I have recently become consumed with a desire to apprentice myself to a master tea blender and learn oodles of exciting tea-blending secrets... well, that's easier said than done (master tea blenders apparently being thin on the ground in Melbourne - but if you happen to be one, and are reading this, please get in touch), so in the meantime I have decided to do a bit of D.I.Y. blend-tasting and experimentation.
Blends seem to divide tea enthusiasts. By their very nature, branded/named blends are designed to be consistent in flavour across the years. This has advantages for consumers who like consistency in their cup; they can be pretty confident that they're getting what they like (or avoiding what they don't) and not have to worry about the potential variations in quality and flavour that can affect tea harvests.
To some, this consistency goes against the spirit of tea, denying the natural mutability of the tea experience. To others, however, the skill required to combine teas of different grade and origin in order to produce the required result is a cause for celebration. I think there's room for both these views (and, unsurprisingly, that the quality of the teas involved is of paramount importance).
Where to start?
English Breakfast and Irish Breakfast are two classic and popular blends that I have not given much thought to in the past - but I think they deserve a bit of closer attention. And who knew - there's a Scottish Breakfast blend as well. So in a bonanza of UK-tea-orientation I ordered up a small quantity of these three from The Tea Centre.
I've been drinking a bit of each over the last couple of weeks, but I'll save the tasting notes for another time. Today we'll start with a comparison of the dry leaf. [At the time of writing The Tea Centre's website is down... I will update hyperlinks to each of the blends when I can]
Close inspection reveals that each looks quite different...
English Breakfast: mainly very very fine brownish-red particles but with a good proportion of slightly longer, black, finely twisted leaf. The aroma of the dry leaves is light and a little lemony.
Irish Breakfast: mostly dark brown CTC leaf (see the tiny little clumpy balls - looks like the Assam Dimakusi BOP that I've had in the past) mixed with some longer twisty black leaf and a scattering of golden tips. The aroma is warm and slightly spicy.
Scottish Breakfast: full orthodox-style finely twisted leaf, dark browny-black in colour, no tips. The leaves smell fruity and rich.
Stay tuned for the tasting notes. I'll hopefully get a couple done today, before the cold I've been battling fully stuffs up my nose and I can't taste anything, let alone tea...