Experts stirred up by dust and powder in our cut-price teas

IT MAY be our favourite drink, but Britons are consuming some of the worst quality tea in the world.

Cheap varieties such as some supermarket own-brands are little more than "dust and powder" stuffed into a tea bag, according to some experts.

Cut-price brews, such as 'value' brands from supermarkets including Asda - where 80 tea bags cost 29p - is identified by connoisseurs as the worst offenders because they contain the poorest quality tea.

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In his book, Supermarket Own Brand Guide, food and drink taster Martin Isark, wrote of Asda Smartprice tea: "Cabbage water tastes better. Even 29p for these tea bags is outrageous - 1p would be too much. It is dust and powder which cannot deliver anything that resembles the taste of tea. It is just the waste from the tea process."

Mr Isark added: "We may be a nation of tea drinkers, but we drink some of the worst tea in the world. The main problem has been our impatience. The British tea bag drinker requires an instant cuppa, browning quickly and colouring well with milk. The best 'tea' at adding colour is the worst quality and, without milk, is undrinkable.

"There is nothing wrong with tea bags. Germans use them for the best-quality leaves. However, they don't take milk with tea."

The finest teas trade for upwards of 200 a kilo, whereas the value of Asda's Smartprice tea, at 29p for 80 bags, is equivalent to about 1.20 per kilo.

There are signs that consumers are changing their tastes, with sales of healthy green teas and top-name speciality brands such as Twinings now the fastest-growing types of tea.

Edward Eisler, taster and buyer for importers Jing Tea, said: "If tea drinkers are prepared to trade up from the mass-produced teas, they will find tea that has similar multi-layered complexity to a fine wine."

Jane Pettigrew, author of The Tea Companion & Tea Aficionado, added: "We need to get better quality tea into more tea bags."

A spokeswoman for Asda said: "Our own-brand tea ranges from the highest quality leaf down to the finer cut leaf and this is reflected in the price.

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"Prices range from 1.58 for 80 of our Extra Special tea bags, down to 29p for the same number of Smartprice tea bags and this gives customers the choice to spend as little, or as much as they want to on their cuppa."


DUST, factory floor-sweepings and small, bitter-tasting leaves are among the most common ingredients of the cheapest supermarket tea bags, according to the food and drink expert, Martin Isark.

"Speed is not of the essence when it comes to making the perfect cup of tea," he says. "The faster the water becomes coloured, the smaller the leaf being used. Small leaves don't contain the fine nuances of flavour and the smallest particles - essentially the dust from the leaf-drying process - leach harsh tannins and bitter oils into your cup, giving a foul taste. What is being used in cheap tea-bags is a by-product of making good-quality tea."

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