Sunday, December 23, 2012

Review #09 - Upton Tea Earl Grey Supreme (loose)

Since we've already reviewed a couple of Upton sourced Earl Grey's before, I'll skip any business intro and make the following announcement. I will not be reviewing any teas next week. It's a practical decision because I honestly don't know if I'll have the time. Christmas, as you know, is such a wonderful time to spend with family and friends and I plan on taking full advantage of it. With that said I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, a great Holiday season and a Happy New Year. I feel very lucky to have so many people reading my reviews and want to thank everyone for supporting me. Now on to the tea.


As before my tea sample came in a foil bag so when you first break it open you are greeted with a very pleasant aroma. The word gentle pops to mind because it's not overwhelming but not lacking either. It's as if the maker was going for a more controlled approach which sent me to the Upton site for more info. 

Sure enough, my initial thoughts were correct. 

Description:   Earl Grey tea, blended with TGFOP Assam and rare China teas. A balanced blend for those who prefer a lighter bergamot flavor. Drink with or without milk.
Ingredients:   black tea, natural flavor
Origin:   Germany
After reading the detailed information contained in the ingredients I immediately gave this tea high marks. Instead of just plain ol' black tea, we are given some very nice details about the Assam contained within the tea. The only thing that concerned me was the lighter aspect of this tea. In a way I was glad that I read description before trying it because it helped me know what to expect. 

Brewing Method

I will again reference the website because we are treated with some very specific instructions. 

Steeping Suggestions:
Leaf Quantity: 2¼ g/cupWater Temp: 212ยบ (boiling)Steep Time: 4 min.
As you can see, there are no time ranges, only 1 time given. That time is 4 minute and that is exactly what I tried the first time. I then broke their "steeping rules" to see what I'd get and went with a 3 and 5 minute steep time. I must admit I was surprised by the exact time when I first saw it on the package but after tasting the 4 minute version I knew why they had done that.  

The Results

I'll just cut to the chase and get right to it. What a wonderful Earl Grey. Yes the flavor is reserved but it's not thin and shallow. The flavor is still complex and changes as the tea's temperature cools. The fruit flavor was clean and free of perfume, or artificial sweetener after tastes. The tea finished smooth and had me wanting more. Seriously, I cannot say enough about how good this tea is. To prove my point I almost forgot to pour some into my white cup for pictures because it was just that good.  

Speaking about the picture, I was even more surprised to see the color matching some of the more pronounced Earl Grey's I've tried and reviewed. But then again, this tea had a good solid Assam foundation which to build upon so the results really should not have surprised me. 


The re-steep proved to be another pleasant surprise. Because the flavor wasn't strong to begin with the drop off wasn't that bad but you have to watch the time closely. I cranked up the re-steep time on one occasion to really push this tea and yes, you can burn it. So if you don't mind a lighter flavor I would go with a 3.5-4 minute steep time and make sure your water is right at a boil to help extract all the remaining flavor. Keep in mind there won't be much but what you will get will be very good. 

Final thoughts

I think it's obvious that makers of this tea put some thought and effort into the blend. They chose Assam and mixed it with other teas from China. Yes it would have been nice to have that listed but then again, tea is a business and giving away one's secrets may not help the bottom line. So I'm going to be happy to see some information given along with a natural flavoring being used. It should be noted that many businesses in other food areas have abused the word Natural. Let's hope Natural means the real thing in this case and not something else.

To end, I will be buying more of this tea when my current stash of Earl Grey starts to dwindle. Do yourself a favor and try it, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did.  


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Review 08 - Twinings of London Classic Earl Grey Tea - Bagged

If ever there was a tea that I don't need to intro, this is it. Twinings of London was going full throttle and people from all around the world loved their Earl Grey recipe. So what did they do? Pulled a Coke-Cola (for the records, never drank coke, haven't had soda in maybe 5-10 years) and changed their recipe. This of course caused an uproar you can only imagine and for a while, people got their Earl Grey else where. I know I did because I was a fan of their bagged tea way back when. Then they changed it and I bailed like many others. But it's back so lets go back in time to review today's classic recipe of yesterday..or is that today... I think. Maybe.  


With a tip of my hat to the classic yellow pouch I can assure you when opening the packaging you will be met with a very nice bergmot aroma. For me it's more of a sweet smell then an earthy one but none the less it's there. I would like to point out that the days of finding staples on the bags and labels of Twinings Earl Grey are gone. You now have a tag, a piece of string and a bag. Everything is held together with knots which now makes everything completely viable for the compost pile. Which is where every bag I brew should go to retire. 

