dsc01141-e1422010100700

In the UK, where I’m from, people get really passionate about tea. It’s the first thing you offer someone who is a visitor to your home, and remembering how someone likes their tea made is one way of showing that you care about them. We’re also fussy about the ritual behind making tea (you should see what happens in my house when someone puts the milk in first). In this way, we’re kinda like the Japanese.

In Japan, they drink green tea rather than black tea, but their attitude towards it matches ours. It’s both something for all-day long refreshment, and for special occasions. They’re also really into the ceremony behind it, with chadou, or tea ceremony, being a celebrated art in Japan.

So, what happens when the tea companies try to make green tea happen in the UK? A whole lot of added flavourings, that’s what! Join us after the jump for a taste test!

In conducting this taste test, I had a hypothesis in mind – the British public can’t (in general) handle the bitter taste of green tea without first mixing it with other flavours they find more palatable. Today we’re going to be tasting four types of flavoured green tea: Salted Caramel, Caramelised Apple, Gingerbread, and Pineapple and Grapefruit. Let’s get started, shall we?

Salted Caramel Green Tea

PROS: Lots of flavour
Nice subtle aroma
CONS: Artifically sweetened somehow :(
A bit sickly

Caramelised Apple Green Tea

PROS: Not too sweet – refreshing apple flavour
CONS: Just tastes like apple-y tea

Gingerbread Green Tea

PROS: Amazing gingerbread aroma
Genuinely tastes like gingerbread
CONS: Taste isn’t subtle enough for everyday drinking

Pineapple and Grapefruit Green Tea

PROS: Strong fruity flavour and aroma
CONS: Stringless teabag is awkward to fish out
A little sour/citrusy

In general, the only one of Twinings’ green tea offerings that I really liked was the Gingerbread tea, but that might be because I happen to really like gingerbread. The Salted Caramel tasted decidedly artificial, and the Pineapple and Grapefruit was overly sour for something like tea. The strong flavours also completely washed out the taste of the green tea itself. Overall, I wasn’t bowled over by these takes on a Japanese classic.

While these kinds of flavoured green teas aren’t sold in Japan, some adventurous Twitter users in the country have been trying out some of the more unusual kinds of green tea you can buy abroad. The general consensus? “Weird, but good”:

▲ “Only sold by Twinings in Australia, it’s Green Tea and Lemon! I asked a friend to bring some back for me. To a Japanese person it’s quite a strange flavour but it’s very drinkable!”

https://twitter.com/its_me_izumi/status/521999312037744641

▲ “Organic tea! Certified in both the UK and Japan. Green tea and pomegranate might be a hit with the girls!”

▲ “It’s green tea but it tastes like mango. This is British green tea! WEIRD!”

▲ “Mighty Leaf trial packs. Today I’m trying Tropical Green Tea. It’s a bit of a weird blend but it’s really good! I’m excited to see what else is available.”

It’s worth noting also that cold, flavoured teas in cartons (including some green tea mixes) are sold at conbinis in Japan, but they taste more like fruit juice, and are a different thing altogether to regular green tea. Today we’re talking about hot, unsweetened green teas you can brew up yourself. Also, it seems that even the aforementioned cold juice teas tend to slightly weird some Japanese people out:

https://twitter.com/rokotsu_gayoku/status/475061763264626688

▲ “Lipton’s Peach Green Tea is pretty good! Mostly tastes like peach but with a subtle tea aftertaste. Definitely a very strange taste.”

▲ “Muscat Green Tea, which tastes weird”

Before we wrap up our little taste test, there was one more thing that I had to try. It seems strange to me that a country so set in its tea-drinking ways would essentially try to turn healthy green tea into a speciality drink rather than simply substituting it for their beloved but less-healthy black tea. What if I brewed up a cup of green tea exactly as I would usually, by adding milk and sugar? Could this be an as-yet undiscovered taste sensation?

Green Tea with Milk and Sugar

dsc01107-e1421922529353

I’m using semi-skimmed milk (1.7 per cent) and two sachets of white sugar I filched from a coffee shop. Also, I’m using a variety of green tea from one of the more “everyday” UK tea brands, Tetley -beloved by builders and office workers alike.

▼ Green tea with milk. Here we go…

dsc01110-e1421922591893

Verdict: You know when you give a baby something it doesn’t like to drink and it all comes splooshing out of their mouth as their eyes go all googly, and they make this horrible gurgling noise? Yeah, that’s what happened when I tried to drink this…monstrous creation. It tastes like nothing so much as slightly aromatic sugared milk, a total affront to my British senses! Bleurgh!

Conclusion: It seems that, for those Brits who really can’t make themselves like the pure, clean taste of unadulterated green tea, the only option is to try to make it taste a bit more familiar. Clearly, simply adding the usual milk and/or sugar creates a monstrous abomination that’s only fit for swilling lavatories. Therefore, the British tea companies seem to have decided to mix in flavours that everyone in the UK likes, such as gingerbread (like mum used to make!) and caramel apples (just like on Bonfire Night!). There’s probably also a bit of coffee-company envy going on here. “They have salted caramel lattes? Two can play at that game!” In general, it’s not really surprising that Twinings JP sticks to selling mostly black tea varieties in Japan. We’re not sure how well these flavoured green teas would go down with the Japanese tea-buying market. Then again, Japan is the land of the weird flavour combination, so who knows?

All photos © Evie Lund/RocketNews24