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.