Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review #46 - The Spice & Tea Exchange - Earl Grey Tea

As you know I took a bit of a summer hiatus from reviewing tea. But I would like to point out, even though I was not writing up the next review I was still on the look out for new teas. So at the end of my family's trip to a certain "World" in a southern state in the US, that may be Magical, Epic, Hollywood-ish, or contain Animals, I found some tea "Downtown". Better still, even though the temperature in this southern state is known for going well over 95 degrees during most of the summer, I was buying tea normally made with boiling hot water. While you ponder whether I'm crazy or not, lets get to the review.  


The tea that I bought came in a clear plastic bag. It had the typical zip lock enabling you to continue using the bag after it was opened since you could re-seal it. I don't know how long it sat on the shelf in Florida but reviewed it quickly once I got home. My initial thoughts on the aroma were of perfume. Not alot, but it really didn't have that fresh citrus smell that I look for. The tea was also present but not as much as other teas. The ingredients listed on the bag matched what is listed on the companies site:

Contains: organic black tea, essential bergamot oil. 

The bag/site also provides a small blurb about the blend:

Classic English tea. Black tea leaves are blended with the natural oils from the bergamot citrus fruit. Results in a smooth rich cup, with floral and citrus notes.

The package was listed as 1oz and had the "location" named: Lake Buena Vista

Steeping Method

The bag has the following information:

Steep: 1 TBS at 212degrees for 4-5 mins 

Because I had a full oz of tea to test, I added a 3 minute time to both first and second steeps.

The Results

I started at the 3 minute mark keeping in mind this wasn't a suggested time. The result was not
surprising because the color and flavor were definitely mild and light. The interesting part was the initial flavor. I'll stop there because the same result was tasted with the other two times.

I then moved onto 4 minutes and things improved alot. The aroma coming from the tea didn't have anything that said perfume. The color of the tea was alot darker but the flavor was again just not what I would expect. So I let it cool a bit and was rewarded for my patience. The tea balanced out and all the flavors started to work together to present a very nice Earl Grey.

The same thing can be said about the 5 minute steep time but with a bit extra. At 5 minutes, the color grew a bit darker and the initial flavor even more unbalanced. So I again let it sit and received the same mellowed result. The flavors balanced out and the aroma really started to give off the citrus aroma you come to expect with this tea. I did detect a tiny bit of bitterness but nothing that ruined the tea. I had this same tea over the course of a week and received nearly the exact same "I need to wait" result. With all of the above in mind, lets see how it did when re-steeped.


To put this bluntly, this tea drove me crazy because it responded so differently too the three times I threw at it. If you start at 3 minutes, then steep for 4 on the second you get a very light but acceptable tea. But if you go 4 minutes then 3 minutes you get a bit more of a flavor. It's not much, and still very light but it's there. If you go 5 to start, forget it. Personally the second steeps are too light for me but if I was running out of Earl Grey and want to make this tea last, I would go 4 then 3.

Final Thoughts

Spice and Tea have come up with an interesting Earl Grey. It's organic, and while I couldn't find anything about the bergamot, this tea really didn't taste of anything artificial. The packaging allows you see the tea so you know what you are getting and all needed information is right where it needs to be on the package. There is the unique waiting period. For me it wasn't a problem once I understood what I needed to do. If you are the type that can't wait then you may not like this tea but if you can, I would definitely suggest you try it yourself.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review #45 - Whittard of Chelsea - Earl Grey (bagged)

Once again the internet comes through. This time around Whittard contacted me with an offer of both bagged and loose tea which I accepted gladly. But this caused a slight  problem. Which tea do I review first? So I did what any person in my position would do. I pulled out a quarter and flipped it to see which of the two would be reviewed first. So onto the review we go.


To begin, the box containing the teabags comes in what I call your typical tea box. Once you take the plastic wrap off you have one side that opens making bag access quite easy. After I removed the wrapper I checked and could not detect any hint of aroma from the tea which is a good thing. I grabbed a bag, ripped it open and was met with a nice clean smell. Not overly strong but definitely allowed me to take in both the bergamot and the tea. I didn't pick up on any form of a perfume aroma so we were off to a good start. Curious about the ingredients I took some time to read what the box had to say. In three different languages it said:

Black Tea, 4% Bergamot Flavoring
Above those words was a table (think word doc table) containing additional info:

Strength: Medium

Character: Bright and refreshing

Origin :  Indonesia
In addition to that,  the front of the box had the words "Light Traditional" which was kinda confusing. My guess, the black tea by itself is medium but the combination creating the Earl Grey was light.

