English Garden Tea

Being rather partial to a tearoom, I used to think I really ought to aim to open one of my own.

Then I realised that if I was providing tasty fare to the hungry customer, I wouldn’t be sitting at a table being waited on.

I had already found my tearoom niche: walk in, nosh up, walk out.

Very fortunately for me, not everyone thinks like this.

Blessed are those angels in human form who invest time, energy and money in delightful tearooms into which I can wander when in need of sustenance, and from which I can depart when replete.

Hallelujah!

If I were such an angel, and wondering how to go about becoming a successful tearoom provider, I might well turn to the English Garden Tea Room company to assist me.

I follow this company on Twitter and they recently very kindly sent me a stack of teas to taste:

I wasn’t expecting this volume or choice, and I was quite astonished when I received the boxes.

Rather fortuitously, my brother and his family came to visit at Easter and when my brother’s partner learned that I’d been sent all this tea and was feeling a bit overwhelmed about tasting it properly, she sprang into action.

She made a cup of each of the eight English Garden teas and labelled the brews with their packaging:

She then brought me, my mum and my brother (who were lounging around chatting) each tea in turn, and recorded our scores out of 10, as well as recording her own. Each tea was tasted black, to keep things on an even keel (ignoring my dear mama’s repeated comments of the ‘I’d like this if it had milk in it’ variety).

Later on, my dad and my sister appeared and also tasted the teas, marking down their scores on the little pieces of paper that had been provided for the purpose:

Before tasting I had my own ideas about which teas I’d like best; my preconceptions were overturned quite spectacularly.

The eight teas were:

Assam

Camomile

Darjeeling

Earl Grey

English Breakfast

Green

Lemon

Being an enthusiastic consumer of black teas, but rarely venturing into herbal arenas, I assumed that the black teas would be those I’d prefer. I was pretty much convinced that two of my most frequently chosen beverages – Assam and Darjeeling – would top my list of English Garden teas.

Here, however, was the order in which I liked them, with my score out of 10 in brackets:

Earl Grey (9)

Camomile (9)

Peppermint (8)

Darjeeling (7.5 – I just couldn’t decide on 7 or 8)

Green (4)

Lemon (4)

Assam (2)

English Breakfast (1)

There were many views and comments on each tea and although on some occasions other people completely disagreed with me (rather shocking, since when I taste a tea and make a pronouncement about it I assume I’m right), I was delighted to witness the passion with which each taster spouted their own opinion.

9 was the highest score given for any tea (2 scores of 9 for Camomile), and 0 the lowest (1 score of 0 each for Camomile, Earl Grey and Green).

I didn’t attempt to guess the outcome prior to tasting, but if I had I certainly wouldn’t have put any money on peppermint coming home in a blaze of glory.

This is the order in which they were rated, with a score out of 60 in brackets (6 tasters each scoring out of 10):

Peppermint (37)

Camomile (33)

Earl Grey (31)

Lemon (30)

Assam (30)

Green (27)

Darjeeling (27)

English Breakfast (25)

Tasting tea is all very well (and it is, to my mind, an excellent way to pass a Saturday afternoon), but sooner or later one needs a bit of stodge to balance out all the liquid.

What with it being Easter and all, I had baked a Simnel cake (which, for anyone not in the know, is a fruit cake traditionally decorated with marzipan and with a secret layer of marzipan in the middle of the cake; the marzipan on top is often browned under the grill or with a blow torch):

The making of Simnel cake apparently dates back to Medieval times. The cake is traditionally decorated with 11 balls of marzipan on top, symbolising each of Jesus’s 12 apostles minus the traitor, Judas Iscariot.

I’m a bit late to be wishing anyone a Happy Easter, but I hope that wherever you spent it there were tasty treats involved.

 

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Categories: Baking, Darjeeling, Earl Grey tea, Easter, Fruit cake, Photography, Tea, Tea tasting, Teacup, Tearooms | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 57 Comments

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57 thoughts on “English Garden Tea

  1. What a great way to spend an afternoon

  2. I love your tea tasting post —

  3. I love your teacups :)

  4. Well I do like the look of the Simnel cake. Bet it tasted as good as it looks too. I’m with your mum about having milk in tea I must confess.