On the down side, while the tag does mimic the box in it's presentation, it does not contain any brewing info. Which I find very strange. Even stranger is the brewing instructions themselves. Which leads in perfectly to out next section. 

Brewing Method

On the side of the box you will find two sets of instructions. One for hot tea and one for cold. The hot instructions call for boiling water poured over the tea bag with a steeping time of 2-4 minutes. At this point I will admit to brewing my first glass without looking at their instructions. I just went with the typical 4 minutes and was rather shocked to see that 2 minute mark even being suggested. So being the thorough reviewer that I am trying to be, I tried a cup of tea after only 2 minutes. I also tried 3 minutes just to make sure I had covered all the bases. Then I followed my typical process for bagged tea and got the result I was expecting. 

The Results

To begin, there is no way I would ever drink this tea after just 2 minutes. It was thin, had very little color and tasted.....well like Earl Grey water. At the 3 minute mark I started to get some of the typical Earl Grey flavor but in the end I went with my life long Earl Grey process. Just leave the bag in and start drinking somewhere between 4 to 5 minutes. I know, I know that's not what Twining's suggested but that's what I like. I then tried taking the bag out at 5 minutes and found it nearly identical to just leaving the bag in. I'm guessing a bunch of you reading this are appalled that I'm not following Twining's directions and even more appalled that I just leave it in there. For me it works and I don't get a burnt tea taste. As you can see from the picture the color is quite good but it was strange not to see any form of expansion from the bag. Other then being wet you could hardly tell it was steeped. 


Now that you know what I do to extract the best flavor from bagged Earl Grey teas you can probably guess what I'm going to say with regards to re-steeping. The only thing left when I'm done drinking this tea is an item for my compost bin. Re-steeping is worthless because I pretty much steep all the flavor out of it. To put it bluntly, don't waste your time. 

Final thoughts

I've been avoiding the elephant in the room so I could focus on my elongated steeping. So lets point the finger and point out a big issue. I have no idea what is in this tea. Twining's info on the box and on their site are pretty much the same:
Fine black tea expertly blended with the citrus fruit flavour of bergamot, to deliver an uplifting tea with a unique floral aroma and refreshing taste.
Their ingredients are as follows: Black Tea, Bergamot Flavoring

...And there, once again, lies the problem with this tea as well as others. Yes, it tastes very good. One of the better bagged teas out there and even better them some of the loose (following my steeping process) I've tried. But given the world we live in, I like to know what's in my tea. When they say flavoring, do they mean real or artificial? When they say Black Tea what exactly am I getting? Trust me when I say this, I really like the flavor of this tea and would probably drink it on a regular basis, but not if I don't know what is in it. Truth be told I'm not only an Earl Grey addict but I'm also an Organic Gardener. I honestly believe nature produces the best food products and that's why my current favorite Earl Grey is totally organic. So to end this review I will leave the final decision up to you the reader.

Are you like me and like to know what you are eating and drinking? If so until Twinings provides more details I need to pass on this tea. If those food issues are not a concern of yours, then by all means, buy this tea and enjoy it with family and friends because it is an excellent Earl Grey.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Review #07 - Upton Tea Extra Bergamot English Earl Grey - Loose

This week we return to the world of loose tea and conduct our second Upton Tea Earl Grey variety review. Since last week's tea ended up being very thin in the Bergamot area I thought we would grab something with a bit extra. In this case a bit extra Bergamot. That's right this week's tea is rather up front about where it's strengths lie.


It should come as absolutely no surprise when I say this tea is full of aroma. The minute you open the sealed sample foil pack you are greeted with an abundant supply of bergamot. But before I go on I will add, it's more of a perfume type smell then an actual real fruit aroma. When I reviewed Zhena's Gypsy and Arbor Tea's versions the aroma was fresh, clean and real. Like you had actual fruit in your hand and that is what you were enjoying. This tea is not like that. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of Bergamot aroma to last a life time. I just prefer a more organic/authentic aroma. 

As you can see from the picture I didn't include the Upton Foil bag since everything from Upton looks the same. Instead I tried to get the best close-up of the actual tea. I hope it helps.

Brewing Method

Just like many other Earl Greys, this one called for boiling water and a steep time of 4minutes.  During the 4 minute time my entire family told me they could smell the tea from across the room. So I guess it bares repeating, this tea has tons and tons of aroma.

I also tried 3 minutes, even though not recommended and 5minutes just to make sure I was giving this tea a thorough workout. 

