Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review #12 - Dev-o-tea Earl Grey White Tips

As you recall I was teapot-less for last weeks review. Well my two, yes two, new teapots arrived on Sat so life in the loose lane is back. While picking out my Chatsford replacement I found a cast iron pot as well so that's why I now have two. Why does this matter? Because while picking out my pots at I noticed they also sold...wait for it...tea. Go figure huh? So I grabbed a few of their Earl Grey Offerings and decided one of those teas will be my next review. That's how we arrived at this review. Normally that's all there needs to be said but in this case I gotta hand it to them, their sample pack have to be one of the coolest  pouches I've seen. I mean come on, it's clear so you can actually see the tea. What a great idea for a sample pack. Think about it, you're at a store, and you see the front of the tea pouch. You ponder, sigh, and wonder  if you should pull the trigger and try their tea. All the other teas will be bought site unseen, but this tea lets you see exactly what it looks like. Pretty cool. Ok, enough about the see through bag, onto the review.


After cutting off the top, I opened the resealable (yes, for a sample bag, told you it was good) bag and took a deep breath. I was greeted with a wonderfully fresh and clean aroma. You could smell the tea but the Bergamot was definitely there and it wasn't on the perfume side of things. No, this one elicited thoughts of being in an orchard. I would definitely describe it as natural, clean and fresh.

As stated before one side of the bag is see through while the other contains all the information. They describe the tea in the following way:

Fine China Teas with abundant white tips (the most prized leaf) blended with the finest oil of bergamot available. Incredibly aromatic and flavorful    

Most times I take issue with the marketing aspect of certain tea brands but I must say, this IS one very aromatic tea so I'm going to agree with them. With the aroma out of the way, onto the most important part, the flavor.

Brewing Method

Taking directly from the bag here are the instructions.

Use 1 teaspoon per cup
Pre-Warm the pot
Add hot water 205F or above
Steep 2-4 minutes
Remove tea, pour, enjoy 

 As typical for most of my reviews, I test all times given and stress test the tea a bit. So I tried 2, then 3, then 4 and even though not listed, I even tried the tea at 5 minutes. Which brings us to the results.

The Results

Everyone has their own special way of enjoying tea. Some like it a bit strong, others a bit milder. For me the 4 minute steep really got my attention. The aroma continued well into the glass leading me to believe I was going to like this tea. The color of this tea tuned out very nice as well. Dark but again not artificially so.  And then we have the flavor. If I had to describe this tea in one word it would have to be "blended". (real word?) I guess I should explain what I mean by that.

Some teas are too light on the bergamot and end up tasting more like just a black tea then an Earl Grey tea. Then you have the opposite where the flavoring over powers the black tea (no small task). That's why I enjoyed this tea alot. It was so well blended. The only negative I could give it was it's lack of complexity when it cooled a bit. There are some Earl Grey's that for whatever reason act like wine and actually "change" as they cool. If you've ever been to a wine tasting event, you'll know that your first taste should remain in your mouth a bit to allow all the subtle flavors to be enjoyed. With really good Earl Grey, the flavor changes ever so slightly as it cools. The only thing this tea is missing is that cooling effect. Beyond that, a very good Earl Grey.


Given how well blended this tea was I thought for sure it would provide a bit more for it's second steep. Don't get me wrong, it's second steep is still good, it's just a step down on flavor quantity. So in an effort to remain fair and neutral I'm going to leave it up to the reader's choice. For me, it would depend upon my mood. I'll give this a positive because at least you have the option.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this tea and have no issues recommending it to anyone. The flavor was consistent, the color was good and depending upon your preference, you can even get a second steep out it making it cost effective.
Do yourself a favor and try it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Review #11 - Ahmad Tea Earl Grey

