Darjeeling – teabag or leaf?

For several years now my breakfast brew of choice has been Darjeeling tea. I take it black, brewed for three or four minutes.

I started out with Twinings leaf tea, before noticing that my local supermarket (Tesco) produced their own teabag version. After recently winning a packet of Whittard’s Darjeeling teabags on Twitter (courtesy of @hashtagteaclub – thank you kindly, chaps) my tea cupboard is now graced with all three brands. Here they are, side by side:

three Darjeelings

Left to right: Tesco teabags, Whittard teabags and Twinings leaf tea.

Yesterday, and again this morning, I had a bash at the newest arrival, the Whittard teabags.

Whittard box with teabags

One of the plus points about the packaging, to my mind, is this quote from a British entertainment legend on the back of the pack.

Noel Coward quote

I brewed the tea as usual, adding a little cold water so that I could drink it straight away.

mug with tea box

My first sip was very pleasant, but hardly distinguishable from the Tesco teabags. It was smooth, light and just the thing I want first thing in the morning. If I hadn’t known it was a different brand I don’t think I’d have guessed it was anything other than Tesco’s own.

On most mornings, my main objective is to get those all important first sips of tea down the parched gullet asap, and for that reason I usually fall back on a teabag. After this taste test, I would rate Whittard alongside Tesco for flavour, smoothness and ease of preparation. To my mind, there’s really nothing to choose between them, except that the Whittard tea is about four times the price of the Tesco version.

When it comes to overall flavour and full-bodiedness, however, the Twinings leaf tea leaves the teabags behind. Not being constrained within a bag, and possibly being of higher quality, the leaf tea seems to me to have a livelier and more rounded taste, is more satisfying on the palate and I suspect puts a slightly jauntier spring in my post-breakfast step.

By mid-morning I’m fully prepared to put in the extra effort required for leaf tea production, but I will happily use up the remainder of my Whittard Darjeeling teabags to wash down my breakfast bagel over the next couple of weeks.



20 thoughts on “Darjeeling – teabag or leaf?

  1. Loose tea is always better in my opinion, but like you, I often use a tea bag. On a lazy rainy day, a cup of brewed loose tea leaves, is a bit like heaven, isn´t it?

  2. What a wonderful post about tea Lorna 🙂 I tend to just drink it, I’m definitely not a connoisseur, I never knew that people could tell the difference between different brands. I do enjoy some teas more than others though, earl grey is one of my favourites. On another subject, did you have a nice relaxing holiday?

    • Thanks, Andy. I wouldn’t necessarily know which brand was which by tasting, but sometimes there are differences in flavour between teas that come from the same area. I suppose each plantation in Darjeeling has its own microclimate which contributes to the taste of the tea. Earl Grey is a fine tea, have you ever tried Lady Grey? Thank you for asking about my holiday, I had a lovely time and hope to post about it anon.

      • I hadn’t thought about that, the idea of micro climates and soils etc affecting teas from a particular area – some geologist I am! Lol! I’ve not tried Lady grey, but I gather it’s a slightly less fragrant tea. As I said previously, I’m a bit of a pleb when it comes to tea, I add milk to my Earl Grey 😦 Glad you had a good holiday Lorna, I’m now looking forward to seeing a post or two about it 🙂

        • Ha ha, I don’t think you’re a pleb with the tea. You take it how you like it, that’s all. I remember the first time someone gave me Earl Grey with milk in it. I admit, I was pretty horrified, but then I thought if that was the way they liked it then it was natural they should serve it to me that way. I still prefer it black myself, but that’s just my taste. It wasn’t as bad as the time I got peppermint tea with milk in. Definitely not my cup of tea. For my palate, Lady Grey has a more complex and interesting flavour than Earl Grey, but then I’ve never tried it with milk. 😉 I hope I’ll get round to posting about Cumbria some time, there were plenty of good tearooms.

          • Ouchh!! Even I wouldn’t drink peppermint tea with milk, I’m amazed it didn’t curdle. Which reminds me of being in Israel as a kid, and putting yoghurt in my tea, because there wasn’t any milk on the table, and I hadn’t ever come across Greek yoghurt at that time! Lol! It was a sort of lemon tea, and it definitely curdled, INSTANTLY!! 🙂 I imagine there were some wonderful tearooms in Cumbria, another beautiful part of the world 🙂

            • Oh dear, that sounds quite horrific, the sort of thing that might put you off tea for life. I’m glad it hasn’t done that to you. Anywhere with good tearooms gets the thumbs up from me. 🙂

  3. I’ve often suspected that leaf tea would win over tea bags every time. But tea bags make you so lazy! Interesting that there’s not much difference between Whittard’s and Tesco Finest. Glad to hear (via the comments above) that you had a nice holiday.

    • Thank you, Jo, it was great to get away for a bit. I was interested to note the similarities between Whittard and Tesco, because I think I assumed the Whittard teabags would taste better. The price difference is quite amazing.

  4. We too drink tea bags (… you know what I mean) first thing in the morning, but in the afternoon I often try out one of the many collected loose leaf teas in our cupboards. I am amazed how well some of them have survived the years. I like them almost as much for the aroma as for the finished product.

  5. I am addicted to a loose leaf tea that comes from a tea blender in Vermont. It is truly wonderful with a deep flavor…. slightly malty. Great with milk, but I also drink it straight up. I do use tea bags sometimes and they are so convenient but there is nothing like that brewed, loose leaf flavor😊.

  6. Sometimes the thing that drives me to get up in the morning is knowing I get to steep a lovely pot of tea…it really does make my day. I enjoyed your post, and also find it interesting to taste various brands of teas against each other…loose, whole leaf wins out most often but there are some stunning whole leaf teas in individual bags that I now get for a quick cup and they are just as wonderful.

    • Perhaps I need to change my attitude to morning tea preparation. I’m usually overpowered by the desperate need to drink it that the preparation loses out. I agree with you about whole leaf teas in bags, they can be every bit as good as loose leaf.

  7. Oh and one more thing….my husband (whose mother was English, from the Suffolk area) just loves darjeeling and I do too…just steeped a couple minutes so as not to have it turn bitter…it never needs milk and is truly the champagne of teas for us…

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