The Results

 The best way to put my initial reaction to this tea would be, "Holy Bergamot flavor  Batman!" This is beyond a shadow of a doubt, THE most Earl Grey flavored tea I have had to date. And that includes every Earl Grey I have ever tasted and not just the ones I've reviewed here. But, and there is always a but, sometimes too much of anything doesn't work. Now I know what you are thinking. This guy has been giving negatives reviews to teas that are thin and weak and you would be right. I have been rather vocal about some teas lacking any real flavor. But this is different.

To begin, this tea is so over powering with it's bergamot flavoring that it leaves the black tea completely smothered. Making it worse, it's a perfume based flavor and not a natural one. This is a real shame because I had such high hopes for this tea. I was really hoping that someone/company was going to step up and really get the flavoring slanted towards the fruit. Instead we get bergamot perfume and little else. So after a bit more sipping I headed over to the Upton Tea site and did some research on what kind of black tea was used along with what kind of flavoring. Once again I was met with info that didn't leave me happy but it did explain the aroma and flavor a bit.

   Specially blended for those who prefer a richly scented Earl Grey. Our most popular Earl Grey. Rated "best overall" by the Wall Street Journal's Catalog Critic.
   black tea, artificial flavor
No mention of the actual tea used and even worse nothing about how it's flavored. As I have said before, I am not a fan of mystery ingredients so I would have to count the lack of real information as a negative. To end this section I guess it's fair to say I do not share the WSJ's positive review of this tea.  


This is probably going to catch you off guard so here goes.  This tea was made for re-steeping.  If you think about it, it makes sense. Given how much flavor is present in the first steep, there was bound to be plenty left over in the second. Before I continue I received a few email comments regarding my method for testing whether or not a tea is re-steep-able. (real word?? doubt it) So here is how I handle it.

After the 1st steep I place the leaves onto my now standard white plate, pour some tea into my glass cup, some into the small white ceramic cup to show color, and snap a bunch of pictures. When done, I put the leaves back into the tea pot, fire up the electric kettle and pour when the water is ready. At each minute interval I sample the tea. Typically minutes 1, 2 and 3 are pretty tasteless. Most Earl Greys will come alive starting around 3.5 to 4minutes. I continue taste testing until 6minutes or until I burn the tea. When done I typically have more then half the pot still filled with water so I'm pretty confident about my current process. Keeping all that mind, lets return to the review.

As stated before, you can re-steep this tea without issue. Use boiling water and pour at the 4 to 4.5 minute mark. You will be met with a more balanced flavored tea that I actually enjoyed more then the first steep. It had less perfume taste and more tea taste which for me was very good.

Final thoughts

 My final thoughts are mixed. On one hand we have unknown leaves with unknown artificial flavorings giving us an overwhelming perfume based flavor. On the other hand, not many Earl Greys can be re-steeped and still get the flavor this tea provides. Personally, and because of the above unknowns, I'm going to pass on ever buying this tea again. But I will say this, if anyone out there who creates/blends/mixes teas wants to take Earl Grey in a new direction, do an Organic double Earl Grey tea. I'm guessing you'd have this guy as an immediate fan.   

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Review #06 - Culinary Circle Earl Grey bagged

This week we return to the world of bagged tea and with that news comes hope. Hope that we can uncover a bagged tea good enough for tea lovers to support. In case you are wondering, I picked this variety up at my local supermarket and knew nothing about the company. As with every review I do, I always check the companies site for information. Here is what I found.

With chef inspired cuisine that mirrors today’s most popular restaurants, Culinary Circle is transforming creative casual dining at home.
Tempting, unique recipes. Incredible handcrafted quality. Remarkable flavor combinations.
Culinary Circle is beyond compare for your most discerning guests and perfect for everyday.
Go ahead…Set the table and enjoy!

 With that info given lets proceed with my now standardized testing process. Lets begin where we always do, with aroma.


Sad to see the use of staples.
Upon opening the foil pouch containing the tea bag I was met with a pretty strong bergamot aroma. This tea was scoring very high marks until I took the bag out. Not only does this company use metal staples to connect the tag to the string, but also from the string to the tea bag itself. That means you are steeping both tea and metal in your cup which is not what I want to see when having tea. Returning to the tea itself, the aroma is/was so strong that even after steeping, taking pictures and all that, the foil bag still retains a hint of Earl Grey. So great job on the tea, bad job on the packaging.

