Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review #26 - Harney & Sons Earl Grey Supreme (loose)

This review sees me return to a tea by Harney & Sons. As mentioned before, I bought a number of samples from them so this will be the second to be reviewed. In an effort to make sure I was not influenced in any way by the name or packaging I was going to come up with some completely random way to select from the remaining H&S samples. While contemplating this new and completely random method my youngest walked up and asked what I was doing. I informed him of how I was coming up with a brand new way to pick which tea I was going to review next. Given how curious little ones can be, I provided many details and made sure he understood all the permutations. He paused, looked at me, looked at the tea samples on the counter, looked at me again and then handed me one. "Here, do this one!" And with that my random selection from the remaining teas was completed. Onto the review. 
As we saw in the first H&S review, their sample bags all look the same both front and back and the only difference is the naming label applied to them. Like before the bag gives off zero aroma so you will loose little to nothing during the shipping and handling of your tea. With that out of the way I ripped off the top of the bag, opened it and took in my first breath which gave me a strong perfume smell. As you know I prefer the more natural citrus based aromas but do not hold it against most teas. Brewing changes many things so I always refrain from prejudging.  I tried again after letting the tea bag breath a little and the perfume smell was still present just not as strong. Because of this I could detect a bit of tea but mostly this Earl Grey was about the overwhelming aroma. 

So I headed over to their site to find out the ingredients of this blend: 
A nice mixture of large black leaves, the brown leaves of the oolong, and silver needles of the white tea. 

As for the actual begamot, I found this:

Lovely citrus aromas predominate, we put a higher amount of bergamot in this special tea.

So after reading this I placed my typical serving size amount onto the white plate and let it sit there to really air out. Unfortunately I still got an artificial aroma rather then a nice clean natural one. I wondered if it was me so I went back to some of my previously reviewed teas and re-tested the aroma on some of the stronger blends. There indeed was alot more citrus in a few others then in this tea so it wasn't me. This tea, and it's ingredients tend towards the purfume side.

Steeping Method 
A few reviews back I needed to cover quite the range of steeping times starting at 1 minute and going all the way up to 5 minutes. Thankfully this tea is going easy on me. All I have to concern myself with is 4 to 5 minutes. 
The Results
At the 4 minute steep time the color was good but the perfume was still very strong and rather over powering. If the aroma was one of fresh citrus, as if being in an orchard, I wouldn't mind. But it's not. So I decided to let it sit for while. Thankfully things improved. The perfume made way to a more natural aroma and the taste became more balanced. Initially this was all flavoring and no tea. But as it cooled the differences started to even out.  
At 5 minutes I got more of the same but faster and with a better result. (Yes I know that made no sense). When the water was poured I got the same nose full of perfume. But this time, and because of
the extra minute, I think the perfume dissipated quicker. I could pick up on the tea a bit more and of course sooner. It was very slight but it was there. The flavor was similar to the 4 minute time but this time I didn't need quite so much cooling time. I'm not a tea master but from a logical point of view this is what I think is happening. Because the tea spent more time steeping it burned off the perfume flavoring and allowed the actual tea to come through. Was this by design? Only the blender can answer that. At this point I enjoyed the tea very much. It had some of those wonderful cooling artifacts that good teas exhibit. Stealing from the world of wine, I would say this tea had complexity. I still don't technically know what I'm drinking by way of ingredients so that puts a damper on my overall enjoyment. But it should be stated, this is a good Earl Grey.  

Now that you know I like the 5 minute steeping time, I can tell you quite frankly, there is nothing left to re-steep. At 4 minutes on the re-steep the water barely changes color and there is only a hint of anything. At 5 minutes the water gains a tiny amount of color but the flavor remains mostly heated water. Simple put, don't even bother with this tea. Enjoy the first cup/pot, compost the leaves, and start with fresh tea if you want a second helping. 

Final Thoughts. 
If you can get past the perfume filled aroma, and don't mind waiting for the flavors to blend, you should enjoy this tea as much as I did. Would I suggest this tea? That gets back to personal preferences. If you are like me and like knowing what's in your food, then you may want to hold off on this blend because they really don't tell you. If that doesn't matter to you, then by all means try it for yourself. I will add that H&S does have an Organic Earl Grey that I plan to review in the near future. I did sneak a peak at their description page and found something that has me looking forward to my next Harney & Sons review: 

Since these are organic teas, the aroma is light and subtle. This allows the lemony Bergamot to come through loud and clear.