To end this section it should be noted that neither the bags nor the tags used staples which for me, should be the industry standard.

Steeping Method

From their site:

Brew a Perfect Cup

Ideally warm the pot first with a splash of hot water. Use one teabag per cup and always use freshly drawn and boiled water. Allow to brew for 3-5 minutes according to taste.
The box contains nearly the identical information but instead called for just 3-4 minutes. Because I had a whole box to use for testing, I went with 3, 4, 5 minutes along with my  typical stress testing.

The Results

Starting at 3 minutes gave exactly what the box said, a light tea. The color was very
light, and the aroma and flavor followed suit. There was no after taste but at the same time there was no complexity. After allowing the tea to cool a bit no extra flavors were gained.

Moving onto the 4 minute steep time really helped this tea alot. The color improved greatly and the aroma was noticeably improved. The flavor was very good with no after taste but had a bit of complexity. As the tea cooled slightly the flavors blended a bit more and this tea balanced out very nicely.

With growing interest I tried the 5 minute steep time, and while the improvement was only slight, when the tea cooled a bit the extra steep time made it worth it. The tea gained some additional citrus while not ruining the balance. The color was nearly identical to the 4 minute time along with aroma but there was definitely extra tea flavorings to enjoy.

That bring us to the dreaded stress test where the bag is just left in there to see if we can discover something about this tea. And while there is nothing to report it should be said that the tea put up a fight until about 6minutes when it started to taste burnt. As always, I broke the rules and didn't listen but I always enjoy seeing how each tea reacts. Which brings up to the re-steep test.


After much research I am going to say, "Just don't do it." Yes you can re-steep this tea but there is no reason too. Seriously, the only way I could get this tea to re-steep would be to go 3.5 minutes on the 1st and then between 4 and 5 on the second. Even then you won't get much. It's ok but like I said, don't. Just grab another bag if you are looking for a second cup.

Final Thoughts

Lets get the unknowns out of the way and then end with the positives. We know where the tea comes from but we don't know anything about it, nor do we know anything about the bergamot flavoring. Hopefully the fine folks in the UK don't have to deal with/worry about some of the garbage we in the US are facing with our food and the sad state of labelling. Hopefully both the tea and flavorings are as natural as nature made them.

On the positive side, this is a very good tea. The 3 minute steep time is not to my liking but if you like your Earl Grey on the light side, this deal will provide. But for me, 5 minutes was my favorite. It had good color, nice aroma, and even some complexity after it cooled a bit. To end, do your self a favor and try this tea for yourself, I'm guessing you'll enjoy it as well.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review #44 - SanctuaryT - Classic Earl Grey (loose)

For this review I was contacted by what might be the closet "shop" yet. Sanctuary T is located in NY which is probably, on a perfect traffic day, around a 3hr drive. They actually sent me a number of teas but for this review I'll be focusing on their Earl Grey. Onto the review.


The samples were sent in plastic bags with hand written notes on them. Like before, if you are willing to send me tea for review and the samples are created just for me, I do not review the vessels you choose to send the tea in. All I will say is the teas were put in small little baggies and the tops rolled up tight.

When I opened the baggy I was met with a very subdued aroma. Both the tea and bergamot were easily picked out and nothing had an artificial smell to them. Sometimes you pick up alot of fruity citrus, but in this case the bergamot was on the limited side. As we have seen before, the aroma sometimes gives a different picture of what the tea will taste like.

As for ingredients, I'll let their site explain what is in this tea:
Our Earl Grey stays true to the classic traditional blend of Chinese black tea flavored with bergamot for its signature full-bodied citrus taste. 
Steeping Method

Because of the way the tea was sent to me I'll let their site explain the times and such:
Steep for 3-5 minutes. Longer steep times increase the tea's acidity (great for adding milk and sugar).

Given the range of times given and the sample size I will not stress test, but focus on the times and the re-steeping for each time.

 The Results

Since I had a test plan in mind I started with the 3 minute time. The color was good but not as dark as other teas I have reviewed. The aroma changed a bit and gained some fruitiness as it cooled which was interesting but the tea remained in the light category.