As is customary with all my reviews I always like to read what the makers of the tea have to say about their tea. Meaning, what types of black teas are being used, where and what kind of flavoring is added, and as we've seen before, aging info. Sadly, we are greeted more with marketing speak then any real info.

A full bodied blend of black tea with spicy floral oil of bergamot citrus 

  After reading the above on both the box and individual bags I immediately did some additional research on the fruit itself. Why? Because I had never heard anyone, anywhere describe bergamot as spicy. I've seen sweet, sour and bitter but never spicy. So to be perfectly honest I have no idea what they were talking about. That also means I still don't know what kind of black tea is used to produce this tea. If someone from Culinary Circle happens to find this review and wouldn't mind sharing, I'd really like to know what black tea was used in this Earl Grey.

Brewing Method

Like almost every bagged tea on the market the brewing instructions are on the foil pouch which is always nice. They are as follows:

1. Bring Fresh cold water to a rolling boil
2. Pour water over tea bag and steep for 3-5 minutes
3. Removed tea bag.
4. If desired, serve with sweetener
Seeing the 3-5 minute steep times meant I had some work to do. So being the diligent reviewer I tried 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, and 5.  Here is what I got.

The Results

Normally there is something to talk about with each tea. Sometimes the steeping time will reveal different results that help us to pin point the tea's highs and lows. Sadly that's not the case with this tea. The results are a plain and very thinly flavored tea. As I have said before, yes it tastes like Earl Grey but almost in the same way out of season, overseas grown tomatoes tastes when compared to a fresh vine ripened version. Yes it tastes like a tomato, but it has no character and no real deep flavor to enjoy. This tea screams bland. As for the supposed spicy parts to this tea, I got none of it. I'm sorry but there is no other way to say it. This is one bland tea. As to the color, I would say middle of the road.

To give this tea a last change I even went with the infinite steep time method. Meaning I just left the bag in the cup and began drinking at the 5minute mark. Thankfully it wasn't burnt but the flavor didn't improve at all even when I had finished half of the cup about 1-1.5min later.


With the initial flavor being so shallow and thin I really didn't expect much and was proven true. After leaving the bag in for another 4minutes all I got was Earl Grey water. So to address a re-steep, don't even bother.

Final thoughts

I have to be honest, when you open this tea you think maybe, just maybe we have a good tea here but expectations are quickly dashed. This is a bland, supermarket tea for the masses. Even though the marketing hype on the box says otherwise, this is not a good Earl Grey at all. If someone gave me the choice between this Earl Grey or a glass of water, I'd take the water. I'm sorry but I really don't like this tea.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Review #5 - Upton Tea Finest Earl Grey Tea - Loose

For those of you who have never visited Upton Tea's website, do it immediately. Yes the site could use a massive upgrade but it works. Not to mention Upton Tea must have the biggest selection on any Tea site. Seriously, you could spends hours just reading all the descriptions. So when I say this will be the first of many reviews about Earl Grey teas from Upton, I'm not kidding.


With Upton Tea you can purchase your tea in one of two ways. You can purchase it in a metal tin or via the sealed foil bag. I ordered the sample size so resealing the foil bag is impossible. If you purchase their regular sizes the foil bags come with a typical sandwich bag "zip lock". Upon opening, I got more sweet then sour in the aroma test. But there was plenty of it there so that's always a good start. After taking some out of the package the aroma really didn't change all that much so I'm sticking with my initial sweet notes. While doing some research for this tea I found the following on their site:

   Similar to our Original Earl Grey, but with Ceylon black tea as the base tea. The bergamot scenting is light enough for the quality of the base tea to be noticed.
   black tea, natural & artificial flavor
One of my biggest pet peeves is knowing what is in my food. Seeing a few mystery items listed by way of natural and artificial flavorings automatically turns me off to this tea. Personally I believe that's the reason I get sweeter smell from this tea then any other so far.

Brewing Method

The label on the package clearly reads, "1tsp./4min/212degrees" so that's what I did. As stated many times it's nice for the supplier to give you a starting point with regards to all the ingredients of brewing; time, temp and amount. Even if you don't agree it's still nice to have a starting point provided.

The Results

With already one strike against this tea for it's choice of flavoring methods the actual flavor must be given a strike as well. For a loose tea the flavor is very simple and thin. Yes it's Earl Grey but for a tea that's suppose to allow the black tea flavor to shine, it falls very short. If you are looking for a wonderfully blended tea with a complex character, this is not it. For me this is a tea a restaurant would serve to avoid any issues with their typically none tea drinking people. No one can deny it's Earl Grey but to leave anyone thinking this is what Earl Grey is capable of being would be a sad state of affairs.