Normally I don't talk about myself in these reviews because you are not here for my personal life but for tea. But in this case, what happened in my life impacted today's review. If you would direct your attention to the picture you will notice a broken teapot cover. To be more specific, my broken teapot cover. The same cover used on the pot I brew all my loose Earl Grey in. At this point I think you can see where this is going. Yup, I had to change what I was reviewing at the very last minute. For those of you astute types, you probably have noticed my tea reviews alternate between bagged and loose. And as things tend to go, this week was suppose to be a loose tea. Trust me when I say this, I was ready. Got up Sunday morning, started to cook breakfast and did what I always do, clean out my Chatsford pot. The main part cleaned up nicely, as it always does, but the top broke in my hands. After further inspection, and a more detailed investigation, it appears I had a few cracks in the old pot. After seeing the cracks I guess it was only a matter of time before something let go. I just wish it had let go earlier and not 5 minutes before starting my review. But then again when Murphy strikes, he really strikes. So instead of loose tea this week, we have another bagged.

To wrap this up, I ordered a replacement pot and thought it might arrive by weeks end. Then I looked at the weather forecast and started to laugh. The New England area, where I'm from, has a somewhat decent snow storm on the way. So at this point in time I have no idea what kind of tea I will be reviewing next weekend. As I said before, when Murphy Strikes, he goes all out. On to this week's review.


As with every bagged tea I typically see if I can pick up on some of the aroma before I remove the plastic wrap from the box. With Ahmad's box I got nothing so off the wrapper came. Speaking of the box, I don't think I ever seen so many languages listed on a tea box. Seriously, it was like some overseas toy where the instructions come in every conceivable language known to man. Gotta say, from a marketing point of view, it's kind of impressive to warrant so much international support. With all of that out of the way I grabbed one of the bags and was surprised to see the exact same "painting/picture" from the cover of the box on the bags as well. Again, really nice touch and probably the nicest looking bags I've seen. After I carefully opened the pouch taking care not to ruin the picture I was ready to enjoy the tea's aroma. Sadly, there wasn't any. I assumed I did something wrong and took another deep inhale. Still nothing. Last week's Tazo was very low on the aroma scale so I decided not to pass judgement too quickly. I pulled the bag out and started to pass judgment. Staples on both the bag and label.

Ok, so we have little to no aroma, and staples. I wondered if I had bought a stale old box that some store attendant had forgotten.  Sadly the box has both a Packing Date and a Best Before Date. It was packaged on 2/2012 and was not set to expire until 2/2015. Simply put this was a recent creation and that means we still have companies who feel it's ok to have metal in your tea. It's kind of funny, on one hand you have this beautiful box with an elegant picture, an array of different languages and some great info by way of packaging. Unfortunately once you get past that part you are greeted with 2 negatives.

Brewing Method

Once again Ahmad gets the packaging right by putting the brewing instructions on the back of the sealed pouch. 3-5 mins with "100%" boiling water. The instructions are in both words and in pictorial form so even if English is not your language you should be able to follow along. In my typical stress testing mentality I tried the tea at 3, 4 and 5 minutes in addition to my "just leave the bag in" process I sometimes follow.

The Results

I've written and re-written this section at least a half a dozen times because I always try to find something positive to comment on. In this case, when you take away the packaging you find a bland and almost tasteless tea. At the 3 minute steep mark you can barely pick out this is Earl Grey. At 4 minutes it starts to taste like a second steep of other teas I've reviewed. The flavor is thin and has no depth. The color is ok but not as dark as most others. At 5, I couldn't really see any improvement over 4 to justify waiting. I will say the color got much darker so even though the flavor didn't really improve the act of steeping was having an affect. So I ended up going with my "just leave it in" method and ended up with burnt tea.

So off to the web site I went in hopes of finding more information. The box says the tea can be "served without milk" so I wasn't dealing with that issue again. Just like their boxes, their website is very well done and I found, very quickly and easily, the following.

