We get this question fairly often, even when we've not changed the profile of the tea. We say the 'profile' because it's important to remember that unlike so many other beverages which are 'made' from a specific recipe of fixed ingredients that can be precisely controlled... tea is a natural agricultural product which by nature changes with the seasons. Depending on the variance of rainfall, sunshine, temperature and soil conditions the same tea from the same tea estate can differ. For many tea enthusiasts this is exactly why they love such a diverse and natural product... like wine it is influenced by Terroir.
However, the mass production of tea and the commoditization of tea over the centuries has resulted in a demand for a consistent product and even the tea aficionados will admit that when they find their favourite everyday cuppa they want to know they can come back to that familiar comfort anytime. The skill of our Tea Tasters in Sri Lanka is amongst the best in the world and it is their key focus to maintain both quality and consistency. Because of the changing conditions, they taste approximately 11,000 teas every single week from around Sri Lanka to find the exact character required to match the specific taste 'profile' in our English Breakfast for example. They do this by tasting up against older samples of the blend and rigorous quality control methods.
As superhuman as tasting 11,000 teas week after week might sound, they are of course only human and the Camellia Sinensis plant is simply a product of nature... so there is potential for variations to occur. This would inevitably be the same if you stick with any brand of tea for long enough and if not you have to question not so much the calibre of their tea tasters but the quality of their tea, for the best tea has more pronounced character and fresh flavour and therefore the harder to keep it consistent. If there's one thing we value over consistency it would be freshness and flavour.
When people say the tea tastes different we don't doubt that can happen, though in many cases the query has been prompted by a change to the design of the pack. We understand how that can lead people to think the product has changed but the two are never related. On the rare occasion that we deliberately changed the core tea itself, we do so for good reason and we splash the message that it's a new tea on the front of the pack. An example of this is when we changed from sourcing our green teas from China to producing them ourselves at the home of Dilmah in Sri Lanka. We communicated this prominently on pack and in media. Pack design changes happen every few years for a number of reasons.
We pay close attention to complaints of this nature when they come in because it really is critical to our ongoing success to deliver to our long term and loyal tea drinkers that familiar and satisfying comfort.
On occasions, we have worked with a customer to discover that the cause has come down to the smallest variation in either the environment the tea is being prepared in or the way the tea has been prepared. Often it is just a small difference which they hadn't realized could make such an impact on the taste such as the water itself.
A few common factors that can change the taste of your tea are:
- Water quality, changes in your surrounding water supply, piping etc. Levels of chlorination have a huge effect on the taste of tea. Even with good quality water in New Zealand, we have a lot of changing water qualities and some regions vary the amount of chlorination to the point that you might taste it in the afternoon but not in the morning. TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) levels vary a lot in New Zealand which is why in some places you get more limescale built up. This hugely impacts the taste of tea, water with higher minerals makes the tea taste heavier and look darker. Water with lower TDS makes tea taste lighter, brighter and doesn't look as dark. Whenever possible use a filter for your water, even just a Britta water jug to filter water before filling the kettle.
- New kettle, often new kettles take time to lose that 'new' packaging flavour.
- Different type of milk, a new brand of milk. The varying fat content and composition will alter the taste of tea and milk that is closer to its expiry will change taste considerably when it's heated up (by adding to hot tea).
- New teapot of cup/mug. Yes, even that can alter flavour for a number of reasons, from how porous the surface is, to a new dishwashing liquid or powder that is leaving a very minimal film on crockery which can alter the taste.
- Moving house, new pantry, cupboard or storage box/location can change the flavour of tea if it's not kept in an airtight container from the moment it's opened. Tea is extremely quick to pick up surrounding aromas that will change the taste.