So to be fair I upped the times to both 4.5 and 5 mins and got the exact same results. I'm kind of amazed the tea could stay the same even with additional brewing time but getting back to my restaurant comment, it fits. Produce an Earl Grey that's nearly impossible to ruin making it easier for wait staff by giving them a built in tolerance. I'm guessing again but I wonder if the artificial ingredients maintain their flavor under a wider range of steep times because they are chemical based instead of the actual fruit? If you have any info on this subject I'd be happy to know and understand.

To end this section, the color was very good but ( I know I know broken record) do you get the color from the just the tea or does the extras help?


Amazingly this tea re-steeps very well. Granted it's thin in the flavor area to start with so it doesn't have far to fall but it does keep a lot of its initial flavor. The flavor remains sweet just less of it, while the color stays almost the same. I tried 2-3-4 min re-steep times with 2 working the best.   

Final thoughts

To put this bluntly unless I learn what's in this tea, I won't ever buy it again. There are too many good real ingredient Earl Greys out there with no hidden extras to ever need this tea. I know this sounds harsh but I drink tea because I enjoy it but also because of it's health benefits. The last thing I need is artificial extras ruining that. 

 Note: I have done away with having my glass in the picture. I don't think it transfers well especially since the tea color can be seen in my white cup. From now on, tea in white cup and steeped leaves on the plate. Hope you agree.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Review #4 - Numi Organic Tea Aged Earl Grey Bagged

When I first started this "review" blog I made a point to say how all teas, loose, bagged, etc will be treated equally. I went on to say that treating bagged any different from loose serves no one. It also would confuse things. If I gave a bagged tea a good review would you really know how it stacked up against loose. The answer would be no. Thankfully today's review proves my opinion was/is correct in the best way possible.


Numi tea comes in a "Naturally Biodegradable filter-paper tea bag, no GMO corn or plastic "silky" bags". The box is "made of 85% post-consumer waste, printed with soy-based inks and without, unneeded shrink- wrap" so their commitment to sustainability is very much a part of their business. No lip service here, just proven actions. When I first opened the wrapper, I did as I always do with bagged teas, leave the bag in and attempt an aroma test. Like other bagged varieties, the aroma was nothing overwhelming but it was there. I guess you could call it faint. After taking it out I got up close and gave it a good test. Again faint but very good. You could pick up some of the sweetness but no tartness. Overall slightly below average in the aroma department.

Brewing Method

The brewing instructions are right on the wrapper making things pretty straight forward. Steep for 4-5 minutes. For this review I tried, 4, 4.5 and 5 minutes. The following statement is on the wrapper: "this tea is strong enough to handle milk, yet mild enough to be served alone." Since we are talking about the wrapper it should be noted it too is made from 72% recycled content. I guess it's time to start showing my hand regarding this review. At 4 minutes I was pleasantly surprised at how much flavor this tea had. At 4.5 I started to notice a bit more sweetness to go along with an ever so slight tartness. At 5minutes I was hooked. 

The Results

Independent of how this tea is packaged, this is a good Earl Grey. Dare I say it may be better then a few loose versions I've had which is/was such a pleasant surprise. Why? Because the bags are not some fancy satchel or triangle or cube, but just an ordinary tea bag. I will fess up and admit I was very let down when I first opened the wrapper. When I first saw them I wondered how a tea with little room to expand was ever going to be any good. Boy was I wrong. This tea produced a good cup of Earl Grey at all three steep times with improvements at the longer times. Seriously if you're the impatient type, 4 minutes will give you a good cup of tea but please do yourself a favor and give it the extra minute. You'll get a deeper taste and enjoy the flavor more. As you can see from the picture the color is good even at 4mins so that's a bonus as well.

So what is Numi's secret sauce in getting bagged tea to rival loose? Aging. Yes aging. Again I'll fess up and admit I thought it was just marketing jargon. Sadly every day of our lives we are bombarded with a bazillion types of advertising slogans, and jingles and catch phrases that when someone actually uses one of these methods I personal just blow it off as marketing speak.But don't take it from me, here is the quote right from their site. 

We age organic Assam black tea with real Italian Bergamot for several weeks so the tea absorbs the orange scent.

Given the amount of flavor in all of my test cups I will accept their explanation and wonder why other bagged Tea makers are not doing the same. Making it even harder to understand, I got this tea on sale and it wasn't the most expensive by a long shot. With respect to Mighty Leaf, I got Numi tea for almost 2 dollars less a box. Granted there may be some outside influence on price setting, making one tea higher then the other but still, at this price, it's a great deal.


