Those of you who are regular readers will know I have become obsessed with tea. Many times including now I am sitting and thinking about which tea to have next and I now have a selection of around about 50 teas. A big difference from my weak and cheap English breakfast tea which was previously my only choice of drink.
Imagine my delight when I had the opportunity to visit Tea Total for a tasting as part of my producer to plate series.
Anna Salek has owned Tea Total Ltd for 17 years and it all began as so many things do as a passion which became a little more than a living. In her own words “there isn’t one day I wake up and think I just don’t want to go to work,” throughout our tasting and interview the passion for the teas and her business is very prevalent including the fact they have a new tea bagging machine for their new deluxe pyramid tea bag range but more about that later.
I arrived at the shop/factory/packaging facility and immediately an amazing aroma hits you, an aroma like the most natural beautiful smelling air freshener you could imagine. Unfortunately for Anna she tells me she can’t smell it anymore basically because she’s had the same smell there for so long now!
Tea Total has grown from a market stall in Australia to one of the most recognised brands especially for café goers and high tea enthusiasm, I can guarantee even if you don’t know it you have definitely been somewhere that serves these teas.
In the tasting room there is a wall with all the teas lined up and it is certainly a sight and it make it hard when the very generous Anna says pick the ones you want and we will taste them. The question is where do you start?
We chose a few fruit and couple of black and a couple of green teas and Anna took us through how to taste and in what order, exactly like a wine tasting and it does make a difference. For instance the black teas, we tasted three they vary in strength and flavour a lot depending on how the leaves are cut, you couldn’t taste the strongest then go to the weakest it just doesn’t work. I was surprised with one thing I expected Anna would drink even black teas straight and when it came to adding things like milk talk of it like a crime, however this is not the case and as with many things you just drink it however you personally like it and yes she takes milk herself.
A bit about the teas we tasted – a few stand out in my mind there was a caramel which we thought had the flavour, sweetness and creaminess that it would be a great replacement for anyone wanting to cut down on desserts but still get the sweetness to satisfy their needs. The apple and pear tea reminded me of drinking a crumble or a pear drop. The three black teas were very pleasant to drink and for me the middle strength tea from the trio suited my tastes the most. It says a lot for me because I would happily drink them without sugar which is unusual for me. Japanese Lime is an excellent tea and I guess the best way to describe it is imagine a lemon styled tea but replace that with a subtle lime flavour that isn’t to overpowering.
The Japanese Lime, Special Breakfast Blend And the Earl Grey Special have been the biggest sellers for 17 years and this has culminated in the new range of teas or rather teabags, tea total have now started producing the pyramid silk bags which are being bagged right here in Albany thanks to a fancy new tea bag machine which was purchased after lots of research and travel. It bags 22 teas per minute and each bag is checked to make sure it reaches the standard required to sell to the public.
There was one more tea that I was privy to, a special sort of secret tea that isn’t even on sale. It’s Anna’s “own secret stash” as she calls it. The tea is Assam Doomni and official description is a “premium quality flower tipped golden flowery orange pekoe from the Doomni tea estate in Assam, Northern India” She brought it through in a box and showed us the leaves and the way she spoke of the tea was like some sort of prohibited drug. The tea is over $200 per kg and that’s wholesale price and the only reason she has it is for herself! I was overjoyed when at the end she gave me some to sample and I have drank it at home a few times now and it is simply a black tea but just an amazingly strong but not overpowering taste. For English Breakfast Drinkers it would be the best tasting tea you will taste the flavour is deep and very unique.
In fact going back to the choice of what I would drink whilst writing this, I just happen to have an Assam Doomni in my hand right now!
So if you are interested in buying some tea total teas head over to their website now at www.teatotal.co.nz or their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tea-Total/348442084138?ref=ts&fref=ts there is also the Tea Total Café which was formerly owned by Anna running in Milford where you can taste and purchase the teas.