PekoeTea's Whisky Tea Collection is an homage to the five whisky regions of Scotland and I wanted to share the story of how the collection was created. At PekoeTea a lot of work and development goes into creating each new tea blend we produce. The whisky collection was an ambitious project because it involved creating five new tea blends from scratch. We launched the first three blends on St Andrew's Day 2019 with the final two blends released in time for Burns Night in 2020, making the collection complete.
The Origin: Our First Whisky Blend
We started creating whisky teas back in 2018 when we were approached by the Waldorf Astoria in Edinburgh to develop a custom blend to serve in their Peacock Alley Lounge for afternoon tea. We wanted to create a tea blend that told a story about the heritage of the Peacock Alley Lounge, which sits above where the historic Caledonian Railway used to run. During our research we discovered that Caledonian Railway was originally built to transport coal but later was crucial in the transportation of whisky and tea around Scotland - a fantastic heritage story, fitting with our brand. Once we discovered these connections, Jon and I thought we should try adding whisky to the Peacock Alley Blend. After some experimentation we created a delicately balanced blend that was slightly smoky and made with real whisky. The Peacock Alley blend was a proof of the concept that we could flavour tea with real whisky and it is now exclusively served in the Waldorf Astoria in Edinburgh.
The Story Continues...
The Peacock Alley blend proved to be very popular and visitors to our shop started asking to purchase the blend. However, it was made exclusively for the Waldorf so we had to create something new that we could sell. So it got us thinking... why not create a whole new blend for PekoeTea?
The next question was: Which type of whisky should we use? In order to explain my thought process I'm going to talk about my personal experience with whisky. I confess, I used to hate whisky! But I gradually changed my mind when Jon became a member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Whilst I sipped my wine he would have a dram and I was fascinated by the complex descriptions given to the whisky, from the wonderful to the absurd. I became interested in the different smells and after tasting many different styles, I learned that I could actually quite enjoy whisky. Particularly for me: Speyside Whisky because of its sweet fruity flavours and aroma. This was my introduction to the wonderful world of single malts.
It was this experience at the Whisky Society that helped guide which blend to make next. I also thought of many of the tea tastings we used to do in our shop and how teas from different regions vary in a similar fashion to Scottish whisky. For example, Finest Keemun Mao Feng and Yunnan Black are both Chinese black teasbut both have very different flavour profiles. The same is true of Assam and Darjeeling Indian teas. And the same is true of Single Malt whisky. Different regions of Scotland have different flavour profiles and every whisky is unique. And that is where the idea came from to develop a comprehensive collection of whisky teas that showcase the different flavour profiles from each of the Scottish whisky regions.
Developing the blends
Our first task was to source five single malt whiskies that were typical of their region. A Single Malt whisky is a lot like single estate tea; in Darjeeling the different tea estates all produce unique tea but they have similar characteristics that are typical to Darjeeling Tea. In Scotland there are five main whisky regions with distinct flavour profiles but every single malt is unique: Lowlands, Speyside, Highlands, Islay and Campbeltown. The five tea blends we created were
designed to compliment the flavours of the whisky by using a combination of different base teas, natural flavour oils, dried fruit and spices and of course the whisky itself. We started each blend by examining the nose of each whisky and picking out key flavour notes which formed a starting point for creating the blend. Throughout this whole project we wanted to enhance the natural flavours of the whisky to give the tea blend a taste that directly relates to the aroma and flavour profile of the corresponding whisky and it's region of origin.
SpeysideI started making the Speyside Whisky Teafirst because that was the region that first awakened my interest in whisky. Speyside whiskies are typically sweet, with loads of rich honey and fruity notes. There are also occasionally hints of spice too. We chose a 16-year old single malt with flavours of summer berries and vanilla. I used a combination of base teas
The highlands are the largest Scotch Whisky region by area so it has the largest variation in flavours. For this blend we used a 15-year old Malt that was slightly spicy with notes of cinnamon and currants. Our Highland Whisky teablend ended up tasting like a traditional fruity tea cake just by simply enhancing the particular flavours of the whisky we chose. The tea base is a blend pf Assam and toasted Oolong, decorated with colourful heather flowers. It is a an easy drinking whisky tea blend, perfect in the afternoon with a slice of cake.
Islay whiskies are famously smoky and peated. The Single Malt used in our Islay tea blend had a sweet, medicinal smokiness with a hint of citrus and lemon. Whilst creating this Islay Whisky Tea blend I used a combination of five different teas for the base and was really excited to be able to almost replicate the nose of the whisky using a blend of teas alone. I had to be careful not to over power the blend by adding too much Lapsang because I wanted the other flavours to come through and create something that was more complex like a good Single Malt should be. There is a hint of star anise in this to bring out the medicinal flavour of the whisky.
The Campbeltown tea blend was fun to create because of the unusual flavour profile of Campbeltown whisky. We used a 15 year old Single Malt in our blend which had a very spicy, chocolate and fruity flavour profile. I used a combination of natural fruit flavours with currants and cacao nibs to enhance the flavour of the whisky, then added a hint of pepper to bring out the spiciness. The black tea base is a blend of 4 different teas and includes Keemun, which is naturally chocolatey as well as some Ceylon tea which has that natural spicy favour profile.
The whisky we use for the Lowland Whisky Tea blend is a 12 year old Single Malt. The nose of the whisky was very spicy with hints of ginger and cardamom. There were also hints of lime and citrus fruit. I used a lot of spices when I created this blend because I really wanted to enhance the sweet spicy notes in the whisky. Unfortunately we were unable to get hold of lime pieces when I was working on the blend so instead I went for lemongrass with natural fruit flavouring to bring out the tropical citrus notes. I also added some rooibos for and extra hint of vanilla and honey.
A Complete Collection
We're so proud of this collection, two years in the making! We'd love to know what you think of it, and hear about your favourite whiskies and whisky experiences!
These whisky teas are made using real single malt scotch whisky, hand blended in our factory in Leith, Edinburgh. Inspired by the wonderful variation in flavour of Single Malt Scotch Whisky.