Given what's inside most bagged teas going for a re-steep is always going to be a stretch. So to be fair I put all three bags (4min, 4.5min, 5min) back into the cup and poured just boiled water on them.The results were kind of expected. The 5min bagged barely gave anything. Very thin, very little sweetness. But the 4min actually gave me some flavor after leaving it in for another 4mins. The 4.5min was in the middle. Since your reading this blog you must want my opinion so here goes. Go for the best taste you can get and forget about re-steeping. Steep the first time at 5mins and enjoy a very good cup of Earl Grey and if you want another after it, grab a fresh bag and start over.

Final Thoughts

Unless I find something better before my next away-from-home vacation, this will be my go-to travel tea. The idea of getting a good cup of Earl Grey without bringing my pot, strainer, spoon, etc etc, is a no brain-er. Is it better then my current favorite(s) loose Earl Grey? No, but for the price, ease of travel, ease of brewing, and overall flavor, you can't go wrong with this Tea. To end, while researching this tea I noticed it can also be bought as loose tea. Obviously I will be picking some up and reviewing it sometime in the future.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Review #03 - Zhena's Gypsy Tea Earl Greater Grey Loose Leaf

This is gonna be one of those just off center reviews so please hang with me while I explain all the pieces and parts. In my area, there is a very well known coffee shop called Coast Roasters. While getting my espresso fix I noticed they carried loose teas. I didn't get any tea that day but I did try some of their teas at a later date. Specifically the one I will be reviewing called Earl Greater Grey. It was only then, at my 2nd visit that I found where the tea was sourced from. Sadly I forgot to investigate Zhena's (where it's sources) and nothing ever came from it because at the time I hadn't started this review blog.

The next piece of the puzzle comes in how I drink all of my tea. Absolutely plain. No milk, no sugar, nothing is ever added to my hot/warm tea. I declared a temperature range because with Iced Green tea, I still brew the tea plain but will sometimes add extras when I pour. Lemon and cranberry juice are two of my favorite options with local honey being a third. So with those two pieces of info lets begin with the actual review.


When you purchase this tea from the above mentioned tea house you get it packed in your standard resealable "foil" bag with how ever many ounces you ask for. The aroma is fresh and almost a bit on the sweet side. It definitely smells real and not chemical or artificial based. There is also plenty to enjoy, meaning the minute you open the bag you get your first hints of it without having to place your nose very close to the bag. For me this tea has something to say in the aroma part of this review because it really stands alone when compared to a lot of the other Earl Grey's I've tried.

Brewing Method

I'm going to show my hand a bit and talk about what I went through to get the most out of this tea. Most Earl Grey's I've tried call for a 4min brewing time. So that is where I started. Now keep in mind what I talked about earlier. I tried this tea before I was doing these reviews so I approached this tea without doing much research. My first result forced me to attempt longer steeping times. In fact, I worked all the way up to 5 1/2 mins to get the flavor I was looking for and expecting. I guess that means it's time for the meat of this review.

The Results    

I'm not going to lie, when I first tried this tea I was very disappointing with the flavor, or should I say, lack of it.  The 4min brewing time basically gave me the same amount of flavor that I would get with other loose tea with a 2nd steep. That's why I tried going with a longer brew time. I also went with a teaspoon and a half. As mentioned I eventually got to the 5 1/2 min mark, which coupled with the extra tea finally got me closer to what I was both looking for and expecting from quality loose tea. Now to let this tea off the hook a bit.

Remember how I said I did no research when I first tried it, well this time, since I'd be blogging about it I headed over to the Zhena's Gypsy Tea site and did some reading. That's when I found this:

Our Earl Grey is specifically blended for those who enjoy their tea with milk – its addition will compliment rather than overwhelm this tea.
Needless to say this causes a problem with my review since I don't put milk in my tea. At this point you are probably expecting to see me redo my review using milk. To be perfectly blunt, the reason I don't put milk in my tea is for a very simple reason, I don't like it. It's funny because my earliest tea drinking memories involved being told that I should put milk in my tea. Drinking plain tea was just not done. Why would anyone want to drink tea solo? For many years I avoided tea for that very reason. Until I was able to sample some green tea at a college friends house. They served Japanese green tea without milk which reversed any negative opinions regarding tea I had up to that point. I was hooked and began my tea drinking journey.