    • Thanks David. Tea certainly does taste different with milk in it. Ideally we would have had a cup of each tea black, and a cup of each with milk but that would have been twice as much work!

  5. I’ve had many people tell me that I should open my own tea room, as well. But I’m with you — I have no desire to go into the restaurant business. I’d much rather be the host at a gathering in my own home (which is great fun), or be pampered at one of the many tea rooms we’ve been lucky enough to frequent. Yes, thank God for all the angels in human form who are willing to toil away to keep us fortified with tea, sammies, and treats. Hallelujah and Amen to that!

    • I can well imagine people urging you to open a tearoom, and if you did I’m sure it would be a very fine establishment, but of course I completely empathise with your position. In any case, it’s lovely to be able to get your beautiful teacups out for chums at your house, and to have time to enjoy the creations of other people in their delightful tearooms. As you so aptly put it, Amen to that!

  6. How fun! I would love to do a tea tasting sometime.

  7. love your Simnel cake! how delicious … I will have to do a little research on it. I had never heard of it before now; thanks for the picture and the info. how fun to do your tea-tasting. i confess to being somewhat partial to herbal teas myself and although i do find chamomile tea a tad flowery, i like lemon and peppermint very much.

    • Thank you Alison. If you like fruit cake and marzipan, Simnel cake is a match made in heaven. I’m not sure just how herbal any of these teas were. The peppermint tasted to me like a black tea with peppermint oil in it rather than a truly herbal concoction, and the lemon likewise. As for the camomile, it was certainly different from other camomile teas I’ve had.

  8. That is a very interesting experiment! I shall have to look for their Earl Grey and Darjeeling, and I might try the Camomile although it isn’t a taste that I’d expect to like in a tea! That is certainly a very generous tasting box from Twinings – but after all you are giving them the best kind of publicity. I love the look of your simnel cake – it is years since I made one, and I’d almost forgotten about them. Yes, tearoom angels everywhere deserve special recognition for their hard work and talents. Angels from Assam sounds like a great name for a tearoom!

    • I have just realised the supplier was English Garden Teas and not Twinings – sorry! Not paying attention! :)

      • Easily done, there are so many teas and tea companies that confusion amongst even the most attentive of punters is understandable. Strangely enough, although I’m not a huge fan of camomile normally, I did like this one a lot. I was a bit annoyed with myself for making the marzipan covering of the cake a bit too big so that it flopped over the sides, but I suppose if you like marzipan that’s no bad thing. If I ever saw a tearoom called Angels from Assam I’d be inside like a shot!

  9. Wow, that cake is gorgeous!!!

    What a fun family! I’m sure you had a delightful one, but Happy Easter to your and yours, too.

  10. Very interesting that the peppermint came out on top! I love the stuff but would say that I probably prefer a black tea over an herbal. I’m impressed with the amount of tea they sent, but it’s really quite fitting. You ARE the tea and tearoom aficionado as far as I’m concerned.

    Now let’s talk cake. WOW! Beautiful and sounds very yummy.

    • The peppermint result was most surprising, but it was quite an unusual specimen. Rather than tasting like peppermint teas I’ve had in the past, this one tasted like eating a peppermint while drinking a cup of black tea. It left a fresh aftertaste in the mouth, much as you might have after eating a mint sweet.

      You’re too kind with your compliments, my only credentials for tea tasting are that I drink a lot of the stuff. A fruit cake must be a good option for veganising, since most of it’s dried fruit and nuts, and marzipan is quite often vegan isn’t it?

  11. Lovely post Lorna! I hope Spring arrived in your abode :-)
    Wow I would be totally confused with that many varieties of tea. Happy Easter :-)

    • Thank you Aparna, I wish I could say that spring has arrived but as I look out of the window at the falling snow I find it hard to believe! On the up side, this sort of weather is perfect for being indoors consuming large quantities of tea. :-)

  12. Maggie Wingett

    I must admit I am most surprised by the high score allocated to Peppermint as it (Peppermint) is one of my least favourite teas. Just goes to show that one should always be open to new tastes :-)

    • Astonishing, isn’t it? I was most surprised. As you say, one needs to keep an open mind, you just never know what sort of taste sensation you’re going to experience with a new tea. There is potential joy in every newly tasted cup!

