Tea flavour: Australian Afternoon
Tea type: Leaf (infused)
Drunk: Black, no sugar
Blurb: "Full-bodied black tea designed for Australia".
Website description because the above is deliberately vague: a blend of "the slightly smoky Russian Caravan with the full bodied Irish Breakfast and then added the light Ceylon Orange Pekoe".
Twinings ran a competition last year, which I sadly didn't get to vote in despite being Australia's Most Trusted Tea Reviewer*, to choose a new tea based on blends created by five Australian celebrities of various types and degrees of worthiness. The winning one, as reviewed here, was created by Kevin Rudd. (Details of the other four are here. Most of them sound disgusting or laughably bland**. Having tasted only one, the right winner was chosen.)
Rudd's name appears nowhere on the box for Twinings' Australian Afternoon Tea, commercially released in January 2012. One can assume that this was deliberate, to keep politics out of the much more important business of tea-drinking, but it's a little odd that they ran a big promotional campaign to choose which celebrity's blend would be chosen, only to then leave said celebrity's name off the box. (Or, alternatively, it could just be that there is in fact a law in this country which forbids the use of Kevin Rudd's name without speculating on his imminent challenge to return to the prime ministership and Twinings just wanted to stay out of that. If so, well played, Twinings. My respect for you continues to increase.)
Anyway, to the tea at hand. As advertised, this Australian Afternoon Tea is certainly a full-flavour strength tea. The Irish Breakfast predominates, but the after-taste shows the smokiness of Russian Caravan (which has grown on me still further since my review last year - I now drink have a tin of the loose-leaf version at work & often make myself a small pot of it mid-morning). Between those two flavours, the Ceylon Orange Pekoe gets a little lost (as it is wont to do even when it's the only flavour in the tea). It actually all works together quite well - the Russian Caravan is distinct enough to temper the Irish Breakfast while still allowing the latter's strength to be the tea's distinguishing flavour. It's a warm-ish afternoon as I drink my cup & type this, and I can vouch that it suits the setting well.
Its slightly fuller taste stands it well against some of Twinings' smoother flavours (like the Prince of Wales or the Pekoe itself), but the inclusion of the Russian Caravan does give it a bit of softness compared to an unadulterated Irish or English Breakfast. It also has a bit more of an obvious flavour when compared to something like their Traditional Afternoon Tea, which I sometimes feel just tastes like Strong Tea without any more notable flavour than that.
All that said, I suspect
there will not be a huge public outcry should Twinings remove the
Australian Afternoon Tea from the market (the box indicates it's a
'Limited Edition'). While it's quite an enjoyable drink, I doubt it is
memorable enough to become anyone's new favourite blend. I'll certainly
drink the rest of my packet with pleasure - and probably buy some more
when it's done - but, after a few cups over a couple of days, it hasn't really made an impression stronger than 'oh, that's quite nice' on me yet. Nonetheless, the Australian Afternoon Tea is certainly worth a try if you enjoy full-flavoured black teas or drinks that make you feel vaguely nationalistic.
* I assume.
** Note to Kerri-Anne & John Kennerley: you don't need to put Earl Grey & Lady Grey into the same blend. Note to John Williamson: if you put Lapsang Souchong into a tea blend, you should also remember to include toothpaste to get the taste out again. And Layne Beachley: really? Why bother putting three light teas together and then adding Irish Breakfast? That's all anyone will be able to taste. You may as well just have your 'special blend' include Irish Breakfast and water.