Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review #28 - The Republic of Tea Earl Greyer Black Tea Bags

While walking around with my family in the wonderful town of North Conway, NH I tried a small sandwich shop that also served tea. Most of it was generic stuff but I did happened to notice their selection of the not so generic -Republic of Tea-. After a quick look around I found their Earl Grey offering and just like that, another tea ready to be reviewed.


It was bound to happen but The Republic of Tea (TRT) has managed to change my review process when it comes to bags, and how they are sealed. Up to this point everything pretty much came in a bag and almost every tea bag was individually wrapped. This tea does not come in a box, but rather a cylinder that is the sealed container. Once you break off the seal and open the container, you will have full visibility to their round tea bags. Yes I said round and I will also say they don't use any staples to connect their bag to the label. In fact, there are no labels or strings. It's just a circular bag. So for me to perform my test I merely had to close the container. TRT has done their homework and I could not smell anything coming from the container. A quick read from their label explained why:
Save this recyclable, airtight container store refills. 
As to the actual aroma I would say very subdued given how you are basically taking in all 50 bags at once. As for the bags themselves, they are "Natural, unbleached tea bags". Which is always good to see used given the unwanted alternatives. So how do they get their aroma ingredients wise? According to their container:
Fine black tea and natural bergamot oil
But their site adds a bit more detail:
Our exceptional Earl Greyer blend combines the lush flavor and exquisite fragrance of the Bergamot Orange, native to Southern Italy, with a lovely Ceylon black tea leaf from Sri Lanka.  
So we have a reusable container, no staples and bags made from unbleached material. Definitely a good start.

Steeping Method

The container had a bit more detail regarding water quality but I think TRT's site lists the instructions perfectly.

Steeping black tea is easy. Simply heat fresh, filtered water to a rolling boil. Then pour water over tea and steep for 3-5 minutes if using a tea bag or full-leaf.

If you head over to their site you can even watch a video that explains the same thing but adds that everyone should find their own personal steeping time. This means I will be testing the tea at 3, 4, 5 minutes and of course my torture test.

The Results

I actually started in reverse this time and went straight for the 5 minute time. The color was darker then most and the flavor started almost immediately. Even with a still very warm cup, alot of the flavor could be enjoyed. After about 30secs this tea really started to shine and it only got better from there. A nice strong, natural citrus flavor was perfectly balanced with the black tea. You could taste both parts on each sip. For me this is what Earl Grey should be. A black tea that is enhanced with the addition of bergamot not overwhelmed.

At the 4 minute mark I really couldn't tell any difference in the color or the aroma from the 5 min. The flavor
was a tiny bit thinner but still balanced. I also noticed it took some additional time for the flavors to overcome the just boiled cup. But still a very good cup of Earl Grey.

At the 3 minute mark, the tea slid into the lighter category. The tea was a bit more pronounced and the bergamot was obviously a bit more subdued. The color and aroma followed suit and were both reduced. Meaning, less color and less aroma. Still good but like I said, more on the lighter side.

Now for the fun, the 6 minute torture test. Would I uncover some extra flavor? Would I unearth some extra aroma? No on all ideas. Sadly the only thing I accomplished with my test was to burn the tea. You could taste it around the 6minute mark and it only got worse from there. So no hidden treasures but with the flavor that you get at 5, I'm not complaining at all except for one small little thing.

I'm sorry but the tea bags need a string or something. During my first taste test I attempted to fish out the bag with my fork and of course got food on it. If you are daring and have clean hands you can get it out but most of us will have to have some form of utensil around to avoid any messes.


