Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review #22 - Bigelow Earl Grey (bagged)

There is a famous idiom/expression that goes something like this:

Familiarity breeds contempt 

To some that means the more you know something/someone the more you see their faults and on and on it goes. I personally don't buy into that line of negative thinking but rather go with "the more you know something the more you can appreciate." I'm going to give a bit a way for this review and say that I know Bigelow Earl Grey very, very well. After watching one of the first Star Trek Next Generation episodes I had my first ever cup of Earl Grey and it was Bigelow that I first tried. I'm guessing it was not the same "brand" that Picard was drinking but it got me started on my tea loving journey. So with all that out of the way, lets get on with the review.....Number 1, make it so.


Bigelow does a good job of sealing their bags because I couldn't pick up any aroma from either the box or the wrapper. Once you open the wrapper I will admit the aroma is rather faint. It's neither filled with perfume nor is it ripe with fruity freshness. To put it bluntly you really have to get your nose into the wrapper to get a full inhale. And once you do it's rather timid. According to the box there are only two ingredients:

black tea, natural oil of bergamot
There is some marketing speak about hand picked and tender leaves but in reality Bigelow doesn't really give you any real info when it comes to what kind of black tea is present. Also, and I know I've beaten this subject to death, this is not an organic tea so we have to take a leap of faith on how "natural" the natural oil in this tea really is. But the one thing Bigelow shows up huge on is... No Staples. That's right please give them a polite British clap while saying thank you. It's nice to see a large company like Bigelow move away from putting metal in tea and going with the wrap and knot.

Steeping Method

This is where Bigelow tea zigs where everyone else zags. Even I'm guilty of falling into the 4 minute trap when it comes to Earl Grey. But then again so many varieties use that time and come out perfect, so I just default to it. Well think again...and so you'll believe me ... here it is, right from their box... word for word:

Pour Boiling water over tea bag in a cup and steep for 1 to 2 minutes.

Heresy. She's a Witch! Burn her..... where's the duck to make sure. No more Newts!!!! It's like reading crazy talk. No one steeps their Earl Grey for just 2 minutes! Well think again, because as the label says, 1 to 2 is all they are calling for. So what does this insane steeping time produce?

The Results

I'm going to give this tea an award and then explain why I did such a weird thing.

Bigelow Earl Grey is awarded the Bear Grylls Survival award.

At this point in the review you've probably thought I've lost it but hold on and let me explain.

The color of this tea at the 1-2 minute mark is on the light side but I'm telling you to ignore that and keep steeping. Seriously, just leave the bag in there and start drinking when ever you are ready. Why? Because this is the tea that created the reason I stress test all my teas. At 1 to 2 minutes this is a very thin tasting tea and doesn't have much to talk about. But let it go and you will be rewarded with a pretty decent tea...for the price... and for it's availability. On three different occasions, I have needed, wanted, craved Earl Grey and didn't have any. So I head to what ever place is closest and go with the idea that my choices with be slim to none. But every time I go looking, I find Bigelow Earl Grey (and other flavors). It's amazing.

I was camping once and I found this tea at their tiny little variety store. While vacationing in New Hampshire
we had some water spill and all the tea I brought was ruined. A mile and a half down the road I find Bigelow Earl Grey in some tiny supermarket at 9pm on a Sunday night. While on vacation in Portugal a few years back I was offered tea only to see them pull out Bigelow. Seriously, the reason this tea gets the Bear Grylls award is because I call it survival tea. No matter where I go I can find it, at a good price, and it's always the same. And that's the reason I will always have a spot in my Tea Tasting heart for this tea.

Now to be honest, this tea isn't going to win any awards for it's complexity, or it's unique flavor. This is plain Jane Earl Grey. No bells, No whistles, No flashing neon lights, just good old fashion bagged Earl Grey that you can find anywhere on the cheap. So don't expect any flavor change as it cools, because you won't get any and don't expect people to debate the merits of their results. But for less then 3 dollars a box (20 bags) how can you go wrong?


Given how strongly I suggest you just leave the bag in, this tea cannot be re-steeped because there will be nothing left. Sorry but that's the breaks.

Final Thoughts

So, just to be clear. Don't buy this tea because you are looking for the most exquisite tea known to mankind. Don't buy this tea because it's organic because it's not. But if you are ever on vacation, on travel, or find yourself jumping out of a plane into some remote part of the world, fear not because I'm sure within 5-10 miles of where you land, there will be a store that carries Bigelow Earl Grey. And when you bring that box back to your campsite, hotel room or newly made evergreen survival hut, you will be happy you did. Seriously, you need to boil the water before you drink it so you might as well have some tea.