I then moved onto the 4 minute time and things improved. The color grew darker and the aroma took
another step towards added fruit. It was at this point I started to think of the words mellow and smooth. I let the tea cool a bit and that's when I started to enjoy the tea even more. The smell was this nice mellow bergamot that didn't overwhelm the tea. This tea definitely had balance but you had to wait for it. That's when I moved on to the 5 minute time frame.

At 5 minutes the color was at it darkest, as expected, but the aroma only added to the whole mellow and smooth vibe. The tea remained balanced but once again tasting it right after it was brewed didn't give me what I wanted. It was only after the tea had a few minutes to "blend", did it's unique taste come through. In most teas I talked about balance because I don't want either of the ingredients to overwhelm the other. But in this case, the flavors joined. I was no longer trying to pick out the tea, for example, but instead just enjoyed the flavor as a whole. As I said before, there is something mellow and smooth about this tea that makes it unique.

So the next question to answer would be, how would it handle re-steeping?


As typical, and if I have enough tea, I test each steep time for it's ability to re-steep. This time was no different. Sadly, the initial steep time I liked the most, gave the weakest re-steep and to be honest no one should be surprised by this. So here is where I stand. If you really wanna re-steep go just under 4 minutes for your first and just over 4 for your second. For me, go 5 the first and forget re-steeping.

Final Thoughts

Lets start with the cons. Unless I was blind and couldn't find the info on their site, the actual contents of this tea are unknown. I.e. Organic vs other things. Also the 3 minutes is very light and not something I prefer. But as for the pros, this is a very enjoyable tea.  IF you have the patience this is a perfect tea for a nice relaxing Sunday morning. The flavors meld nicely at the 5 minute mark to the point where you don't want to drink this tea quickly but rather spend some extra time to savour it. As always, try it for yourself, and be sure to leave a comment.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review #43 - Brew Leaf - Cream Earl Grey Black Tea (loose)

Summer vacation is over and I am back. I hope everyone had a great time enjoying their summer getaways and you were able to drink lots of tea. For this review I try another tea from Brew Leaf with a bit of apprehension. Why? Because if you have read my Review Policy you'll see I have yet to sample an Earl Grey, with additional ingredients beyond the tea and bergamot, that I liked. So will this tea snap me out of my traditionalist ways or will it only cement it further? Lets find out.


Since this tea came in the same exact packaging as the other Earl Grey I reviewed from Brew Leaf I will not repeat myself. If interested please refer back a few reviews for all the details. What I will discuss is the aroma. When I opened the package I smelled something I hadn't smelled in a good long time. It conjured up, for me at least,  childhood memories of eating ice cream on a stick. I believe they were called cremesicles. The bad part, I never really liked them and remember being the one kid who instead ate the vanilla covered in hard chocolate versions instead. I'm sorry but my dislike for creme goes way back. Once I got beyond the initial aroma I tried really hard to pick up on the bergamot or/and tea. If I hung in there I could make out the tea but the creme flavoring just overwhelmed the bergamot. 

Brew Leaf has seen a number of updates to their site since my first review so I can now include the ingredients of this tea: 
A remarkably heady Earl Grey tempered with wickedly delicious cream flavor. One cup is not enough! Luxury Ingredients: Organic: Black tea, Osmanthus petals, Natural flavors. Certified Organic by Pro-Cert Organic Systems. Tea(s) From: Sri Lanka.  Region(s): Nuwara Eliya + Dimbula + Uva.

As you can see, this tea is organic which is always a good thing.

With regards to the powder like consistency, this tea mimics their other Earl Grey. The tea is not complete dust as found in bags, but it's about the smallest "leaf" I've seen of all the teas I've reviewed. The smallish nature of the leaf didn't affect the taste of the tea in my first review so I'm hoping for the same result here.

Steeping Method

Since I have some history with this brand I decided to go for steeping times on the low side since the previous tea did not fair well with a longer time. I used 2, 3, and 4 minutes. It should be noted neither the bag nor the updated site contained any steeping info.

The Results

I started where I always do, at 4 minutes and got a mouth full of creme and burnt
tea. The color was on the lighter side as can been seen in the picture. The balance of this tea was almost completely on the creme side. Yes I could pick out the tea but the bergamot just wasn't there.

At the 3 minute mark things really didn't change all that much except for the burnt part. This time the bitterness of the tea was replaced with more creme which for me, wasn't ideal. The color was a bit lighter but not by much. At this point in the review I should probably announce that someone like me should not be reviewing this tea. I'm just not a creme fan.

