Twinings Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea

In my final Twinings free tea tasting review, I present the delightfully named Ceylon Orange Pekoe:

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The term ‘orange pekoe’ refers not to the flavour or colour of the tea, but to the grading of the tea leaves used.

I attempted to digest the Wikipedia article about this but it made my head hurt. If you want further information you could have a go at reading the article yourself, but the essential point would appear to be that ‘orange pekoe’ denotes a high quality large leaf tea.

It has been suggested that the ‘orange’ in the name might come from a connection with the Dutch House of Orange, who were partial to a spot of high quality tea. As for the word ‘pekoe’ there appears to be some confusion about this, but it may refer to a certain bit of the tea leaf bud.

To tea pedants this lack of certainty may appear unsatisfactory but, to my mind, orange pekoe’s enigmatic origins only add to its allure.

The Twinings Orange Pekoe I was sent contained the sort of tea I expect to find when tea shopping outside the UK: a box of individually wrapped sachets:

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I assume that the difference in packaging for tea consumed within the UK and that destined for overseas markets is related to the amount of tea drunk in a certain country. Wrapping each teabag up individually perhaps makes sense if you only use one teabag very occasionally, but I should imagine that if tea was routinely packaged like this in the UK, there would be a national outcry.

I certainly found that when I went to make a pot of Twinings Ceylon Orange Pekoe, using four teabags, I felt frustrated by the amount of effort involved in unpackaging each paper wrapper and then having to deal with the associated strings and tags that came with each one.  I ripped off the tags, but I would have been better advised to snip off the strings too because when I went to stir the teabags around in the teapot, the strings got all wrapped round the spoon and made me not a little irate.

To be fair to Twinings, they do state on their website that this orange pekoe is made for international markets, so perhaps they don’t sell much of it in the UK. The box certainly had travel aspirations, with information in more than a dozen languages.

The important thing about this tea was of course not the packaging or the name, but the taste of the stuff.

It seemed to me to be the sort of tea one might like to drink with a slice of cake (right at the moment I can’t think of any other sort of tea, but I suppose there may be such a thing), and so I made a Victoria sponge to scoff with it:

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I had a bit of an accident when pouring the icing sugar out of the packet, and since I’d dropped a load of sugary snow on one bit of the cake I thought I’d better make it look even by smothering the rest of it too:

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As I tend to expect with Ceylon, the tea was a light sort of brew, but it had a good strong colour (one might almost say orangey), and a smooth drinkable quality. The delightful assistants described the tea as ‘mellow’ and that word certainly seemed to me to fit the bill.

It was surprisingly flavourful, and we all agreed that it was the perfect partner for a sweet treat:

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To the great delight of the assistants, a bit of cream was added to mark the occasion.

N.B. The amount of cream featured in this picture is shown for example only, and is not an accurate representation of quantities consumed:

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Categories: Baking, Cake, Leaf tea, Photography, Scotland, Tea, Tea tasting, Teacup, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

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51 thoughts on “Twinings Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea

  1. I have to say that the Victoria sponge looks infinitely preferable to the Ceylon Orange Pekoe tea! But I guess you have to wash your cake down with something.

    • Not a fan of the orange pekoe, I gather? I think the addition of cake did add to the enjoyment of the tea, but then cake tends to have that effect.

  2. Hahaha! So, you consumed twice that amount ;)
    Thanks for enlightening me about the name of Orange Pekoe. I do enjoy it. Your box looks exactly the same as the way it is packaged in Australia. I think it is a very appealing name, and I had no idea that it was unrelated to its flavour.
    I also didn’t realise that it is rare for tea bags to be wrapped in sachets, in the UK. Good thing I say! Think of all the extra packaging waste! Yikes! Some of the tea brands I buy do not come with sahets, thankfully.
    Thanks for an interesting post. I do enjoy your writing style :)

