Monday, May 13, 2013

Review #23 - Harney & Son's Earl Grey (loose)

In the past few reviews I hinted that I did my second bulk purchase from another well known “Tea House”. The reason this “Tea House” was selected comes from the feedback I’ve received from countless people suggesting them. So when fellow tea drinkers, and more specifically those tea drinkers who also enjoy Earl Grey, said I should check out this “Tea House” I listened. So as the title reveals, the tea house in question is Harney & Son’s. I ended up purchasing samples which covered their entire “just” Earl Grey varieties. With that news revealed, let’s get onto the review.


The sample comes in what looks like a generic pouch because of the four samples I received, the only difference between them appeared to be a sticker with the actual tea variety name. The steeping instruction, which we’ll go into more detail later, covers all kinds of tea. My initial reaction to this set up was a bit off until I considered how this could help keep packaging prices down. But then again when you receive packaging that has instructions specific to that tea, it does give a sense of focus. As the expression goes, I’m obviously splitting hairs on the matter but why not mention it, so if you feel one way or the other you can join the conversation and leave a comment. One of the things I like about the pouch was its zip-lock like closure. My reviews include multiple steeps so keeping my samples fresh is very important to obtain a fair review.

As to the aroma itself I would have to characterize it as subdued The aroma will not blow you away with overwhelming citrus or a lot of perfume. Actually it’s one of the few teas I’ve reviewed that allow you to pick up both the bergamot and the tea. But as we've seen, some tea crafters mix a tea that brings a lot of flavor even with a lesser aroma so this will always be just one metric to my reviews.

At this point I was rather curious as to what the ingredients were and here is what their site said:

Our blend uses teas from India and China, blended with natural Oil of Bergamot.
One can only hope the bergamot oil used was derived from the fruit found in this website's favorite Italian area.


I touched on this before but let’s get into the details now. Their sample bags, which may or may not be different from their full size bags, have instructions for brewing all kinds of tea. Given my focus on Earl Grey I went with their Black Tea instructions which were listed as follows:

Black Teas, Black Flavored Teas and Herbals
To enjoy a delicious pot of tea, please preheat your pot for a minute with boiling water then discard this water. Place a teaspoon of tea per desired cup into the pot and pour boiling water over the tea. Brew 4-5 minutes. Strain and remove the tea leaves.

The Result

For my first attempt I went with the four minute steep time. As I have stated many times, 4 minutes of
steeping appears to be synonymous, minus a few exceptions, with Earl Grey. At this steeping time the color was good and maybe even a bit darker than the average color I’m used to seeing. The flavor on the other hand was on the thin side to begin. It had some fruity bergamot flavors but allowed the tea to be enjoyed as well. As the tea cooled the bergamot flavor became more pronounced and I enjoyed it a bit more. It was still on the lighter tasting side but still had a good flavor. From there, I moved on to 5 minutes.

At the 5 minute mark things changed in two different directions. In the bad, letting the tea go that extra minute meant the tea was (obviously) hotter which took away from the initial tasting. It was almost as if the heat of the tea made it impossible to enjoy. So I let the tea sit for a bit and tried again and that’s where the good occurred. After about a minute of cooling the extra steeping time started to pay off. The tea was definitely fruitier leaving me to believe in this blend the bergamot needed more time to fill the tea with its flavors. As I continued to drink this tea, and it continued to cool, I enjoyed it more and more. But keep in mind; this is still a lightly flavored Earl Grey. Along with the 5minute steep time came a slight after taste which had me wondering if I burnt the tea or our old friend "natural" was a bit more?


It’s broken record time, so here goes. If you want to re-steep, go with the 4 minute steep time and you’ll get an even lighter Earl Grey for your second. Personally, I’d stop the steeping just before 5 minutes, enjoy what this tea has to offer and forget the re-steep.

Final Thoughts

If you like a lighter flavored Earl Grey I’d definitely try it for yourself. I like a bit more cooling flavor (fruity) so I'm looking forward to trying the other samples from Harvey in hopes of finding something a bit stronger.

Update: My Apologize to Harney & Sons for my initial typo with their name. I wrote it once then copied and pasted using that incorrect spelling more times then I care to admit. Hopefully I fixed them all. If you find one here or online on Twitter, let me know so I can make it right.