Writers get through a higher than average quota of tea and coffee, this is because rather than drink it, we like to write within fortresses of rapidly cooling beverages where we feel safe and empowered, and should we manage to write a particularly fine sentence or two, we reward ourselves with a break and yet another fortifying cup. You’d think then, that I would be something of a tea connoisseur. I am not a tea connoisseur. The singular fact that I remember learning about tea is that when it first arrived in England, sometime during the 1800’s, we thought it was for spreading on sandwiches.
For years we’ve been drinking coffee like it was going out of fashion and now it’s really gone. OK that’s debatable, but tea is enjoying something of a renaissance and the market is awash with choice. Newby Teas fall into the specialist variety and are splendidly and unabashedly posh – the kind of tea, say, Auberon Waugh might have supped while penning some dry-witted critique. Breaking the red wax seal on the Rosehip & Hibiscus tisane was a little like opening a caddy-shaped epistle, and indeed Newby’s literature reads like one: ‘Like fine wines, Newby Teas have distinctive traits and impeccable standards.’
Of the three teas that I sampled my favourite was the black Ceylon. Ceylon is is drunk exclusively throughout the Middle East according to my father, who helpfully elaborates that adulterating tea with dairy is a definitive sign of peasantry, while pointedly eyeballing mother’s mug of (milky) PG Tips. Newby’s is a good product with characteristic citrus and very little bitterness when brewed for longer. More the Arabian stallion of teas than the chimp, it would also make a lovely iced drink in summer.
The Rosehip & Hibiscus is tart, deep-red and refreshing, packing a punch that some may find a little eye-popping, but that comes as a welcome wake-me-up for the tea masochist. I couldn’t detect the hibiscus flower, but I’ve never tasted a hibiscus flower so what do I know? Jasmine Monkey, so called because of the curling white tales of this green tea blend, gives a really rich hit of jasmine, a bit like falling face-first into a perfume counter, only more pleasant I expect.
Did I enjoy my Newby threesome? Yes I did, although I would have been interested to try one of their more unusual flavours which include saffron, chocolate, cardamom; pineapple and honey. Mine was a traditional selection and while I can genuinely say that Newby do a very good version of these teas with some rather snazzy packaging to boot, I’m still left wondering if they’re more Raj than original?