    • I wouldn’t like to commit myself to actual quantities consumed, Ally. It does seem to me to be quite a waste of packaging with the individual sachets, but perhaps if you keep the tea for a long time it stays fresher that way, I don’t know. Also, it’s handy to have the sachets if you’re just taking a few teabags on holiday with you. There are some teas that are wrapped like that here as standard, but they tend to be the more specialist ones, not the everyday sort of black tea varieties. Your kind comments are much appreciated! :-)

  3. Another humorous and entertaining post, Lorna, just the thing to read while I have my boring old tea from unwrapped bags in a cardboard box. Although at least it is organic. As for the Twinings Orange Pekoe tea I couldn’t help but notice there are even instructions on the sachets on how to brew it ;-)
    With regards to the individual wrapping I find a few of continental European teas are like that, particularly herbal infusions, whereas here you get them all thrown in a box lol. I agree about the masses of waste which would need to be disposed of if all the tea bags where individually wrapped. However, with some teas I brought back after visiting family overseas, I found I don’t need to use as many bags as it turns out much stronger when I brew it than comparative teas from the home market. I can’t quite determine if that might be because they are individually wrapped and therefore keep their aroma better, or if there is simply more tea in the bags.
    I like your little rant about the strings. I have a habit of accidentally pulling them off when I unwrap the tea bags from the sachets….usually in a hurry…but more often than not they come undone at the bag end and pull the staple out leaving me with tea all over the kitchen counters lol.

    • Thank you Sonja, and well spotted re: the instructions. I’m glad they stipulate 100ºC for the temperature required. I was thinking the same thing about herbal teas after writing the post; quite a few companies, such as Pukka and Dr Stuart’s, package their teas in individually wrapped sachets. That’s an interesting point about the strength of the teas, I haven’t noticed that myself with the individually wrapped ones but then I don’t often buy them. Perhaps a little experiment is required to weigh the contents of tea in different teabags.

      I had to laugh at your last comment because I’ve done exactly the same thing myself; they require such delicate handling, these individually wrapped jobs.

  4. We’re going to a fabby local tea room with some friends today, and if they have Victorian sponge cake half as tantalizing as yours, you can be sure I’ll smother it in cream (wowzers!). Anyway, I digress…I appreciate your reviews involving tea in tea bags because, even though I prefer loose leaf (it just tastes better), there are many “bagged” teas that are still quite good. I agree that Twinings has some excellent “bagged” teas that make a very enjoyable hot cuppa in a pinch. I recommend their Lady Grey. Though it doesn’t go well with chocolate (gasp!), it’s lovely with sammies and other non-chocolate sweets. Hmmm. I think I’m going to make me a cuppa the stuff right now. xo

    • Ooh how lovely, Lucinda! I’ll have to check out your Facebook page anon and see if you put any pictures of the tearoom on there. (Anyone else reading this might like to have a look too: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Crazy-for-Tea-Time/.) I am a fan of the Lady Grey, but you shock me with the news that it doesn’t go well with chocolate! I can almost believe it, but now that you’ve raised the issue I will naturally have to try it out for myself.

      • Loverly Lorna, how sweet of you to include my link. (I’ll be posting about this fabby tea room next week.) And yes, I have had bad luck with Lady Grey and chocolate (sad times), but perhaps you’ll have a better outcome. One can always hope. :0) xo

        • I look forward to your postings! I had some Lady Grey this morning after you put me in the mood, but I had it with a fruit scone rather than chocolate. I’m going to have to work up to the chocolate test and try it on a day when I feel particularly strong of spirit.

  5. Great review and boy…that sponge cake looks delightful!!! In the US it seems that most run of the mill tea drinkers use the teabags (sachets) but I prefer to brew loose tea whenever possible. The convenience of the sachet when traveling is probably the attraction but I find most tea that is packaged that way is more “tea dust” and not as appealing. There are some brands that do an admirable job of using sachets but some fail dreadfully. Thanks for the info on the origin of the name also!

