Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review #25 - Ashbys of London Earl Grey (bagged)

A few reviews back I hit the wrong key while typing in a company name. It was my fault and I admitted it. But this time, if not for me being extra careful I could have easily messed this one up bad. I'll explain. The tea being reviewed this week comes from Ashbys of London. When I did a web search to get their site I found, and I am not making this up, AshbyTea who sells Ashbys of London, among other things. Then I noticed the bags they show on the "No S" site are different from the ones I bought. So I went back to Ashbys of London's site (has an "S") and found the actual tea I am reviewing and thankfully it shows the same bag I have in my possession. So if I haven't totally confused you, lets get on with the review. 


Some of the companies I review set a tone with their box because more and more companies are trying to use recycled or partially recycled material. Needless to say I applaud their efforts for all the million obvious reasons. With regards to Ashbys, the first thing you see is plastic.  As you might have guessed, this is the first tea I've reviewed where the "box" was made entirely from clear plastic. Yes it's cool to see inside but as for the use of plastics, I have to admit to cringing a bit. With that out of the way I broke the seal and tried to pick up any aroma from the sealed bag. Ashbys has done a good job with their sealing process because I couldn't pick anything up by way of tea. So I ripped open the bag and took a nice deep inhale and got a nose full of perfume. Never wanting to go on first impressions, I let the opened bag breath a bit and tried again. The perfume aroma had dissipated some, and if you stayed with it, you could in fact smell the black tea. But as mentioned many times before, I look for a nice natural citrus aroma and personally get turned off by alot of artificial perfume.

Enough fooling around it was time to pull the bag out. That's when I saw the staples. I'll admit I cringed again. So I looked at the bottom of the plastic box and read the ingredients.
Ingredients: Black tea, Oil of bergamot

I flipped the box around and obviously found no additional info. So I went back and read everything on the bottom card. There I found some additional info. To be completely fair, I'll post what their site has....typos and all:

Named after the Prime Minister to China in 1830, Earl Grey derivesw its famoun flavor from oil of bergamot (an oil form the rind of the fruit of Citrus Bergamia). Ashbys flavor their own Earl Grey using a China Black FOP tea that has just the right body and flavor to enhance the oil of bergamot.

 So we have a tea that smells of perfume, uses staples and has a plastic box. As always I'm going to be completely honest here, my expectations at this point were not very high. Sadly the steeping section had another let down ready for us.

Steeping Method

With a tea bag ready to go I grabbed the wrapper to see what the steeping instructions were, and there weren't any.  The only instructions I could find were right under the ingredients.

Directions: Use one tea bag per cup. Pour on boiling water, leave to stand for 2-3 minutes, and serve.

I went back to their site and couldn't find any instructions on the Earl Grey page. So I had a look around and found on their product page a rather detailed set of instructions that seemed to be for straight black tea because it suggested boiling water for 5 minutes using loose tea. At this point in my review my little voice was telling me something was a bit off. That's when I noticed this:

In order to reduce your cost of shipping and handling charges.
Griffith Enterprises decided to reimburse handling charges for any orders over $80.00 (US) dollars.  
Who? So I thought maybe Ashbys (with an S) had been sold to this Griffith Co and Ashby (no S) was now selling it? Making this worse, and again returning to the underneath of the plastic box, it stated it was imported and distributed by Coffee Master Inc. in Spring Grove, IL. US. At this point I decided to move on and just finish this review.

The Results

Seeing how this tea did not call for a 4 minute steep time, that became my stress test along with 5
minutes just to make sure. At the 2 minute mark this tea kept it's perfume smelling attributes and didn't really taste very much of tea or Earl Grey. At 3 minutes, things improved to the point where during the cooling period I could pick out more of the bergamot but it was still a very artificial flavor. Strangely enough at 4 minutes things improved but again this was not a wonderfully tasting citrus filled tea.  No this was a tea that had plenty of artificial flavorings to it. At 5 minutes the tea started to turn suggesting I had burnt it.  The color at the suggested 3 min time can be seen in the picture and it was more then acceptable.


I think the re-steeping helped to "burn off" the perfume smell and taste because if you went 4 minutes on your second steep after stopping at 2 minutes for your first steep, it wasn't a total waste. It wasn't great but I actually preferred the second steep to the first.

Final Words

Plastic container, staples in bag and on label, no idea about the ingredients with regards to health, confusing instructions if you read their site, and a site that had a few things that you just don't see anymore with regards to web design. I won't go into them here but in a past life I did my fair share of PHP, ColdFusion, etc, etc and maybe that's why this site seems a bit off to me. Sticking with the tea only, this wasn't my favorite tea for most of the reasons listed above. If you like a tea where the bergamot is heavy on the perfume side, then try it. But for me, this is not something I would drink.