mellowed by creamy sweet apple and warm sweet spices. Absolutely, absolutely delicious. Get yourself into a patch of sunlight and the colour, in a tea glass will be even more beautiful. Happy sipping!
Ten Teas No 4. Flavoured Tea: Sunshine Passion 5 stars
This was the other one I had also bought earlier, and I copy and paste that review also
Subtle and Refreshing
This tea, which ten teas suggest a short 2-3 minute brew time for, with water at 80C, rather than boiling point, has that bitter astringent bite we expect to find in tea, but with its volume knob turned right down, so other flavours can float in. The fruits give a subtle, juicy sweetness. I didn't read the ingredients before tasting, as I was interested to see what flavours would suggest themselves. What I picked up, was a faint lemon peel note, and also, under that, sweeter orange peel. I think this was how I tasted the pineapple. A strawberry note (I think that was the mango) It's a lovely, really refreshing blend, and seems particularly suited for summer drinking, though, oddly, I personally wouldn't want this as iced tea - the cooling, refreshing quality intensified when the tea was hottest Yet another Ten Teas winner.
Ten Teas No 5 Fruit Tea: Pina Colada 5 stars
What a fun and well named tea! Simpler in taste than some of the others, but no less delightful. You can absolutely taste the pineapple, and the coconut – so creamy, and the dried apple pieces accentuate that creaminess. In fact, this one is so completely like its fruity ingredients, that I’m afraid I really wanted to chew the drink. So, don’t tell, but rather than putting the pieces into the compost bin after brewing, I ate them. Every last morsel. Well, it does then all add up to the ‘eat a variety of fruit and vegetables every day’ A tea which added to the 5 or 7 or 10 a day, whatever it now is. Something I noticed as the tea cooled, and I got closer to the bottom of the glass, was that the pineapple flavour intensified, and the final gulp was a lovely tangy, pineapple zing. I just needed to wave a cocktail umbrella.
Ten Teas No 6 Functional Tea: Relaxation 5 Stars
As far as ‘function’ goes ‘ Relaxation’ absolutely works. Lemon verbena is a herb often added to sleep inducing blends, but Ten Teas, in their usual thoughtful way have blended it with other ingredients to make a relaxing, rather than immediately soporific blend. It’s one for a smooth and enjoyable wind-down, still enabling compos mentis conversation, a gentle downhill stroll towards sleep rather than an instant drop off the cliff edge into loud snoring. My overall taste test was that this was a little like a warm edge of caramel, creamy, almost custardy, toffee appley. |Such a comforting, soothing, happy and peaceful taste. Added to by the absolutely beautiful amber, pale caramel colour of the brew in a tea glass
Ten Teas No 7 Green Tea: Jasmine Pure Dragon Pearls. Infinite Stars, 5 are insufficient
Heady, intoxicating, transporting perfume arises from the glass, This one is so, so ,so special. I love jasmine tea, and have in the tea cupboard both a black and a green jasmine tea, but this one is something else entirely. It has finesse, there is something so ethereal and floaty about its aroma, and the tea itself, so crisp and defined in its own taste. This is one that seemed to demand to have total attention paid to it, totally worthy of the meditative aspects of tea ceremonies. Extraordinary. Out of words,
Ten Teas No 8 Herbal Tea: Orange Yerba Mate 5 Stars.
Round, layered, complex, harmonious. This one is everything I’ve come to expect from Ten Teas – a fascinating marriage of tastes, which beautifully blend together to form something greater than the sum of its parts. The taste notes I picked up were earthy, creamy, cereal like – almost like a cereal note in some coffees, and bitter-sweet. The linger on the tongue was almost marmalade like – the orange peel I guess. I love liquorice in tea, there is a real comforting warmth to it. Not to mention also, that the combination of the liquorice and orange peel could almost have taken this into the ‘Functional’ category – it’s a real ‘smooths and facilitates the flow of digestion’ blend. I definitely noticed happy digestive gurgles going on. There are uncomfortable gut noises and there are therapeutic happy ones. This gave rise to the latter. I looked up the health benefits of yerba mate, and, no surprises ‘helps digestion’ is one. Ten Teas blending companion ingredients were complementary to this. A lovely drink after a meal. I was also intrigued, given how comforting this tea felt, to discover that mate contains theobromine, which as a lover of dark chocolate I know is, like caffeine – also in yerba mate – a lifter of mood, increasing energy and a feeling of pleasure. Though Ten Teas have put this in their summer box, I am most likely to be drinking this one as the temperature drops, for its wonderful and warming properties
Ten Teas No 9 Oolong : Elderflower Oolong 5 stars
Delicate, creamy floral, refreshing and tenacious. This was a lovely, quite subtle blend, and I found that its quality and flavour got clearer as I made successively weaker refilling of the tea pot. As mentioned, I like teas weaker, as I seem to taste them better. I started with this one almost at Ten Teas strength recommendation. Though elderflower is not mentioned in the ingredients, I assume the elderflower taste has been produced by the combination of ‘natural flavours’ though certainly the creamy sweetness of dried apple is akin to that creamy sweet elderflower note. My second filling of the teapot with the same leaves really brought out the perfumed, subtle, floral taste. I decided to try a third filling – and though this was surely little more that hot water at that point, the elderflower flavour was still there.
Ten Teas No 10 Rooibos : Sunshine Lemon Rooibos 4 stars
The booklet has this called ‘Creamy Rooibos’ but it is in fact (as the tea label says) – and the taste gives – Sunshine Lemon Rooibos This is very nice, with a lovely long lasting lemon linger on the tongue. It’s a simpler blend than most of the other Ten Teas, and I did enjoy it a lot, though it didn’t ‘Wow’ me in the same way as everything else in the explorer box did. I also found it a little weaker than the other teas, and brewed it not only for the full suggested amount, but did not do a second brew of the leaves, there wasn’t quite enough ‘oomph’ so that I didn’t get subtler flavours coming out as it was drunk a bit weaker. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely tea, and I suspect had it been the first TT tea I had tasted I would be raving pleasurably about it, but Ten Teas have set the bar so high with all their teas that this one suffered by comparison – and when I say that this one was the poor one which I tried the day after I had been blown away by Jasmine Dragon Pearls, its probably not surprising I marked this down a star.
Written by one of our customers, who is an avid tea drinking enthusiast.