Given what I've written you can probably tell that I really enjoyed this tea and you would be right. Well there is a cost for that enjoyment. No re-steeping. In my opinion, don't do it. If you want another wonderful cup of Earl Grey, fish out the old bag, and just replace it.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this tea; period. This tea is what I look for in an Earl Grey. The flavors are balanced, there are no metal objects, and the company has taken steps to insure a quality cup of tea right up until the last bag is used. To prove how much I enjoy this tea, I will be ordering some loose to both review and hopefully enjoy. To put it simply, try this tea. No seriously, you really should try this tea. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review #27 - Clipper Organic Earl Grey Tea (bagged)

I guess the best way to start this entry would be to say, this tea was found and not looked for. No disrespect to Clipper but I hadn't heard of their company until I was walking through an Organic section at a local supermarket that was being phased out. As I walked around scanning for sale items I found the box and immediately grabbed it. If nothing else, this whole taste every Earl Grey on this planet thing has uncovered many unknown companies which is great.  So onto the review we go.


Before I broke open the wrapped box I read some of their printed statements. To begin this tea is USDA organic, Certified to International Fairtrade standards, holds a GB Organic Certification 5 and the box is biodegradable.That last certification is a new one for me so here is but one linked for an explanation: Organic certifications - United_Kingdom  As for the actual ingredients there is one discrepancy that hopefully is a none issue. On the box this is how the ingredients are listed:
*organically gown tea, natural bergamot flavor with other natural flavors 
Their website has this:
Organically grown fairtrade tea, natural bergamot flavour. 
The expiration date on the box is Dec 23, 2013 so I'm hoping the box is out of date and the website is the real thing. Why? Because that one extra "natural flavors" essentially adds an unknown mystery ingredient. Judging from the effort this company has put into labeling everything, I probably wouldn't worry. With that out of the way, I broke open the box and grabbed my first, of many, sealed bag and tested for aroma. To my surprise, I got nothing. Seriously, when I went to take in the aroma, there was nothing there. I immediately blamed myself and let the bag sit for a moment before trying again. The result was the same, no aroma what so ever.

So I grabbed the tea bag out of the sealed bag and found staples which was a huge shock to me. With all the  organic and natural steps this tea has taken to, I'll admit to being very confused why they choose to go with staples. If someone from Clipper reads this I'd be curious of their reasons why. Also if Clipper has moved away from the staples I would be happy to update this review because we all know how I feel about boiling metal in my tea. Not good.

Steeping Method

Both their site and their box have identical instructions so I just grabbed it from the site:
Always use fresh water, pour it over the tea bag while it's still boiling and allow it to brew for 2-4 minutes. The rest is up to you.

This means I'll be testing 2, 3, 4 and of course stress testing beyond what they suggest.

The Results

Starting at the 2 minute mark I can say this is a very thin tea. The color is very light and the flavors is very subtle. If you like a very lightly flavored tea I'd stay here because even though it's very light, it still presents a balanced flavor. The cooling effect doesn't really improve it at all and there is no complexity.

At the 3 minute mark things get better but you start to sense there is alot more to this tea then what 3 minutes
will give you. It's good, just not good enough to get excited about. At the suggested high end, the 4 minute mark, things improved again and the color got darker. The cooling effect didn't bring out any extra flavors but the tea was nicely balanced. Not too strong on the bergamot thus allowing the tea to come through flavor wise.

That's when I stressed this tea to the 5 minute mark and found what I was looking for. This must sound pretty strange coming from me, the 4 minute default steeper. But the steeping facts don't lie. At 5 minutes I enjoyed this tea. It was well balanced and had a slight cooling effect. Nothing award winning but it was there and added to the enjoyment.


As with most bagged teas, once you extract the most you can from the bag, there isn't much left for the re-steep. But as always I played around a bit and found a method that you might approve of. I've said this before but I'll repeat it. I wound't re-steep this tea but just grab a fresh bag. But if you really want too, here is what I consider acceptable. 1st steep should stop at 4 minutes then for your second steep just leave the bag in the cup/glass until you detect bitterness, then take it out.

Final Thoughts

I guess the obvious issue I have with this tea is their use of staples. Why did a company take all that time and effort to create a perfectly natural (in the real sense of the word) tea only to add metal to it is confusing. But as I have said before, if this is not a concern you share then I would definitely try it yourself. For me I would be happy to give this tea to guests who don't share my concern because it really is a good Earl Grey. But there are other bagged teas that either match or beat the flavor of this one and don't use staples. To end it's up to you, enjoy.