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."