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.