Tetley tea is one of the UK’s leading tea brands. It has been around since 1837 and is still going strong 182 years on. But is it really the nation’s best builder’s brew? For those of your reading this outside the British Isles, ‘builder’s tea’ refers to “normal” tea. i.e. black tea: usually a blend of different variants of Camelia sinesis housed in a tea bag. (If you want to delve deeper into different types of tea, check out our previous blog post). It’s affectionately called builder’s because this is the type of tea construction workers like to drink: usually taken extremely strong and extremely sweet. ‘Brew’ is another term for a cup of tea, as in brewing tea. Brew can also be used to refer to a beer, as in brewing beer. Ah, the nuances of British English! Anyway, we thought it’d be fun and interesting to taste test a variety of key British tea brands and see which brand really is the best.
How we determined whether or not Tetley tea is the best black tea
To see whether Tetley tea is, in fact, the best builder’s brew we blind tasted (we didn’t know which brands were which as we tasted them) eight different teas, judging them on their taste, pleasantness and ability to hit our tea-spot. We brewed all teas in the same quantity of water, for the same brew time, removed the tea bags and then added the same quantity of semi-skimmed milk to each cup. NB: This is by no means a water-tight scientific experiment. And as we all know, taste is a very subjective thing. Read on for our rankings and impressions.
First: Good and Proper Tea, Brockley Breakfast
Good and Proper tea is a small (but growing), London based tea business whose focus is on high quality tea. It’s in the name, really. They started out selling tea at festivals from a van, and now have a cafe and a presence in many shops and cafes across the capital. Brockley is where G&P’s founder calls home, hence Brockley Breakfast. We loved the recognisable Darjeeling flavour, aromatic notes and all round mouth feel of this comforting yet exquisite brew.
“Good British Tea since 1903”. Seems that it isn’t just Tetley tea that’s been a tea market mainstay for many, many moons. Our second favourite of the builder’s teas we tried, the Typhoo brew was initially a little insipid, but the more we tasted it, the more we appreciated its subtle flavour and well balanced palate.
Third: Tetley tea
Turns out Tetley tea is the third best builder’s brew according to Herbaceous Blends. With its slightly floral notes and light body, it’s on the more delicate side of a builder’s brew.
Fourth: PG Tips
PG Tips is one of the most widely drunk tea brands (if our limited network of friends and family are anything to go by). This cuppa packs a distinctive nutty flavour, eschewing any bitterness from the tea tannins. A lovely smooth mouthfeel and deep colour.
Light bodied and delicate in flavour, perhaps a bit too much so. We prefer our builder’s brews with a bit more oomph.
Sixth: Yorkshire Tea
Yorkshire Tea is designed to withstand the hard waters of the North of England, but makes a suitable tea brand for Londoners too with our hard water. A little cardboardy on the palate, unsatisfying and thin, we’re afraid to say.
Seventh: PG Tips Decaf
We didn’t think it were possible for a tea to have malty, hoppy notes, but PG Tips decaf definitely reminded us of a craft beer in flavour. FYI: decaf tea still contains trace amounts of caffeine: read our blog about caffeine in tea, for more info.
Last: Tea Pigs
What Tea Pigs possesses in pretty packaging and ethos, its English Breakfast tea lacks in body and flavour.
Want to challenge our results? Conduct your own Tetley Tea Taste Test and share your results with us. Otherwise, comment below to let us know your favourite brand of builder’s brew.