A Top Tea Treasure: Co-op’s Indian Prince

Feast of the M60 unravels a tea time treasure

It has been a while since yours truly had ventured into a Co-op for anything besides a pint or two of milk. Yet my latest visit to Manchester’s Corporation Street branch did involve two pints of milk and a box of tea bags.

If you have read the Top Ten Tea post, you would know about my connoisseur approach to tea. Some tea drinkers draw the line at adding a bit more milk or leaving the bag in a bit longer for better brews. They might say that ‘tea is just tea’, but it doesn’t take a five-year-old ten minutes to tell the difference between PG Tips or Tetley tea. Nor the difference between the cheapest ALDI tea bags or a £7.99 box of 100 Ahmad English No.1 tea bags.

Yet luxury can have a not-so-luxurious price point in the own brand market. Say for instance, anything on a par with popular brands price wise. In our previous tea post, we included Co-op’s 99 Tea in our countdown. The one that had eluded us till now was the Co-op’s premium blend, Indian Prince.

“I was dreamin’ when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray…”

Indian Prince is one of the Co-op’s longest standing brands. Like its cheaper stable mate, 99 Tea, it has been with us for over 70 years. The classic Indian Prince tea box is dark blue with gold faux-oriental text and borders. Then it changed purple, and later dark blue – with the kind of illustration you would expect to see on an Indian restaurant shopfront. Today’s packaging has a colourful drawing of an Asian forest scene with an Indian elephant.

In recent years, it was labelled as ‘Truly Irresistible’ before becoming plain old ‘Irresistible’. Whereas TESCO’s premium own brand offering is Finest (and Morrisons’ equivalent is The Best), Irresistible is the Co-op’s equivalent. My 40 bags cost me £1.70 from the Corporation Street store in Manchester city centre, which is pretty close to Yorkshire Tea’s recommended selling price per tea bag. By contrast, 99 Tea is £1.20 for 80 bags.

Both Indian Prince and 99 teas came from the Cooperative Wholesale Society’s Indian and Ceylon plantations. Before being sent out to Co-op stores across the UK, the tea was stored at the English and Scottish Joint C.W.S. Ltd’s tea warehouse on Ordsall Lane. Today, both brands wear their Fairtrade badges with pride, putting themselves in great company with Bettys and Taylors’ Yorkshire Tea brand.

Tea party like it’s ’99

Indian Prince is a good all-round tea, whether you choose to show the mug your tea bag for a few seconds, or leave it in the pot for ten minutes. In my view, it is best enjoyed with a dash of milk and by leaving the bag to stew for five minutes. You might to choose to mash your teabag with the teaspoon for a few seconds.

It is a tea that is good for a breakfast brew. For me, it comes into its own as either a late-morning brew, lunchtime brew, late-afternoon brew or an evening brew. It is at its best when you have come home from a long walk or shopping trip. Biscuit-wise, McVities or Hills Ginger Nuts go well.

After one cup, you might be tempted to pour yourself a second or third one. If you wish to burn the midnight oil over a heavy gaming session, Indian Prince will give you a decent caffeine jolt. As tea goes, it packs a real punch over several own brand teas, and a few name brands. I prefer it to PG Tips, Tetley and Typhoo as an everyday tea. Give it a go.

Top Tea Test Scores

  • Presentation: 4/5 Spoons (Good cardboard box, jolly graphic design which feels more like 2020 than 1980);
  • Taste: 4/5 Spoons (A tea for people who would like to have their tea tasting like tea);
  • Hookability: 4/5 Spoons (Trust me, you will want another brew);
  • Lastability: 2.5/5 Spoons (An acquired taste for some, but the bags or tea leaves wouldn’t last too long in any good tea lover’s desirable residence or workplace kitchen);
  • Value For Money: 3.5/5 Spoons (Compares well with name brands though a bit pricy for some households).

Overall Rating: 80% (The best of the Co-op teas. 99 is good, but Indian Prince has that extra oomph that separates many own brand tea blends between the men and the boys.)

Useless Fact

Few blends of tea have inspired original poetry. In 1998, Kevin Cadwallender wrote a piece called The Legend of the Indian Prince. He brought in fellow poet Gary Boswell to read his work, and a few others for a day, at a Barrow-in-Furness branch of the Co-op. Perhaps we need an odd ode to 99 Tea, unless I know different.

S.V., 26 August 2020.

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