Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review #33 - Harney & Sons Viennese Earl Grey (loose)

It has been a while since my last post so 2 quick updates are in order. The first being things got a bit crazy around here and I needed to take care of things. Thankfully everyone is back to being happy so I can get back to reviewing Earl Grey tea. The second little update is this, today's review will see me review my last sample from Harney & Sons. If you are a big fan of their teas, and I know you are out there, you should now be able to see reviews on all of their "pure" Earl Grey teas. Unless of course they added one since I purchased my current samples... then it's all just a moot point. So lets get right to it.


The packaging for this sample came in the same "bag" as all the others. I won't bore you with the details but suggest you read my past H & S reviews if you are curious. When I opened up the bag I was met with a wonderfully full yet balanced tea. I could pick up both the tea and the bergamot which is always a great sign of things to come. While enjoying the aroma I thought there was something different about it. So I decided to check their site early into this review and found this:

his blend is perhaps the most famous tea in the world, it was inspired by the British Prime Minister, Earl Grey. There are as many different versions of this as there are tea companies. Viennese Earl Grey inspired by our friend's tea shop in Vienna. It has a Darjeeling tea base, so it is lighter than others.
As someone who very much enjoys a good afternoon Darjeeling I was very surprised and happy to see this blend contain it. Having reviewed some Darjeeling Earl Grey's before I wondered where this variety would go. So far, it was headed in the balanced direction.

 Steeping Method

Directly from the H & S site:

Brewing Time
4 to 5 minutes
Brewing Temperature
212° F
 Which means I also tried 3 minutes just to see how it would turn out.

The Results

I started with the 3 minutes just as a point of reference knowing it was not part of the suggested range. As expected it was on the lite side but still quite balanced. The color was also a bit lighter then I'm use to seeing but H & S cannot be held responsible for this test. Like I said, I tried this steeping time just because.

This tea really woke up at the 4 minute mark and provided much to enjoy. The color was much darker and the flavors became more pronounced. Again all the tea and the bergamot were balanced allowing me to enjoy both aspects of this blend. For me this is critical to a good Earl Grey. I then allowed the tea to cool a bit and only gained a bit of extra flavor. Then it was off to try the 5 minute steeping time.

At 5 minutes I was expecting a more intense flavor but will admit, there really wasn't much difference compared to the 4 minute steep time. Yes there was more flavor but it was clearly not linear in its increase. As to the color, again very little difference. I actually had to employ my wife to help pick out and difference in shade which she informed me, "Not much". To be honest I would just stick with the 4 minutes because as we'll see in the Re-Steep section, it matters what your choice in steeping time is.


"So you wanna re-steep? Well it's gonna cost ya."

So here is the deal, if you want to re-steep, go with the 4 minute steep time and then go 4 minutes again. The second steep will be even lighter but, it will be a good lite. If you go 5 minutes on the first steep there won't be much left for the second steep. So if you want a slightly bolder flavor, go 5 and forget the re-steep. If you want the re-steep, go 4 twice. Got it? Good.

Final thoughts

To put it in simple terms, out of all the Harney & Sons Earl Grey I tried, this is by far my favorite. It may not be the most intense flavor of the lot, but it has the best balance and scope of flavor. The Darjeeling really adds a nice touch to this variety without taking over. Conversely, the bergamot is used just enough to allow the subtle differences in the Darjeeling to be enjoyed. Like I said before, this tea is nicely balanced. Is it perfect? No, personally I like a bit more flavor but for a Darjeeling based Earl Grey this is my new current favorite. With that said I strongly suggest you give this variety of Earl Grey tea a try.