So whilst in London in July for the UK Tea Academy Tea Sommelier course, I obviously had to visit Fortnum & Masons. It was after having completed the course so was feeling very inspired by lots of different blends. One that I had tried & was desperate to get my hands on was a Ceylon OP. I’m sure I’ve said before but black teas aren’t often ones that I go for which is why I’m so pleased when I find some that I like( see Fortnum & Masons Royal Blend, Simpli Special Earl Grey & Harrods Darjeeling). The tea advisor was very helpful in suggesting which would be the best one to try & gave me a tasting/information card on the tea so I went away very happy.
Ceylon teas are those that come from Sri Lanka & are called such because the island was formerly known as Ceylon. Despite Sri Lanka now being one of the major producers of tea, the country didn’t start growing tea until after the 1860’s as their primary economic source was trading in coffee. Scotsman James Taylor (as far as I can see not a relation to Talyors of Harrogate, just a happy conscience) is credited with being the pioneer of tea in Sri Lanka as in the 1860’s he experimented with growing the first tea seedlings in a few acres of Loolecondera Estate in Kandy. After a parasite fungus destroyed almost all of the islands coffee plants, tea growing was copied by plantation owners across the island which proved extremely successful as production went from about 1,000 acres in 1875 to about 300,000 in 1900.
The islands climate is ideal for tea growing & growers often benefit from several harvest every year allowing it to be at the table for top 5 countries growing tea across the whole world. Today its production is somewhere about 330 million KG a year. It has 3 levels of gardens
- Low-grown which is sea level to 2,000 feet
- Medium-grown from 2,000 feet to 4,000 feet
- High- grown from 4,000 to 6,500 feet.
The tea I picked from F&M is a blend of leaves from different areas & is described on the F&M website as ‘a touch of delicate high-grown tea is added to the more robust low-grown leaves to create a medium-strength brew‘. It’s recommended as best enjoyed as an afternoon tea which can have milk or without. Though it is called Orange Pekoe, there’s no orange flavour actually in the tea, that name is a reference to the size of the leaves which are meant to be the largest leaf grade containing long pointed leaves which have been harvest just before opening into leaves. Pekoe likely comes from the Chinese work pek-ho which is the tiny white hairs n the underside of a variety of tea bush. The orange in it probably comes from Hollands Royal House of Orange who were the first nation to import & re-export tea.
I boiled the kettle to 90 though it does say boiling so a normal kettle would work fine with this tea. I estimated brewing time as I moved all my bits to take better pictures but it has about 3 minutes of brewing.
The dry leaves are a clean black colour with consistent sized leaves though they aren’t the longest or largest I’ve ever seen so I think the name is more of a name rather than a description. If anything I’d say it was a Pekoe or even a Pekoe Soughing which are coarser grades of leaves. However they look lovely with a clean smell of dried wood, hay & dark brown sugar. It smells rich but natural.
The wet leaves now have the aroma of the dark brown sugar more with a hint of slightly damp wood just after it rains. Its still very pleasant & fresh with that richness as well. Every smell is slightly different but only to add the complexity in the aroma & flavour from the tea. They have changed colour to a dark coppery woody brown which reflects the scent of the wet leaves.
The colour of the liquor is a beautiful bright coppery red just like a brand new 2 penny piece. The smell is a sweet woody scent with delicious notes of caramelised almost burnt sugar on a woody fire. It smells quite smooth & that is translated in the taste as well with the sweet caramel taste there as well. It has a slight tartness to it on the tip of the tongue though I think that might be due to partial overdrawing but its not unpleasant. The natural sweetness reminds me of drinking tea when I was child but its more sophisticated as its not milky. I could understand some wanting just a drop of milk in this tea but actually I think its a distinctive & moreish flavour.
If your not completely sold on the strength of breakfast tea, prefer something without milk with a rich flavour, this is definitely one to try. I really love the complex mouth feel & its definitely a good pick me up in the afternoon without any need for cake (but I’m sure I’d find an excuse for the slice!)
I think this blend needs to be a loose leaf tea otherwise you wouldn’t get the same richness from the flavours if you used a tea bag. However its probably on the more affordable end of loose leaf buying so one I’d definitely recommend!