At the 2 minute mark I was hoping to obtain a better balance with regards to tea vs bergamot vs. creme but what I got was almost all creme. To be honest by giving the tea such a short time to steep the flavor from the black tea never built up enough to balance things out.

To end this section, and just like the first Brew Leaf review, I ended up with tea in my cup because the small leafs got through my strainer.


I re-steeped all three times and if you like creme use the 3 minute time. You avoid the bitterness of the 4 minute time yet obtain some tea flavoring compared to the 2.  Go 3 minutes, then 3 again.

Final Thoughts

So as you can see, this tea did not break me out of my Traditional Earl Grey ways. I really wish I could have found something about this tea that appeals to my tastes but facts are facts. I didn't like creme as a child, and I don't like it as an adult. Which makes it very difficult to review this tea fairly. So I will end with this... If you like creme, try it. If you are like me and don't like creme either by  itself or in your tea, then I'd pass on this one.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Review #42 - Robert Rothschild Farm - Earl Grey (bagged)

Normally I keep this intro section very short but for this review I need to cover a number of things.

1. This review will be the last post before I take a summer hiatus. This site is not shutting down so don't worry. I just have alot on my plate at the moment. To begin, it's summer and that brings vacations, and working in my organic garden, landscaping, family, training, etc, etc. (BTW, if you are into any of that stuff you can always follow my other twitter account @markthetrigeek) So basically I'm going to post this review and then step back for a while to enjoy my summer. See you in September and thanks for understanding.

2. Another reason for my less then frequent reviews is our countries boundaries. Or should I say the rules of the different countries as they apply to food. It is not like I don't have teas lined up to sample and review. The problem lies in the shipment of said teas as this direct twitter message points out.
Sadly, because of food regs, we can't ship from the UK to US.  
I kept the sender's name out of this because they are not the only one's from the UK telling me this same thing. "We'd love to have you review our teas but getting them to you (The -you- being -me- in the US) is against out laws." This doesn't make any sense to me because I have already bought and reviewed teas from the UK. So clearly I am missing something.

3. Finally, and I guess this is part of the "game" sort to speak but I've had a few less then stellar twitter followers who didn't like me unfollowing them. To make a short story even shorter, a number of accts had nothing to do with tea. By itself that doesn't bother me. What bothered me was their constant attempt to sell me stuff, not taking part in any conversations about tea, and posting large volumes of quotes, pictures, etc, that did nothing but fill my stream. I understand it's part of the ugly marketing internet but I don't need to follow them. Problem was, when I dropped some of them, they started to fill my email with the same info. So yeah I was wasting alot of my time dealing with that. Which brings us to number 4.

4. Sadly, I will now have to investigate all new followers. This will delay the process of following but unfortunately it has to be done or my stream will turn into a worthless pile of crud.

Ok, with all of that out of the way, it is now time to return to the zen of tea and review another Earl Grey.


This may sound like I'm repeating a previous review but in this review our container is once again cylindrical and contains round, tag-free bags. When I first opened the container I once again found all the bags in the container without individual wrappers. So when you do pop the top off you get a good nose full of this tea. At it's very initial, you can smell the bergamot but almost instantly after that the black tea is present. The aroma is clean and does not contain any hints of perfume.

That brings us to the ingredients and something about the tea itself. Normally I quote directly from the tea makers site but I can't in this review. I'll explain why in a bit so sit tight. The ingredients listed on the container are:
Black Tea with Bergamot Flavor
If you spin the container around you'll also find this:
Pure Ceylon Tea 
So being the thorough reviewer that I try to be I headed off to the Rothschild site and got a surprise. You can't find the tea listed on their site. In fact you can't find any tea listed on their site, only coffee. So I checked the container and found the tea was packaged by an Amazon Trading LTD in Sri Lanka. As you can guess they don't sell tea (directly) they just make it for other companies. Given the money that is now being made in the tea industry I knew I would eventually run into this situation. (think OEM, ODM, etc, but with tea) To be honest it's kinda stinks because it feels like I don't have a connection to this tea. For me it was made by some Corporation because someone said there is money to be made in Tea so they contacted a "Tea House" and now they can add Earl Grey to their list along with Chips, Dips, and Sauces.

Lets move onto the next section before I break into a Direct vs. Corp food rant.

Steeping Method

From the container in very, very small print and pictorial form:
Boiling water  - 4-5 minutes 
As with everything else about this tea, that is all the info you will find.

