Monday, December 9, 2013

Review #34 - Tea Studio Earl Grey (loose)

To begin I would like to express a big thank you to @WTE_Kyle of Whittington's Tea Emporium. ( for sending me his Earl Grey sampler pack. When I am done with all the samples contained within, I plan to review the sample pack as a whole. There is alot of documentation inside and the container itself is completely re-usable and believe it deserves it own entry. As you can see from the title I selected the sample from Tea Studio for my first review so lets jump in.


The sample came in a resealable (zip-lock type closure) with the same Earl Grey photo on the front as it appears on their site. On the back all the expected information about history, ingredients, steeping, etc, etc.  Upon opening the bag you are greeted with tons and tons of enjoyable scents and smells. With some teas you have to either take a deep breath or have to really get in close to pick up everything. That is not the case with this tea. This tea is full of aroma with only a slight/mild hint of perfume at the end. If you linger long enough you can just about pick it up so I would describe this tea as mostly natural. Curious as to why I picked up that slight difference I flipped the bag over and read the ingredients which were a bit different on their site:

Bag-> Ingredients: Loose-leaf black tea, natural bergamot flavouring 
Site-> A premium loose-leaf tea, it combines the wiry, regular leaf of spicy Ceylon with the elegance of Yunnan and natural bergamot from France. - 

As we have discussed before the words "natural" mean pretty much nothing in the US. Hopefully they hold some value in the UK and France and it doesn't mean chemicals have been added. Given the hint of perfume that may or may not be the case. I'm hoping it's not.

Steeping Method

We return to both the bag and the site to get our steeping instructions.

Site-> Temperature100 degrees celcius
Steep Time3 to 5 minutes
Bag-> Preparation: Use fresh water heated to 100C. Pour the water onto the leaves and allow to steep for 3-5 minutes. Use 1-2 teaspoons per cup.
 Keep and eye on that last sentence because I will be talking about it a bit later. But as you can see I tried 3, 4 and 5 minute steep times.

The Results

Let's start at the 3 minute mark. The color was on the light side and the taste was about the same. At this
steeping time this is a very, very light Earl Grey. The flavor has no perfume flavors at all so that was a welcome experience. But for someone like me who likes a bit more balance this time definitely had me wanting more bergamot influence. I let it sit for a while and in this case the bergamot did not come forward at all. In fact I think it faded a bit.

Moving onto the 4 minute mark things improved a bit but still the result was kinda the same; a very light tea. The color did darkened up a bit and the bergamot part of the tea increased but still not balanced where I like it. By allowing the tea to cool a bit the bergamot did increase flavor wise, but only a little.

I thought the 5 minute mark would be my final testing point but I tried something else and obtained some unexpected results. But first, what happen at the 5 minute mark. The flavor improved a bit more and the color got darker but overall this tea remained in the light arena. That's when I got the idea to go for two teaspoons. Why? Because if you recall the preparation instructions on the bag, it said, "Use 1-2 teaspoons per cup".

So with nothing to loose I went for my fourth sample using 2 tsp of tea and I steeped it for 4 minutes. And you know what? I really liked it. The color of the tea got darker, the bergamot played a much bigger role in the flavor giving me a much more balanced cup of Earl Grey. I was pretty surprised to taste the difference. It was as if I was reviewing a different tea. But how did this effect the re-steep?


Before I begin this section I guess it only fair to Tea Studio to present their opinion on re-steeping.
Number of infusions  one
Seriously, I am not making it up and to be perfectly honest, I have never seen this before. I've seen re-steeping and I've seen no instructions but never a statement from the creator to say you'll only get one steep. So the following re-steep info is not inline with the Tea Studio's instructions. Re-steep at your own risk.

If you wish to live on the wild side, here is what I suggest. Go with the 2 tsp version at a 4 minute steep time followed by a second steep at 4 minutes as well. The second steep will mimic the 3 and/or 4 minute single steep and it will be light. But you can get 2 steeps out of this tea if you don't mind a thin second steep.

Final Thoughts.

Lets start with the negative, the ingredients. Or should I say the unknowns contained in the ingredients. If the bergamot used in this tea is actually the real oils and such from the fruit, I say good. If not, then it comes down to a personal preference on what you choose or don't choose to have in your diet. As for the flavor, this tea can be many things to many people. Want a light tea where the black tea is the main flavor point, this tea can pull it off in three different "colors". Want a more balanced tea where the bergamot is more involved, this tea can do it but at a price. Because you'll be going through the tea twice as fast in essence doubling the price of this tea. To end, this is a tea I would definitely have people try to see if it matches their personal tastes.