Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review #21 - Upton Tea Ceylon FBOP Select Earl Grey (loose)

Well ladies and gents, we have reached the last Earl Grey from Upton tea. That's right, a ways back, I ordered every pure Earl Grey (no other flavorings beside Bergamot) from Upton tea. Then I started to review them when ever possible, but not so often as to appear biased in any way. Well this review marks the end of that order. So unless Upton adds any new Earl Grey's to their selection, we will be done with them until further notice. I will share that I did the same thing with another vendor but you'll just have to wait and see who that well known tea "house" is. So while you ponder the options, lets review what might possibly be the longest name for an Earl Grey yet.


 As typical with Upton their sealed foil bags do not allow any aroma to escape, which is a good thing for freshness retention. That also means no cheating on the aroma test. Instead I peeled open their sample pack bag and was met with a very mellow but clean aroma. I continued to enjoy it and only picked up something slightly, and I mean very slightly "off" with the aroma. When you take in a good Earl Grey with real bergamot the fruity aromas linger and remain fresh and clean. With this tea you get that initially but then at the end you also pick up something else.  So as not to influence my review I didn't go to the website but just continued on with the review.

Steeping Method

Because I was purposely avoiding their site, I went with the instructions printed on the sample label. To be honest, nothing earth shattering, just good ol' fashion true blue typical methods.

1tsp / 3-5 min / 212 deg F 
This means I tasted this tea at the 3, 4 , and 5 minute marks. Since this is not bagged tea there is no need to stress test.

The Results

This tea was a pleasant surprise due to it's rather mellow aroma. If I had to sum up my tasting experience it
would be something like, "Not bad, Not bad at all with a secondary taste." To some this isn't a great review result and to be honest I won't be ranking this tea among the best ever. But I did like it minus the after taste. The flavor is very well balanced and only misses the cooling effect by a little  There is some flavor change, which I'll talk about as it relates to the steeping time, but overall a good flavor. So why the reservations? Let me explain.

To begin, let me explain how the flavor changed with steeping time. At the three minute mark this tea was very thin but still balanced. At the 4 minute mark the sweetness and aroma greatly improved to the point where I was quite happy with it. But if you are looking for that sweet cooling effect, 5 minutes is the way to go. By going to the 5 minute mark, you got a well balanced tea, and some nice cooling effect flavors. At this point I think it would be wise to point out what the letters in the name of this tea stand for. FBOP.

F BOP—Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe: Coarser and broken with some tips. From Assam, Ceylon, Indonesia, China, and Bangladesh. In South America coarser, black broken.
 source: Wikipedia

I know what you are thinking? You trust the Wiki? In this case after searching through countless sites, Wiki had the same exact thing everyone else had in a nice neat, and easily copied format.

So now for the bad part of this tea. After finishing the tasting part of this review I headed over to the Upton site and had a look at the ingredients hoping to find a reason for the secondary taste. Sadly I found something I was hoping not to see.

Ingredients:   black tea, natural & artificial flavor Origin:   Germany 

 Yup, those dreaded words, "Artificial flavor"; at least for me they are. But I will be fair and say this, I obviously don't know exact amounts of the artificial flavorings but if I were a betting man I would say less then 50% because there isn't a perfume based smell or taste. Just something not perfectly citrus about it. Granted they could be using something that doesn't give off any form of the typical perfume give away's making me totally wrong. But like I said, it's my guess and I'm sticking with it until further notice.

To end, the color of this tea was on the light side and the leaf expansion was on par with most other loose varieties.


This may come as a surprise but you can re-steep this tea, but at a cost. A cost which we've run into before with other teas. If you want to re-steep this tea keep your steeping times under 4 minutes. It won't be the best 2nd cup of Earl Grey you've ever had but it will be ok. If it were me I'd go for the best taste and forget the re-steep. But that's just me.

Final Thoughts

I could go on and on about taking something so pure as tea and adding artificial ingredients but you didn't come here to read a rant. You want a review so here are my final thoughts. If you are into the natural/organic side of things, I would skip this tea not because of the flavor but due to what "might" be in this tea. If you are on the other side of things, this Earl Grey isn't all that bad. It lacks some of the cooling effects other teas have but this is still a good tea and I would try it for yourself.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In loving tribute to Boston...

I remember it like it was yesterday, my parents were taking me to see this running race thing I kept hearing about. When we arrived my parents complained about how far they needed to park to find an actual parking space. Then we walked for what seemed like forever all at a pace that seemed a bit excessive, at the time, to make sure we got to see "Him". When we arrive it wasn't at some huge fancy arena but just another street. I thought my parents were tapped. Why did they drag me all this way to stand at some random street corner to watch a parade. Then it happened.

A Boston motorcycle policemen went by lights flashing, sirens blaring up a storm, the place became electric. Then a few more and then I got to see Him that everyone was talking about. Him being Bill Rogers. The man who owned the sport of marathons for a period of 5 years. He won both the Boston and NY City marathons 4 times. 2 of those Bostons he finished so quickly he broke the American record. I was in awe. As a child, Bill Rogers was my first real Sports Hero. As he ran by me that day he appeared to barely touch the ground.

For the next few hours I spent my time screaming in support of all the runners who past by. From that point forward both the Boston Marathon and running became an integral part of my life. Every Patriots Day I would turn on the tv and watch the marathon start to finish. To some it was just a bunch of guys running but to me it became a way of life. I dreamed of one day crossing the line no matter what it took. Sadly that dream was taken away when I developed a knee injury during my years running high school track. I was told that yes I could train and probably finish Boston but that I would probably ruin my knee and need surgery following the race. My love for Boston never waned and I continued to run only with a different goal in life. A few years later I got into multi-sports and joined a local team and back to Boston I went.