Our Earl Grey is a select blend of our finest teas, lightly scented with the elegant flavour of bergamot. This gives it the aromatic, refreshing character that balances the invigorating briskness of the tea with a bright fresh citrus taste. Enjoy one of our most popular afternoon teas with a slice of lemon to capture the top notes or indulge with delicious creamy desserts or lemon cakes and tartlets.   
Lemon? In Earl Grey? So for my last attempt at providing a fair review to this tea I grabbed myself a slice of lemon and added it to my 4 minute brew time cup of Earl Grey. The result, Lemon Tea.


To put it bluntly, and given this tea's very thin first steep going for a second is not worth the effort.

Final Thought

As I stated before I normally can find something positive to say about almost every tea I review. Sadly beyond the beautiful website and box cover ("painting depicts the opening of the Houses of Parliament in the 19th Century. Built on the banks of the River Thames in Central London after the previous buildings were destroyed by fire in 1834,") I cannot suggest this tea to anyone.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Review #10 - Tazo Earl Grey Bagged

If any tea could have a huge and lengthy write up it's this one. We could touch on the actual owner of Tazo of which we all know to be Starbucks. Then there is the recent purchase of Teavana by Starbucks which makes this even more news worthy. Will Tazo remain in it's current condition? Will any of the tea's formula change? Will Teavana's tea's replace Tazo's. As you can see there is much to discuss if you are into that sorta thing. Given how my background is not in business I will leave the forecasts and such to more qualified people and stick with what I know; reviewing Earl Grey Tea.


Before I removed the clear wrapper on the box I tested to see if I could pick up any escaping scents. I couldn't, so I moved on to opening one of the individual bags. I will admit I didn't get much of an aroma when compared to other teas I have reviewed. I can say I was happy to find no staples on the tag or pouch. As company's continue making strides toward more eco-awareness, I'm almost to the point when any tea company that refuses to ditch the staples should be shunned. Getting back to the aroma, there definitely was some aroma but clearly not the amount I was expecting. According to the box the tea is a blend of "the world's most sought-after teas, grown in the high-elevation gardens of Sri Lanka and northeast India" which is blended with the "essence of Bergamot".

Obviously Starbucks/Tazo know a few things about marketing their products so even though they told us alot in fact we really don't know what kind of tea is in that little bag. Then again we do live a world filled with secret formula's and such so I guess some info is better then none.(I know, I seem to say that alot)

Brewing Method

Here is the first shocker. As stated many times before after drinking so much Earl Grey I kinda default to a 4 minute steep time without really thinking about it. So when I actually read the box and saw them calling for 3, I had to laugh. Good for the Tazo I thought. They obviously picked a time which they thought would bring out the best in their tea and who am I to question them. The answer is obvious, I am.

That's right I brewed up a second glass and left it go for 4 minutes. You know what? Towards the end of the cup I did notice a touch of over cooked tea. So with that piece of data, I didn't push the matter any further. 3 minutes it is.

The Results

The best way to describe how I feel about this tea would be in a simple statement, "if only it were organic." Why the statement? Because if this tea were organic it would rank right up there with many of the best teas I sampled. On flavor, this tea is excellent. At the initial high temp right after steeping this tea had many layers to enjoy. As the tea cools the Bergamot really starts to shine and left this Earl Grey Addict looking forward to a second cup. Just to repeat, this is an excellent tea and for those of you who aren't as particular about your tea as yours truly, you can't go wrong.

The other shocker of this tea is the very dark color. For a bagged tea this has to be one of the darkest Earl Grey's I reviewed so far and that includes both loose and bagged. I also noticed the aroma intensified after brewing as well so what ever Tazo did in their mixing and packing they got it right.


There would be no shocker in this area. In my opinion this tea was design to give you a very good cup of tea for the first steep. The second steep is no where near the first and quite honestly is a waste of your time unless you're out of bags and must have another cup.

Final Thoughts

I think we've covered it all in this review so lets go over it again. Not much aroma until the steeping begins then everything comes to life. The flavor is wonderful and deep while the color is very dark. If they produced an organic version with the same result I would be buying stock in Tazo tomorrow. To end, do yourself a favor and try it for yourself.