    • Thank you, Beth Ann. From what I hear, it sounds to me as if things are changing for the better in the US. You have some wonderful tea companies offering loose leaf options, and an amazing range if you can track down the right retailers. I do see the benefit of individual wrapping for travel, it’s when you’re making a pot of tea using a number of teabags that it can get a little vexing. This problem of ‘tea dust’ does sadly exist in teabags more than in loose tea, but as you say there are some brands that do an excellent job of bagging their tea. I don’t know if you have it in the States, but Teapigs of the UK are a prime example of excellent teabag production.

      • I agree!! We are making progress and there are quite a few companies that have really good tea now but in the basic grocery stores you don’t have much choice. I recently went to the Charleston Tea Planation in South Carolina and they do a great job and are the only working tea plantation in the US which is a great claim to fame. Love your blog and learn something new every time I visit. Thanks!

  6. I’ve got to say that the Orange Pekoe tea, however flavoursome, is overshadowed by your wonderful-looking sponge cake. Mine never seem to rise properly – maybe it’s just that I don’t expect them to! As for the tea packaging, I am always impressed when it comes in sachets – until I get to the labels and strings. As usual, your descriptions and photography are second to none!

    • You’re too kind, Jo, thank you. I’d like to recommend a recipe for Victoria sponge from the Queen of Cakes, Mary Berry. There’s even a little video of how to make it here:http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mary_berrys_perfect_34317 I think the secret is in the raising agent (she uses 2 tsps of baking powder as well as self raising flour) because it does seem to rise nicely. This last one of mine had a slight hollow in the middle, but that may have been because the mixture was too loose. She does warn against over mixing in the video, but I think there might also be the question of egg sizes. I used 3 extra large (one double-yoker!) instead of 4 medium, which might have made a difference. She’s a great believer in using spread instead of butter for a Victoria sponge, and I agree with her, the consistency seems to work well in the mix. Happy baking!

  7. Such frustration in making a pot of tea! I’m sure that was not their intent. I also thought that the “orange” of this tea referred to its flavor, which always caused me to shy away from it. (Orange flavored tea does not sound too appealing to me.) But now, knowing otherwise, I might give it a go…one cup at a time. ;-)

    • I think I’m just too impatient to use the tabs and strings properly, Robin. I’m usually so desperate for tea that any delicate handling is beyond me. I urge you to overcome your fears and give this tea a go if you come across it. I, too, would shy away from an orange flavoured tea, but there’s no citrus element whatsoever to the taste of this stuff.

  8. Midnighthues

    Your post is a lovely treat to me as soon as I wake up!!! Hmmmm… can’t resist my appetite for something like this even for breakfast :-) I prefer orange pekoe at snack time. It is light and yes… goes well with some tea time cake. When I was very young- my mom used to make just plain fluffy cake for tea time. Lovely post Lorna!
    PS- I have been super busy at work, could not comment on your other posts. Glad to know that you are almost done with your second manuscript!

    • Thank you Aparna, it is a perfect snack time tea, I agree, although I’m sure it would be lovely at any time of day. Your mom’s plain fluffy cake sounds wonderful!

      Every comment from you is a bonus, my dear. :-) I don’t like to take it for granted that anyone will leave comments on my posts but it’s always very lovely when they do. I hope you’re getting a bit of relaxation over the weekend.

  9. What a fabulous looking cake and I am sure it even tasted better than it looks! I actually prefer my tea bags wrapped individually as I often throw them in my purse, packpack, brief case, hand luggage etc. You never know when you may need a cup of tea and I like to be prepared. I believe they are meant for a one cup serving (although I have been known to get 2 cups out of one bag occassionaly.) At home I have a tea chest with an assortment of wrapped teas to offer my guests. Our big box of Tetley tea bags which we have with our dinner every night of course are not wrapped. Now I need to have a slice of cake and a cup of tea.

