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.