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.