Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review #16 - Stash Earl Grey (Bagged)

This weeks review occurred because I needed some food before a class I was taking. The class occurred after work and was located about 30mins from my place of employment. That meant I needed something to eat which lead me to a supermarket not found in my area. My little voice said I should check out their tea section just in case and that's when I found they carried Stash Tea. I've had Stash tea a few times while visiting others, but it was always Organic Green never Earl Grey. So I grabbed a box, on sale no less, and placed it into my reviewing cue. Well the class is over, and it's Stash's turn to be reviewed. How did it fair? Time to find out. 


I tried to get a cheating whiff from the box but it's wrappings were very well done and I couldn't detect any tea aroma. After removing the plastic wrap I was expecting to be greeted with my first bergamot flavors. Instead I got nothing. That's when I looked inside and realized each tea bag was contained within it's own  sealed wrapper. (As aside, I may have created my first Law of Tea Bags with respect to boxes and wrapper adornment but I'll cover that in the Final Thoughts section.)  So I ripped one open and was met with Oranges. Seriously, if you have ever visited an orange orchard that's exactly what this tea smells like. It was full of fresh citrus aroma that didn't stop. You could also pick up some tea notes but you really had to pay attention to pick them up. From memory this has to be the most citrus filled, orange filled aroma I've ever come across. Wondering how they got that wonderful aroma into the tea I flipped the box around and found my previous geography lesson would not be wasted. 

For out version, we blend premium quality Ceylon, Assam and Yunnan black teas with 100% bergamot oil from Calabria, Italy for a lively, distinctive flavor and lavender-like bouquet. Smooth and aromatic with a hit of light citrus, excellent as afternoon or after dinner tea. 

That's right our new favorite region in Italy Calabria was again mentioned.  Since we're on the subject I'll let Wikipedia add the next part:

The Bergamot orange is intensively cultivated, since 18th century,[30] exclusively in coastal area nearby to Reggio, where it found its optimal geological and weather conditions: essence oil from Calabrian Bergamot reach the best quality in the world.
Whether you believe everything on Wiki or not is up to you, but results don't lie. This tea has an excellent and citrus aroma, period. It should also be noted that Stash didn't use staples anywhere so bravo to that.

Brewing Method

We jump back from the internet and look back to the box to see what Stash suggests for it's steeping time(s).
To savor the full flavor of our teas, bring fresh water to a rolling boil. Pour hot water directly over the tea bag in a pre-heated pot or cup. Brew 3-5 minutes or to desired taste.  

As typical for all of my bagged tea reviews we closely follow their instructions AND do a bit of stress testing. This review had me sample the tea at 3, 4 and 5 minutes. I also went beyond, hitting the 6 and 7 minute marks. So how did this tea fair? Keep reading.

The Results

When I first started this blog I made a point not to differentiate between bagged and loose. I stated my reasons for doing so and have stuck by my guns since then. Well today I was repaid. This tea (bagged) is better then last week's tea (loose). The flavor is more complex, has better citrus flavors, and even has some cooling artifacts. Like I said, it's a better tea, without handicaps. The tasting went as follows.

My first attempt was 3 minutes and quite frankly was not impressed. It was very thin and had me wondering if this tea would improve the amount needed to really be good in only 1 minute. But it did, at 4 minute this tea is ready to drink and full of flavor. As mentioned, the citrus and floral flavors and aromas come together to make a wonderful tea. At 5 minutes I detected an ever so slight amount of bitterness but it was there. For me, 4 1/2 minutes was the sweat spot for the first bag. The second bag was closer to the 4 minute mark. So if you have a timer set it to 4 minutes and be ready to enjoy a very good Earl Grey. The color will be a nice dark color, an have plenty of flavor without any bitterness.

As for my stress testing, you can probably guess what happen. Yeah I burnt this tea good. With the tea starting to give hints of bitterness at slightly beyond 5 minutes, 6 minutes had plenty. At the 7 minute mark it was pretty obvious this tea was not made for steeping beyond 5. Which is fine, because the box made it clear where I should have stopped.


Catch-22. If you like to re-steep your bagged tea then stop promptly at the 3 minute mark for the first steep then do the same for the second and you'll get two cups of very thin tea. Personally, don't do it. Set the timer for 4 minutes and enjoy a good cup of tea for the first and only steep and if you want another cup, grab a fresh bag.

Final Thoughts

Overall this is a very good tea. It has good color, can be purchased at a good price, the aroma will surprise you and the flavor will have you grabbing for a second bag. The only gripe about is, it's listed as 100% natural tea and not organic. Sadly the word "natural" has been destroyed, overused and down right lied about so I can't give it a perfect rating even if Stash actually used all natural tea and oil. But to be fair, they do have an organic version of this tea listed on their website which I will absolutely review sometime in the future. To end, get out there and sample some for yourself.


EGA's First Theory of Tea Bags : The flavor of bagged tea is inversely proportional to the quality of artwork on the tea bags.

My theory is based upon the notion that the more a company spends time wise on bag aesthetics, the less time they appear to spend on creating good tea.

Arguments, postulates, etc are welcome.