Unearthing little-known, quirky teas has become something of an obsession for me: I’ve spent countless hours on holidays and trips seeking out exotic and obscure blends. But still, I had yet to meet my ideal tea, and recently, while at afternoon tea at the Pompadour in Edinburgh with a fellow tea-obsessed friend, I was ready to concede defeat. My friend, armed with her Assam and a preserve-smeared scone, listened intently as I reeled off a list of my top teas – Dilmah’s Sri Lankan Doombagastalawa Estate ($1.57 for 75g from Odel), or a Pai Mu Tan white peach tea (£4.99 for 50g from Eteaket), or TWG’s Singapore loose-leaf breakfast tea (£14.95 for 100g from Harrods) – but I couldn’t name a standout recommendation.
A teapot later, and resigned to the fact that one tea cannot triumph over all others, we stopped at the Gosford Bothy Farm Shop where, among countrymen clad in muddied Hunters, to the left of some piled-high vegetables, I found an unflatteringly-named product called Teapigs. Admittedly, I bought a couple of packets as a joke; in fact, I had stumbled upon my tea nirvana.
Housing flavorsome whole leaves in a Tea Temple – a silk mesh teabag that optimises infusion – Teapigs offer amazing avant-garde blends, such as Chilli Chai, Spiced Winter Red Tea, Rooibos Crème Caramel, and, my absolute favourite, Chocolate Flake Tea, a divine combination of silky chocolate shavings and aromatic black leaves. These are not perhaps teas that will appeal to tea purists – although Teapigs also cater for such palates, with varieties such as Silver Tips white tea (harvested at first light in China’s Fujian province to catch the new shoots) – but for me they hit the spot perfectly.
Even those who seek the kick of coffee are catered for: the Macha Green Tea, a Japanese wonder-blend from the Nishio region, delivers a coffee-like boost, but without the caffeine, as well as containing many times more antioxidants than the average green tea. And all are available online, from £3.49. Perfect.