So where does that leave us with respect to this review? Kind of in a weird spot. On one hand, by adding more tea and upping the steeping time I can coax a decent cup of tea from this brand to the point where I wouldn't mind buying it again. The color is a bit lighter then some other loose versions but the flavor is ok. But on the other hand, I feel I'm not treating this tea fairly. By Zhena's own words, this tea was designed, if I may use that term for tea, to be fully enjoyed with milk. By not adding milk I feel like I'm not following the proper steeping time and then complaining about burnt tea. Like I said at the start, this is a very off center review. Lets hit our final section and wrap this review up.


Given how the tea has a thin taste without milk to begin with re-steeping is just not worth the effort. I tried but the flavor was nearly gone and going any longer then 5 minutes just burnt the tea.

Final Thoughts

So, would I buy this tea again? Yes, if I had run out of all other loose Earl Grey's and had to have tea for the next day. Plus I'd be supporting a local business so like I said, yes. Should you buy it? Do you like milk in your tea? If yes, then by all means try it and let me know so others can learn from your experience.

Friday, November 2, 2012

I see much tasting in my future

Spoiler Alert. ;-)

Wanna know what is going to be tasted, enjoyed, and reviewed in the near future? Feast your eyes on these.

I ordered every Earl Grey (nothing flavored beyond the Earl and the Grey) from Upton Teas (sample size for most), to go along with Numi, and Choice. Both on sale.

It's a tough job but someone has to review all this tea.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review #02 - Mighty Leaf Tea Organic Earl Grey

When I started this blog I pondered whether I should differentiate my reviews with regard to bagged, pouches and loose tea. But the more that I thought about it, the more I said no. My reasons are simple. First, I wanted to catalog all the teas I had tried, and will try, in the most honest method possible. So in my opinion all teas should be treated the same. Which brings me to my second reason. What if there is a bagged or pouched tea out there that rivals the loose variety? By treating them equally I can identify a specific tea as "a good tea", and not just a good bagged tea. This in turn helps everyone reading this blog and hopefully will give everyone a reason to continue reading. With that said, on too the review.

The Aroma

I first tried this tea over a friend's house. They knew I liked tea, specifically Earl Grey, and wanted to make sure I had something to drink while visiting. That's why I was looking forward to this review since it had been a long time since I first tasted it. As far as bagged teas go, this one has a price on the high side when compared to typical name brands found in supermarkets and such. The tea comes in individually wrapped "pouches" and has the brewing info right on that tag. A very nice touch if you ask me.

When I opened the plastic wrap I purposely left the bag inside so I could enjoy the aroma. Sadly, there wasn't much to enjoy. So I took the bag out of the plastic bag and tried again. Unfortunately, the aroma didn't improve volume wise. You could smell the tea and it's flavor but only barely.

As you can see from the picture their pouch is about 2 1/2in square and appears to provide plenty of room for the tea to expand. Another nice touch with the bag is their lack of staples. Given the level of technology out there you would think every tea house that makes bagged tea would have moved on from staples but a few remain. Thankfully Mighty Leaf is not one of them. Brewing the tea couldn't be easier. Place the bag in a glass and add water. The label says 4mins and that's exactly what I did the first time. Much to my surprise the aroma factor shot up once the water hit the bag. I would place it in the Smooth aroma category because it lacked that hint of sourness which I look for. But what did it taste like?

The Results

With the aroma improving I started to hope that maybe, just maybe my first bagged tea review would be a great one. The second picture shows it has a nice color which again leads one to believe this will be an excellent tea. But the tasting facts don't lie, this tea is avg at best. Meaning it's completely thin in the flavor region. In order to give it a fair review I brewed another cup with a fresh bag later in the day. The results were the same. I then tried extending the brewing time and immediately got a mouth full of over-brewed tea taste for my efforts. Overall it tasted like Earl Grey but it just lacked any depth of flavor. Once the tea hit your tongue the flavor quickly went away. Instead of interesting flavors being enjoyed as the tea cooled a bit, the flavor faded even more. As a result of my multiple tests I noticed how the tea bag was in fact bulging when I removed it from the cup and that gave me an idea. I decided to cut open the bag and brew it up loose tea style. The results gave me pretty much the exact same thin tasting tea.


The nicest way to put this is, don't bother. If you thought the flavor was thin on the first steep it will only get worse for the 2nd. Think Earl Grey flavored water. 