  13. Oh my goodness Lorna look at your marzipan balls! What a triumph. I’m not sure what kind of tea I’d like to wash down that cake with, but I’m a bit of a traditionalist like you. But…I did have a particularly fine Lemon Verbena with a iece of carrot cake at the St. Pancras Hotel…it was fab and the waiters were charming…a bit pricey but worth it for a treat. :)

    • That’s very kind, thank you. I washed this cake down with camomile tea, a most unusual departure for me, but I think Earl Grey would have been an excellent alternative. Your lemon verbena and carrot cake sounds delicious, and charming waiters to boot! A very nice treat indeed.

  14. What a fun family thing to do on Easter day. The cake looks wonderful. I had not heard of a Simnel cake before. Love learning about new things on your post.

    • Thanks Darlene, perhaps Simnel cake is a British tradition, I suppose it might well be. It was really nice to have a little family do at Easter.

  15. Wow…that is a gorgeous cake … I love marzipan. Am impressed with this one.
    and all that tea…what fun to taste, so nice you had help. I was also surprised that a black tea did not score the best….but peppermint is such strong taste that it must have stood out. Still, I think I will stick to my morning black teas.

    • Thanks Linda, if you like marzipan (and fruit cake) this is the cake for you! I doubt I’d have done as good a job of tea tasting without help, I was most grateful for it. I have my suspicions about the peppermint tea, I think it might well have been a black tea with peppermint flavouring, but there were no ingredients listed so it remains a mystery.

  16. Gail Wallace

    Hi Lorna and friends, I can verify the cake was wonderful and very filling, I did not need any supper that evening! As for the history of the seminal cake the 12 disciple is the one that is cooked in the middle ooh that’s gota hurt and not particularly Vegan. ;-) lots of love Gail x

    • Hi Gail, great to have your comment and now I can officially thank you for your wonderful tea tasting organisation – you are a star! :-) I didn’t know that about the 12th apostle, that makes for a much better story.xo

  17. It’s so interesting that peppermint won – I’d like to try some! And the cake looked too pretty to cut. What a great family activity… :)

  18. I know exactly what you mean Lorna, I hardly ever complain is restaurants et al. I have worked in the industry too long and generally have a vague, but well meant, sympathy for anybody waiting tables, slogging away in kitchens, piping spirals on cupcakes etc. What a great bunch of hard working souls. We should have a national holiday for them and give them all loads of cake (and maybe tips, but thats not a very British way of behaving really). Great post. Happy days, lee (PS – I am slightly biased on this subject as I am still embroiled in its madness)

    • I agree with that idea Lee, I think a national day for those in the catering industry is long overdue. People notice when they get particularly poor service, but how often is really good service rewarded? I’m sure it’s often a thankless task serving the public, and not very well paid at the waiter/waitress level. Keep up the good work!

  19. It is strange how how preconceived ideas can be altered when there is a blind test. How lucky to have someone to organise the tasting for you so you weren’t tempted to “cheat”. :-)
    The cake looks delicious. I had no idea of the story behind the Simnel cake, thank you for sharing that.

    • I think it made a difference having someone else organising it all. We did know which teas were which, but not having brewed them myself I perhaps hadn’t had time to form an opinion prior to tasting, which was a good thing. It’s interesting that the tradition of Simnel cake has lasted through the centuries, but I suppose when you hit on a good idea, why change it?

  20. I do something similar but the real ale and bitters.

    • A very nice hobby. I’ve been to the odd ale festival myself and I used to enjoy tasting whiskies. I seem to have swapped alcoholic beverages for tea these days. I’m wearing knitted cardigans more, too, now that I think about it.

