Like many bloggers, a steaming hot cup of tea is a necessary part of my daily routine. In fact, my housemate and I don't just have the odd box of tea. We have an entire cupboard crammed full of the stuff: Earl Grey, Lady Grey, English Breakfast, builders', peppermint, lemon and ginger, rooibos, chamomile, Darjeeling straight from India, chai, green tea, Dorchester anniversary blend. You name it, we've probably got it. What's more, over the years my tastes have become more refined. While a hot cup of Clipper and milk is one of my staples, increasingly I've been branching out, adding lemon and honey, a few crushed cardamom pods, or boiling a piece of ginger and using the water to brew my tea for example.
So when Chateau Rouge contacted me on Twitter and asked whether I'd like to sample some of their luxury teas, I jumped at the chance. I would never claim to be a tea connoisseur, and it was only recently that I realised that the art of tea was as refined and complex as that of wine, but I'd never tried this brand before and am always looking out for new teas to add to my repertoire.
They kindly sent me two packets of their loose leaf tea: Ferguson's Ceylon and Wiedouw Rooibos, both of which won gold in the 2012 Great Taste Awards. A good start.
They came well packaged in easy to open, resealable bags. These were beautifully wrapped in tissue paper and sealed with a branded sticker. I love small touches like this, which instantly make you feel like you're buying a quality product.
Here are the teas - the rooibos (redbush) tea is on the left. It's naturally caffeine free, which is perfect for evening drinking when I don't want to be kept up at night. A quick look at the website reassured me that this tea is 100% organic. The tea is entirely handpicked in South Africa and cured naturally in the sun.
On the right is the ceylon. These lovely, long dark strands come from Sri Lanka, where Chateau Rouge claim to scour the country for only the finest ceylon tea.
It's completely up to you how you prefer to take your tea. Rooibos for example, can be drunk with or without milk, and the same goes for ceylon. I opted for a splash of milk in the ceylon and drinking the rooibos black (or more accurately, red).
One of my favourite reasons for using loose leaf tea, apart from the satisfaction of doing things properly, is that it can be brewed to taste. I prefer a lighter infusion, as I find a longer brew to be a little bitter. I've also found it quite hard to find a black tea that I enjoy drinking without milk, and I'm pleased to say Ferguson's Ceylon hit the perfect balance for me, both with and without milk. This tea has medium body without being either flavourless or too tangy. It's a perfectly smooth, delicate cup of tea, which would be perfect alongside a slab of homemade carrot cake.
In the past, rooibos hasn't hit the right note with me. I love the idea of it almost being halfway between proper tea and a herbal infusion, but I find the strange, sweet taste a little too much for my palate. One sip of this luxury version told me instantly that I'd simply been relying on the wrong, mass-marketed brands. This rooibos has a gorgeous, fresh aroma. I loved its rich, reddish-brown colour and its slightly grassy taste. There was no bitterness, and its sweetness was just the right level for me. I could definitely picture myself drinking this tea all-year round, it was so refreshing.
In short, both of these teas were clear winners in my book and I'd wholeheartedly recommend giving them a try. I always write reviews honestly, and will always raise concerns or disappointments with the products I review, but I had nothing I could fault these teas on, and I'll definitely be going back for more!
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