Own-brand teas top Which? taste testFour supermarket teas earn expert seal of approval

18 October 2014

Teapot and cup of tea with cake

Tea bags from Aldi, Morrisons and Sainsbury's got the thumbs up from our tea tasting experts

Own-brand tea bags from Aldi, Morrisons and Sainsbury's were among the highest rated teas in our latest Which? taste test of English Breakfast and Earl Grey varieties.

Morrisons M English Breakfast and Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference English Breakfast (Fairtrade) earned the joint highest score of 80%. Both were rated highly for their classic full-bodied flavour and, respectively, only cost 2p and 3p a bag. Aldi Diplomat Earl Grey topped the taste test for Earl Grey standard tea bags with a score of 78%.

Tea experts sipped their way through more than 36 different teas to uncover the perfect brew. For a full look at the results including how brands Twinings, Whittard and the other supermarkets fared, don't miss our full round-up and reviews of the best and worst teas.

Best and worst tea bags

Our taste test revealed lots of variation in quality between teas. While some teas really impressed, others tasted so bad they reminded our experts of 'old cabbage'. We tested 19 English breakfast (15 standard and four mesh) and 17 Earl Grey teas (14 standard and three mesh). Highlights from our results include:

  • Whittard English Breakfast Tag & Envelope came bottom of the English Breakfast standard tea bags, with a score of 50%. It was among the priciest English breakfast teas we tested at £3.75 for 25 bags, which is 15p per bag. One expert described the tea as tasting 'like old cabbage', making it far from a perfect brew.
  • Duchy Originals from Waitrose had the lowest score of 38%, and costs 8p per bag.
  • We also tested tea pods which are designed to be used with popular coffee machines. Twinings tea pods from Tassimo and Dualit’s new Fine Tea capsules (for Dualit and Nespresso machines) didn’t score as well as real tea bags from supermarket and were much pricier at 20-30p per pod. By comparison, the highest-scoring English Breakfast teas cost just 2-3p per bag.

Save on tea with cheap Best Buys

The very best teas in our tests were all mesh pyramid bag teas. These super-premium silky mesh bags tend to have a larger leaf - similar to loose leaf tea - and require a good five minute brew to be at their best. But they are also fiendishly expensive, at around 25-30p per bag. 

If you want a more affordable teatime treat, consider choosing one of our standard-style bag Best Buy teas. These cost a fraction of the price of the top-scoring teas, and scored just a couple of percentage points lower, so you'll still get a very tasty brew.

Which? editor Richard Headland said: 'Our taste test revealed a big difference in the quality of English Breakfast and Earl Grey teas. With some of the best teas costing just a few pence per bag, and supermarket own-brands beating luxury brands, it shows you don’t need to spend a lot to get a great cup of tea.'

Which? tea taste test contenders

The full list of teas tasted and rated in our latest test is as follows:

English Breakfast mesh tea bags

  • Fortnum & Mason Royal Blend, 20 bags £6.50
  • Teapigs English Breakfast (now re-named Everyday Brew), 15 bags £3.99
  • Twinings Speciality Tea English Breakfast, 15 bags £4.49
  • Whittard English Breakfast, 15 bags £4.75

English Breakfast tea bags

  • Aldi Diplomat, 50 bags £0.99
  • Asda Chosen by You, 80 bags £1.82
  • Clipper Everyday Specials Big Breakfast (Fairtrade), 80 bags £3.80
  • Co-operative Loved by Us (Fairtrade), 50 bags £1.59
  • Duchy Originals from Waitrose (Fairtrade), 25 bags £1.99
  • Fortnum & Mason Breakfast Blend, 25 bags £3.75
  • Lidl Knightsbridge, 50 bags 99p
  • Morrisons M English Breakfast, 100 bags £1.85
  • M&S English Breakfast (Fairtrade), 50 bags £1.50
  • Pukka Elegant (Fairtrade), 20 bags £2.39
  • Sainsburys Taste the Difference English Breakfast (Fairtrade), 80 bags £2.30
  • Tesco Finest, 100 bags £2.39
  • Twinings, 100 bags £4.49
  • Twinings 1706 Strong Breakfast, 80 bags £6.59
  • Whittard English Breakfast Tag & Envelope, 25 bags £3.75

Earl Grey mesh tea bags

  • Fortnum & Mason Earl Grey Classic, Large Leaf, 20 bags £6.50
  • Teapigs Darjeeling Earl Grey, 15 bags £3.99
  • Whittard Flowery Earl Grey, 15 bags £4.75

Earl Grey tea bags

  • Aldi Diplomat Earl Grey, 50 bags 99p
  • Asda Chosen by You, 100 bags £1.82
  • Clipper Everyday Specials (Fairtrade), 80 bags £3.59
  • Co-operative Loved by Us (Fairtrade), 50 bags £1.59
  • Duchy Originals from Waitrose (Fairtrade), 25 bags £1.99
  • Fortnum & Mason Earl Grey Classic, 25 bags £3.75
  • Lidl Knightsbridge, 50 bags £0.99
  • Morrisons M, 100 bags £1.75
  • M&S Earl Grey (Fairtrade), 50 bags £1.50
  • Pukka Gorgeous Grey (Fairtrade), 20 bags £2.39
  • Sainsbury's Taste the Difference (Fairtrade), 100 bags £2.65
  • Tesco Finest, 50 bags £2.39
  • Twinings Earl Grey, 100 bags £4.49
  • Whittard Earl Grey Tag and Envelope, 25 bags £3.75.

Prices correct at 15/10/2014.

More on this...