    • I’m very interested in your tea chest, Darlene. Is it one of these wooden ones with little compartments for a few sachets of tea in each one? I’ve seen these kinds of things in hotels and thought they looked marvellous. I agree with you on the convenience of individually wrapped teabags for carrying around with you, I think that’s where they come into their own. When I worked offshore for a few weeks at a time, part of my packing routine involved filling several plastic food bags with different sorts of teabags, but having individually wrapped ones would have been far more elegant and satisfactory.

  10. I’m very used to having tea bags individually wrapped, but they do get twisted with the spoon sometimes! That cake along with the cream looks simply delicious – you’re an excellent reviewer :)

    • I’m glad to hear that even a seasoned user of individually wrapped teabags gets into a pickle occasionally with the strings. I wonder if there’s some knack to avoiding that little problem or if a spoon coming into contact with a length of string is invariably going to get itself tangled up. Thank you for the kind comments, Meg, reviewing teas and things is quite a nice little hobby. :-)

  11. Slice of cake, please. That one looks amazing. Recipe, please.

    On the tea packaging topic: I’ve discovered that any herb, tea, or spice I get in the bulk section of my gourmet-ish grocer is stronger flavored and has more bloom than anything in boxes. Degree of freshness, I presume.

    • Here’s the recipe I use for Victoria sponge: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/mary_berrys_perfect_34317 I use slightly less fat and sugar than it says but only to make myself feel a bit virtuous. I think you’re right about the freshness of bulk products; when something has to be packaged up and distributed it’s going to take longer to reach the customer than if it’s all sent in a big sack or whatever to a retailer. Can you buy tea in scoops from a container in this grocery store?

  12. You live well, my dear. You live very well.

  13. Oh I’d forgotten about Twinings Orange Pekoe tea! We used to drink a lot of it in the States, but loose tea in those black packets. I always wondered about the name.

    Your cake looks absolutely amazing. I presume from your whipped cream disclaimer that you ate a lot more than in the photo? :-)

    • I have the impression that it’s a tea far more familiar to Americans than to Brits. I would imagine if you asked the average Brit if they’d tried it, or even heard of it, you’d get a lot of blank faces. Thank you re: the cake, and I feel a bit embarrassed about the cream because I didn’t really mean to scoff it the way I did. I tend to be very frugal with my cream consumption. (The delightful assistants, on the other hand, are open about their passion for the stuff and always intend to go the whole hog whenever possible.)

  14. Man that cake looks nice, I can’t remember the last time I had cake.

    • Thanks Mark, but you really can’t remember when you last had cake?! Now that I think of it, I can’t remember the last day I didn’t have any cake.

  15. Who was the lucky person who got to eat the portion photographed? The cake looks delicious.

  16. I must agree with so many others here that the sponge cake looks absolutely smashing! the tea sounds a bit bland for my taste but I do appreciate the review. I chuckled when you were talking about swirling the strings and tea bags around at the same time.

    • Thanks Alison, I can appreciate that Ceylon Orange Pekoe wouldn’t be everyone’s choice, it certainly is subtler and less potent than many other black teas. Those teabag strings are a menace.

  17. Now if it was me and the cream there would be double that quantity on the cake! I just love cream.
    Tea bag strings cause endless problems when aerating your compost. I have a corkscrew device for that purpose and the strings get caught on the corkscrew. As you so nicely put it , makes me not a little irate. :-)

    • There certainly was double that quantity of cream eventually (after the camera had been put away). I hadn’t thought of the teabag strings in compost problem before. Are many of your teabags attached to strings? It’s quite a hassle to snip them all off and remove staples.

  18. Delicious results and your Victorian sponge puts my sponge making skills to shaaame! Bluberries with cream, fluffy sponge & jam. What a result :)

    • I can’t believe that, I’ve seen your photos of cakes and you’re one of my foodie heroes. The blueberries gave a nice bit of contrast to the sweet cakiness of the sponge and the richness of the cream.

  19. That is an awesome looking sponge cake…and I think the amount of cream to be perfect (my favorite part) :-)

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