It seems like you can't go anywhere these days without spotting the London Tea Company. I was even standing in the gift shop at the Bluebell Railway in East Sussex while on my holiday, and there was a shelf of their teas staring back at me.
How did a range of herbal and traditional teas make it onto the shelves next to tourist boxes of ginger biscuits, tins of pear drops, vanilla fudge, and jars of traditionally made jam? There's something so fittingly English about tea of course, and the packaging certainly helps. Also, all the teas are organic and many are also Fairtrade.
Part of the range comes in boxes similar to Twinings, but with a more contemporary design. And the other part comes in lovely tins, perfect for keeping the flavour in. These also make excellent gifts, especially if you're making up your own baskets.
What is also intriguing about the London Tea Company is that, for a mass market product, they have a strong sense of social responsibility. As is made clear on the box, they make ethical, organic teas with no artificial ingredients, and they are a carbon neutral company.
While the teas might look fabulous - what do they taste like? I received a number of teas from their range and gave them all a good testing. Apart from the Organic Green Tropical Detox tea, which I gave to PlayPennies mum Ellie to try out as part of the detox regime she was on.
I tried this tea first because actually I've never been a fan of this flavour. I thought I would get it over and done with. The Organic Red Berries tea (£1.99, 20 tea sachets) are what the website calls envelope tea bags. They come in an orangey-red box. There's a surprising mix of berries in there - hibiscus, rooibos, spearmint, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry.
The tea infused quickly, although I do like to keep the tea bag in my cup anyway when I drink herbal tea. The aroma was deep and rich, and I could sit there with just the steam to be honest.
Maybe it was the inclusion of the spearmint, but it had a much peppier taste than other fruits of the forest and similar flavour teas I've tried. I had no idea that hibiscus was a berry, so I can't comment on that! Rooibus is not a favourite of mine, and I did find that the tea had an aftertaste I didn't quite like.
It would be pretty difficult to go wrong with English Breakfast tea, my absolute favourite blend. Although to be fair, I've only ever tried the Twinings brand, so perhaps I shouldn't make brash, sweeping generalisations.
This Organic & Fairtrade English Breakfast (£1.99, 20 tea sachets) doesn't let the side down. I sat for a bit savouring the satisfying aroma, before sipping my first cup of the day. It has a full body flavour, and was very satisfying. It is on par with Twinings for me though, the advantage being that it is organic and Fairtrade.
I did like that, although this is a traditional black tea, the company didn't go for a monochrome box design, but a maroon red instead. That it was the same colour as my primary school uniform was slightly off putting.
PlayPennies mum of two Ellie is in the middle of a detox regime. So I gave her this tea to try out. The Organic Green Tropical Detox tea (£3.99, 15 pyramid tea bags in a tin).
It seems like a lot of money to pay for just 15 tea bags. Especially if, as Ellie was expecting, drinking a cup is more of an endurance test than a pleasurable experience.
However, Ellie says "the first cup was a surprise. First it smelt really invigorating, and then I found I really enjoyed the taste. I also found it was a great way to start the day. I've finished the tin now, and have bought another one". So I guess that's a thumbs up then.
The Organic Lemongrass, Ginger & Citrus Fruits (£3.99, 15 pyramid tea bags in a tin) tea is described on the website as "created for well being". And I loved it. I liked the unusual shaped tea bags, and the way it gently and thoroughly infused the flavours of the tea. The aroma was simply divine, and it felt a bit like drinking sunshine.
But for all that I simply can't see myself ever spending four quid on 15 tea bags, even though the tin is a nice touch. I think I would do so to add it to, say, a nice gift basket. But that's about it. However, if any of my friends are ever reading this and are stuck for something to buy me for my birthday or Christmas, then a tin of this will definitely be appreciated.
You can buy this tea in the envelope bag, box form as well, which is much better price-wise at £1.99. You possibly won't get the same infusion benefits of the pyramid bag though.
And finally ...
Do take the time to go visit the website itself. The London Tea Company has a lot of quite interesting content for tea drinkers, rather than the just the usual marketing stuff. I particularly liked the 'Mocktail' recipe ideas!