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.