Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review #30 - Teapigs Darjeeling Earl Grey (bagged)

We returned from our family vacation and are ready to jump back into reviewing more tea. This weeks tea was found at an out of state Mom & Pop mini mart. This place was definitely going for the "we only carry items that no one else does" because once again I had never heard of this Earl Grey blend. So lets just right in.


LtoR Box, then plastic bag
The Teapigs packaging is an interesting mix of materials. The outer box appears to be recycled hard paper (thin cardboard??) and the tea bags themselves, referred to "Tea Temples", are biodegradable. But the temples themselves come in a sealed plastic bag which needs to be opened to get to all the bags. Like I said, interesting mix. This means when you open the plastic bag all the aroma is ready and waiting for you. Strangely, and much to my surprise, there wasn't much. In fact this tea smelled like a completely different tea altogether. So I checked their ingredients.

Black Tea, Flavoring, Cornflower Petals.
A quick trip to their website provided plenty of additional details:

Most of the Earl Greys you find use a poor quality tea black base from China, which is like palming yourself off as landed gentry when all you own is a Barbour jacket. In this blend we use a Darjeeling tea – the best of the best from the foothills of the Himalayas.  These whole Darjeeling leaves are blended with the finest bergamot citrus from the south of Italy and pretty little cornflowers to create something altogether more gentrified. 

Before we go any further I'd like to remind our audience Lady Grey is a Twinnings blend that contains black tea, oranges, lemon, bergamot and cornflower. That's when I noticed their tagline: "The new grey" and wondered if this was a whole new blend I had never tried before. I would soon find out.

Steeping Method

According to their box:
One tea temple per person, infused in boiling water for least 3 minutes.
This means I was going to do 3,4,5 minutes and on, for steeping times.

The Results

Before I present my opinion let me first state a few things.

1. I really enjoy Darjeeling. Currently drinking Makaibari Estate 2nd Flush Darjeeling so I'm not someone who's never had it.

2. I'm starting to see that my journey to taste every Earl Grey may have exposed me as a "traditionalist" when it comes to Earl Grey. Meaning, Black tea, Bergamot and nothing else.

Now that I've fessed up, the results in the most honest way I can do this. I kinda liked the flavor of this tea.... but it's not Earl Grey as I envision/look for/like.

At 3min there is barely any bergamot flavor coming through. I got black tea and the cornflower.
I let it cool but no additional flavors came forward.

At 4mins things improved but again, the bergamot got lost in the mix. When I let the tea cool a bit the bergamot came through a bit more but just like 3 minutes, all the other flavors just ran over it.

At 5 mins the tea gained a bit of citrus which gave me hope that maybe the 6 minute mark would really bring out the bergamot. Instead I started to pick up on the tea being burnt. As before, cooling helped alittle but not enough.

Because the flavor was so different I brewed up some Earl Grey from another vendor to make sure I wasn't missing anything. Sure enough the second blend let the citrus flavors come through while letting you enjoy the black tea. With the tea I'm reviewing the flavor is just so different from any Earl Grey I've ever had (good and bad) I find myself questioning if this is really an Earl Grey or another variant like Lady Grey.


As you might has expected, when you start with a tea that has such a different flavor from your "typical" Earl Grey, your re-steeping efforts will be impacted. So for me, I wouldn't re-steep this tea because the initial flavor is not what I'm looking for. But if you like it, then I would go just under 4 minutes on your 1st steep and 5+ minutes on your second to extract the most from it. 

Final Thoughts

On one hand I love when people are constantly looking to improve things. That mentality really speaks to my Engineering side. But then my traditional side kicks in and wants to enjoy an Earl Grey as most people understand it. So I'm going to say for me personally, I enjoyed this tea as it's own thing but I didn't enjoy it as an Earl Grey. If you are looking to try something different then by all means go for it but understand, "this may not be the tea you are looking for." 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Review #29 - Harney & Sons Organic Earl Grey (loose)

Our last two reviews have covered bagged tea so it's time to return to loose and that means we are giving Harney & Sons another go. I will say up front that during this review I will be leaving out as much of the redundant information as possible. We know about their bags, labels and steeping times so I will briefly mentioned them but will not dwell on them since they have been covered in previous reviews. With that bit of info out of the way lets begin.


The Organic sample came in the same bag as the previous two. As for the aroma once you open the bag it came across as rather subdued. If you stick with it, you end up saying the tea comes through more then the bergamot. But as we have seen before initial aroma testing sometimes doesn't tell the whole story.

The ingredients from their site:

A traditional blend of hand-picked black teas from India and natural Oil of Bergamot. The Assam is mellowed a bit with a smooth south Indian Tea. 

Steeping Method

Just like before, and again from their site:

4 to 5 minutes 

The Results

Starting with 4 minutes the color was good but not as dark as others. The aroma definitely improved releasing a lot more citrus which is what I look for in a good Earl Grey.  On the flavor side the tea came across as light. We've touched on this topic many times so I won't bore you with a repeat explanation. As the tea cooled it improved a little but still very light.

I then moved onto the 5 minutes steep time and things improved a bit. The color got a touch darker and the flavor improved because the tea became better balanced. At the 4 minute mark the tea was still overpowering the bergamot while at 5 things were a bit more even. Again I would still call this tea light and it appears that Harney and & Sons intended that.

Since these are organic teas, the aroma is light and subtle. This allows the lemony Bergamot to come through loud and clear.
This is a medium bodied black tea. It is not as full bodied as other Earl Greys. 
So I'm kinda at a loss as to why the reason for the teas lightness was attributed to it being organic.  I
understand my formal education in tea and tea blending is not to the level of the folks running Harney & Sons but I've had organic Earl Greys that are not this light. If someone from H&S would be so kind to either leave a comment or contact me via twitter I'd love to learn.


I will be honest here, teas that start out light typically are not your best re-steepers. But surprise, surprise I was wrong with this tea. If you brew the first steep at 4 minutes and the second at 5mins you will actually get a decent cup of Earl Grey. Will it over power you? No, because you started light to begin with. But this tea holds a lot of it's flavor which comes out when it cools after the second steep.

Final Thoughts

If you are like me and are concerned about what's being put into your food, having an organic option solves this problem. Thankfully H&S has an entire organic section so they should be commended. As for their blend of Earl Grey, it's good just not the type I like the best. I was hoping for a bit more body. To end, do yourself a favor and try it for yourself especially if you are a fan of lighter Earl Grey.