Value for money: Tea
Lyons Gold Blend €3.76 for 80 teabags 4.7 cent per cup
Ireland is made up of Barry’s people and Lyons people (admittedly there are some folk who like peculiar English brands such as Tetley and PG Tips, but they are statistically irrelevant). For many years, Pricewatch has been in the Barry’s camp, so we approached the Lyons den with caution. Imagine our surprise when we discovered this had comfortably trounced our favourite in the blind taste test – at least when both teabags were left brewing for exactly the same amount of time. It has a nice and pleasingly familiar flavour, which is both comforting and refreshing, the tannin kick is easy to detect but not excessive.
Verdict: Surprisingly good
Star rating: ****
Barrys Gold Blend €3.25 for 80 teabags 4 cent per cup
This tea, made with leaves from the high mountain slopes of Kenya and the Assam Valley in India, is undoubtedly excellent, and while it struggled in the initial blind taste test against its bitter rival, we reckon that might have been because it takes longer to brew – a point that is made clear on the packaging, to be fair to Cork’s Prince of Teas. When a Barry’s teabag is left in a cup (or pot if you’re a purist) undisturbed for more than three minutes, it takes on a lovely richness and depth that many teas would do well to match. It was slightly cheaper than Lyons, although in most supermarkets the prices tend to be similar.
Star rating: ***
SuperValu Gold Blend: €1.49 for 80 teabags 1.9 cent per cup
This is the cheapest of the teas we tried and SuperValu deserves a lot of credit for offering consumers a value range that actually tastes very nice and compares well with some of the better-known and higher-priced brands. It has a much more robust set of flavours than Barrys or Lyons, with the tannin being particularly strong. It lacks anything by way of subtle-tea (sorry), but tastes very nice and represents good value for money. A word about the box though – it was seriously flimsy and fell apart the moment it was opened. That makes no difference to the tea, mind you.
Star rating: *****
Twinnings Breakfast Tea €3.09 for 50 teabags 6.2 cent per cupPreconceived notions about what makes a great cup of tea aside, this was not great at all. When we followed the detailed instructions to the letter, it ended up being weak and anaemic, and seriously lacking in the flavour department. While the company may be marketing this as a breakfast tea, we reckon we’d be even more grumpy than normal if we routinely started our day with this. We found the flavours to be insipid and the price too high. Availability is also likely to be an issue, as this is not a brand commonly found in corner shops.
Big Ben Breakfast Tea €6.99 for 20 cups, 35 cent a cup (approx)
If you like tea, then Le Palais de Thes on Dublin’s Wicklow St is a place you really should visit. It is an oasis of calm and they regularly give out free herbal teas to shoppers. This is a very high-end breakfast tea from France (yes, we were wondering what the French know about proper tea too), and while it is undoubtedly very good quality it is not to our taste at all. It is too heavily fragranced and the floral flavours all but overpower the tea flavours that we were looking for. It is more complicated than bags and then there is the price. Some people may like this as a special occasion breakfast tea, but it’s not for us.
Verdict: Dear, flowery
Star rating: ***