Final Thoughts  

Do I hate this tea? No. Would I buy it again? That's a tough call. I know for a fact that other brand names are both cheaper and, by leaving the bag in the water indefinitely you can coax some additional flavor out of them without "burning" your tea. But some of those are not organic and they are not based upon actual leaf tea. Like I said, tough call. I'll leave it like this, if I'm on vacation, can find it on sale and have no other organic options, then maybe I'd buy it. Yup, you just got my first definite maybe rating.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review #01 - Arbor Teas Organic Earl Grey Black Tea

Our first review for this new site will be something I already have in house. I purchased this product along with some other varieties I enjoy. I do like to support this company due to it's dedication to organic and sustainable methods. For example, the bags the tea are shipped in can be thrown right into the compost pile creating zero waste.

Compost ready bag and re-usable labels.
 Another nice touch is their labels seen on the plate in the picture. Since the label is connected to an elastics of sort, you can use your own containers and just stretch the label around your container.  Now to the tea.

When you first open the bag you are greeted with a nice Bergamot aroma which is always a good start. Teas with no aroma tend to disapoint.

Brewing Method

Since this is my first review let me explain how I brewed it. I have a brown Chatsford Tea Pot with a plastic framed, food grade mesh strainer. I place 1 teaspoon of the tea and add enough water to fill the pot. This means the water comes up to the lip of the mesh strainer but not over the slot where the cover for the pot fits in. This works out perfectly since none of the leaves overflow into the pot.  As for water temps, I use just boiled water from an electric kettle. Once the pot is filled I cover the pot with a cosy. Trust me it's nothing fancy. To be honest it's just a piece of thick fabric my wife had left over. I folded it over twice and it happen to fit my pot perfectly. I use a cosy because Earl Grey is a Black Tea (unless of course you have an Earl Grey Green) so heat dissipation is not something you want during the brewing process. I then set my Polder timer to 4minutes and patiently wait.

The Results

From the minute you start pouring you pick up on the sourness of the Begamot. It's there and I like that about this tea. This is not a softened aroma but what  real fruit smells like.

Since this is my first review I included my pot to allow everyone reading to know exactly what I use to brew. From now on I will focus on both cups to provide a better view of the color. This tea for instance is about middle range when it comes to darkness. Say middle to high on the Dark Range.

Now for the taste. Since I've been drinking Earl Grey for many, many years, you can probably guess that I like this version and that would be a correct statement. For me there are two types of Earl Greys, Natural and Smooth. This falls into the natural category. The taste you get along with the aroma has me thinking real fruit, real black tea, and nothing else. As the temperature drops the flavor mellows a bit and smooths out. For me personally, that is when this tea is at it's best and the reason I continue to buy it.

Having played with the steeping time a bit I will say once you get close to a 5min steeping time you will pick up some additional bitterness. 


The answer is yes, if you don't expect the second steep to equal the first. I have tried times anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes for the 2nd steep and no matter what I try I can't seem to extract more bergamot out of the tea. Actually it's just the opposite, the more I extend the time the more black tea flavor I get. So when I do re-steep I just do a bit more then 3mins and expect accordingly.

Final Thoughts  

Judging from my review yes I really like this tea and will continue to buy it. If you have never tried it before, do yourself a favor and go for it. If your tea tastes match mine, you won't be disappointed. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Let's see what this thing can do......"

Hello fellow tea drinkers

Yes I am a tea drinker just like you. I enjoy Black, White, Green, Darjeeling and Oolong (and maybe Matcha soon, but don't tell my wife). What I am not is an expert. But like everyone else on this planet I have an opinion, especially about tea. I'd like to share it with you but why stop there. Let's have some fun. So here is my plan. I'm am going to attempt to sample every Earl Grey known to man (and martians if they bring tea). With each version I will present my review, which if all goes well, should include pictures, comments, and of course brewing instructions. Whether this blogger scores big or falls flat will not matter. This entire process will work because I will get to try/sample more Earl Grey varieties they I could ever imagine.

So where will I begin? Well if I was a bit smarter I would have started this a while back. Instead I'll need to go back to some of the varieties I have already enjoyed and redo them. I will judge all forms of Earl Grey on an equal playing field. Meaning bags, satchels or loose will all be given equal footing. I'm hoping that enough people will find this journey interesting and let me know about new companies or online sites that I wasn't aware of. Hopefully we can all learn from this while at the same time enjoy a nice cup of tea.

As the site progresses I'll change the background, add links and more content and try to provide as much Earl Grey info as possible. So boil some water and set your timers because this is going to be good  tasty.

The Earl Grey Addict