  21. here here Rigmover wine I can understand lol

  22. Hi Zlotna, apologies as I seem to have missed your beautiful masterpiece of marzipan & cake recently. How very fortunate that your family of tea coinissuers happened to be together over the Easter break (and delicious too!) I do enjoy a nice outing for a proper spot of tea and like yourself I often wonder if I’d be cut out to run a little shop…and then I think of my dreadfully ravenous appetite for cake and all nice things and I decide it’s be better if I left it to the experts, lol ;)

    • Zlotna! I love it, that can be my alien name. :-) I think you would do a wonderful job of running an eatery, and if I was anywhere near it I’d be popping in regularly. Taking tea is one of life’s little pleasures isn’t it? If you like tea, that is, which I know you do.

      • Oh no! This is the problem when I use predictive text late at night… Whoops! It would be a rather great alien name though and yes (fellow tea lover) and cake aficionado too ;) Have a lovely day!

  23. Hi, Lorna and hello to those commenting on this Blog. Thank you for taking the time to review our teas and I hope that, overall, you were impressed. We are very proud of them, even the English Breakfast, which did not score so well! Do please come and find us at http://www.englishgarden.co.uk and check out our beautiful range of tea accessories as well. There is currently a 20% off sale on some items. If anyone wants any more information about our plans for Tea Rooms, then please get in touch via the website. Happy drinking!

    • Thank you again for the teas! Perhaps surprisingly, of all of them the English Breakfast is disappearing most quickly (my Dad has it every morning, he really likes it). As you know, tea drinkers tend to be quite definite about what constitutes a good cup of tea. For me, that usually means a strong tea, especially if it’s a black one, but there are at least two members of my family who sit at the opposite end of the scale, and all of us would like to think we know what we’re talking about. Horses for courses, and you definitely surprised me with your camomile and peppermint, not to mention the excellent Earl Grey. A fine selection indeed!

  24. Simnel cake! Now you’re talking.
    You do realise that half the population of Britain will now be following the tea company on Twitter with high hopes? Not me. I should be tweeting Nescafe.
    I don’t mind the odd fruit tea of the blackberry and vanilla ilk, just to ring the changes, but tea itself does nothing for me, and I can’t even abide the smell of Earl Grey. So sorry to disagree with your esteemed opinion. :)

    • Half the population of Britain? That’d be rather gratifying. You should tweet Nescafe and wangle yourself a free taster. My sister would agree with you on the Earl Grey front, she wouldn’t even try it, she didn’t want to go near it! Each to their own, and variety is the spice of life, eh what?

  25. That looks like great fun! And how interesting that your preferences surprised yourself as well. I’d read about simnel cakes, but have never seen one (much less tasted any). The book “Festivals, Family and Food” says that simnel cakes were traditionally baked by daughters in service, to show off their skills. They were brought home to their mothers on Mothering Sunday, the middle Sunday in Lent.
    How long before I can convince my daughter to make me one? I would have to teach her to bake first – something she isn’t very keen on, oddly. There’s time yet…

    • A simnel cake would be a lovely present for Mother’s Day, if the mother liked marzipan (mine doesn’t, although I think she managed a bit of cake okay). There’s certainly time for baking skills to be picked up, you’re never too old to start. Does she like cakes? That’s the nub of the thing, I think. My own desire for cakes and scones was what encouraged me to start making them, although I must admit I watched my mum do it from an early age so the idea was probably deepy ingrained from toddlerhood.

  26. Wow, the peppermint came out on top! Was it a pure peppermint, or a peppermint infused black tea?

    That cake would win a prize out here at our local Show for sure, Lorna! :D
    Much love to you xx

    • I think it was a black tea with peppermint oil in it, but I’m not entirely sure because there were no ingredients listed. It tasted very like eating a mint while drinking a cup of black tea, I thought. Thank you for your kind words about the cake! :-)

      • Obviously it’s a good thing to drink black tea and eat a mint at the same time! LOL
        I think I’d prefer pure peppermint, but I would like a slice of that cake!!!

  27. Lady Grey is my favorite tea – maybe the extra hit of bergamot. I keep it in regular and decaf. But the English tea ritual is so elegant. Plus the tea cups are precious.

    • Lady Grey is something special, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a decaf version though, I’ll have to look out for that. I agree with you about the tea ritual, it’s a wonderful thing!

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