Come to find out one of the team's sponsors was going to be at the Boston Marathon Expo and needed volunteers to man their booth. I jumped at the chance to be there, and wasn't disappointed. I got free parking, a free pass into the expo, and of course got to see it all during a break. That's when I saw Bill Rogers, a bit more frail but no less a hero of mine. My chance to rub elbows with another Boston great would happen some years later.

At my first teaching job I kept hearing and seeing a familiar Boston Marathon name. I thought it was someone else but no, I was working with Geoff Smith winner of both the 84' and 85' Boston Marathons. In 1986 Boston began handing out prize money which sadly was the year after Geoff won his last Boston.
 I remember talking with him about running and both of our injuries. He spoke with me as an equal and shared that he was over joyed to be able to run following one of his surgeries. My love for running was cemented when I heard him describe what it felt like to run a 10min mile for the first time in too long.

Boston will forever be a part of my life. For some that shared love of Boston put them in a spot where some lunatic felt it best to destroy instead of support this great event and those running it. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been affected by this horrible act. To all the Bill's and Geoff's and everyone who has ever crossed the line at Boston, I salute you, I support you and I pray that someday needless violence will someday be a thing of the past.

God Bless


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review #20 - David Rio Organic Earl Grey (Bagged)

I made the following announcement via my twitter account (@EarlGreyAddict1) but I'd like to repeat it here as well since I'm guessing not everyone saw it. As of this review I am moving to a Summer Release Schedule. What does that mean? Easy. With the weather finally breaking in my part of the world, (US, state of MA) Sunday is now a huge work in the garden, play with family, workout, just plain be outside as long as possible day, that leaves very little time to do a proper review. So from now on, my reviews will be released on either Monday or Tuesday. That's all the none review news I have so on to the review.


I told you it was pink
I know I shouldn't do this but hey, it's my site so I'll just come right out and say it; the packaging colors are not exactly manly Jean-Luc Picard type choices. There is alot of pink and not a dark, maybe it's a cranberry  type shade. Nope, this is a, as my wife calls it, "hot pink." The same kind of pink you'd see a 6 year old little girl wearing to Sunday morning Easter Mass while walking hand in hand with Mom in her own matching pink dress. Yes, it's that kinda pink. Ok, enough of that, lets get back to the actual review.

There is very little aroma present until you break open their "sachet". That's when you are greeted with a wonderfully full aroma of bergamot with something else. At the time I couldn't put my finger on it so I grabbed the box and did some reading. I'm sure I noticed safflower as an ingredient when I first bought the box but I obviously forgot all about it. I'll let their site provide the details:

A refined blend of organic black tea infused with safflower & bergamot essence     
According to the box both the tea and the safflower are organic while the bergamot is listed as "natural". So after enjoying the very natural smelling tea sachet I pulled out the bag and prepared to steep. That when I noticed the staples. First I thought, maybe they're only on the string and tag portion of the bag. But no they use staples to seal the bag. I'm sorry but this makes no sense to me. The tea is organic. The safflower is organic. According to the box the location where the tea is packaged, uses 100% wind power. The box is made from recycled consumer content and the bags are made from unbleached material. But you still use staples to hold the bag together? Sorry but any tea company that still uses staples automatically loses points in my book. Yes, the aroma is quite good, but my initial enthusiasm for this tea had been tempered.

Brewing Method

The box provides both forms of steeping instructions, one for hot and one for iced tea.

Bring fresh cold filtered water to a boil and immediately pour over the tea bag. Steep for 3-5 minutes  
For those of you who have read enough of my reviews should know by now that this range of steeping time means I have some work to do. That means 3, 4 and 5 minutes will be sampled in addition to my stress testing. FYI - their website is a bit more to the point but still the same:

Brew Temperature 212 degrees Brew Time 3-5 mins.

The Results

When people ask me if I'm getting bored with all this tasting, I can now reply with, "and miss a tea like this?" Yes, this is very good bagged tea. At the 3 minute mark it was very light but still enough to be complex. You get a very slight change in flavor when it cools but only a touch. At 4 minutes this tea shines in both color and flavor. It has a full body Earl Grey taste with nothing after to ruin it. The Earl Grey is up front but still allows the black tea to come through. When it cools there is much more flavor change and you start to pick up some of that
complexity that good loose Earl Grey's some time exhibit. At 5 minutes the Earl Grey is even stronger and for me it's a bit too much. For me this is where personal preference comes into play. I like a balanced Earl Grey so 5 is not my personal choice. But if you like a more intense Earl Grey tea let it go until the timer says 5 minutes. Making this even better, we are talking about bagged tea so travel and drinking a good Earl Grey away from home just got easier and better.

From there we moved on to the stress test and that's where the bitterness came through but not until 7 minutes in. I can't believe this tea held on that long. But then again most bagged teas, and some loose for that matter, don't taste this good at 4 minutes. So as you can see I really enjoyed this tea and now have some choices when it comes to vacation/away from home tea.


So here is the rub. Do you want the best cup of Earl Grey you can get or do you want two cups of tea out of this bag? If you are looking to double your enjoyment then I would keep your steeping times between 3-4 minutes and then go for 4-5 on the second steep. Personally, I want the best cup any tea can provide so I'm going a touch over 4 minutes and forget the re-steep. If I want a second cup I'm grabbing another bag. But at least you have the choice if you so desire.

Final Thoughts

I would enjoy nothing more then to say this is my new travel tea but I can't. Not when there are other bagged teas that match this one in flavor, also use all organic ingredients and are ethical about their business while not using staples. If by some strange twist of fate Mr. David Rio himself actually reads this review this is what I want him to read, "I'll get around the color issue with Duct Tape if you replace the staples." Deal? For the rest of you, if staples are not a "thing" for you, try this tea. It's that good.