The Results

I started with the 4 minute steep time and obtained an average cup of Earl Grey. The color was
medium, the flavors were pretty well balanced and after it cooled a bit, it gained some sweetness. What the tea lacked was complexity. Yes it tasted like Earl Grey and it was ok, but it just lacked that extra flavor that a good tea has.

I then tried the 5 minute steep time. As expected the color got a bit darker but not as much as I have seen with other teas. When you first removed the bag and taste it, this steep time really doesn't allow for the tea to come through. The tea is not burnt but it really is too hot. As the tea cools the flavor improves but not at the same level as the 4 minute time.

Which brings us to my typical stress test of 6 minutes or more. Sadly this tea could not handle the extra steeping time and I burnt the tea. As always, this should not be held against the maker because I am going beyond their suggestions.

To end this section the 4 minute time was the one that appealed to me the most. This is a light tea but one that does have a decent balance.


Given how this tea is on the light side it should come as no surprise to anyone reading this when I say this, forget re-steeping. Unless you like Earl Grey flavored water, toss the bag after one use and grab another if you want a second cup.

Final Thoughts

If you are on vacation, maybe at some restaurant, and are in the mood for some Earl Grey that has an Organic label on it (though it doesn't tell you whether it's the tea or the bergamot that's organic) I would drink this tea. It's balanced and has a decent color. But if I were shopping for some tea then I would probably pick something else with a bit more flavor such as some of the ones I have reviewed before. As I always say try it for yourself to see if it meets your Earl Grey needs.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Review #41 - Stash Double Bergamot Earl Grey (bagged)

I'll admit it, now that the weather has turned really nice I've been spending alot of time outside which has delayed my reviews. Funny thing though, while over a friends, they wanted to try one of the teas I had reviewed and instead of finding one I had reviewed, I found this one. Funny how that works out huh? Onto the review.


With many of the teas I review, in order to fully enjoy the aroma it requires you to take a decent inhale. That is not the case with this tea. From the minute you rip open one of the individually wrapped tea bags you are overwhelmed with the smell of bergamot. To give you an idea just how strong an aroma this tea has, even after taking the tea bag out, the remaining wrapper was still stronger in the aroma department then half the teas I've reviewed. There is only one problem with all that aroma. You can't smell the tea.  When Stash says Double, they meant Double. This is by far the most bergamot fragrant tea I have ever tasted; period. Now that I've told you about the aroma lets cover what's inside and the packaging.

As stated above each bag is wrapped and nicely sealed. I know they are sealed because there is no hint of anything until you rip the bag open. When you do open a bag up you'll find no staples what so ever which is great to see. On the topic of ingredients, here it is, straight from the Stash site:

Ingredients: blended black teas, bergamot extract

Personally I'd like to know a bit more about their "premium blend of black teas" but I understand company secrets are exactly that. I did have to laugh at some of the writing on their box. It states "The bergamot imparts a light citrus note" which I totally disagree with. There is nothing "light" about this tea.  The bergamot imparts a lot of both flavor and aroma.

Steeping Method

Directly from the Stash site:

Steeping Instructions: 3-5 minutes at 190-209 degrees Fahrenheit

All the bases were covered so that's what I did.

The Results

Being who I am I went straight for the 4 minute steep time and to be honest I shouldn't have been
Pictures shows how dark re-steep is
surprised by the cup I got. The color was very dark and the amount of aroma coming out of the cup was overwhelming. At full temperature I got more bergamot then I have ever tasted before. I allowed the tea to cool a bit and the bergamot kept coming. The flavor had a bit more sweetness to it but to be perfectly honest, I really couldn't taste any of the black tea. In the past I have used wine to help describe how some Earl Greys can be lighter or darker yet still be Earl Grey. I don't think I'll be doing that today.

I then paused, took a step back and tried the 5 minute steep time.  If I thought the 4 minute time was heavy on the Bergamot side, this time cemented my feelings with this tea. In the past I've talked about balance and how the tea and bergamot working together can create a good cup of tea.  I don't think Stash was going for balance when they made this tea. In my totally uninformed,  completely made up opinion, Stash decided it was sick and tired of people complaining how their Earl Grey didn't contain enough bergamot. I can see the board room now as one of their top tea blenders stands to address the others. The blender states how they have every intention of adding X amount of bergamot to their next Earl Grey blend which is met with gasps of "You can't do that!" Seriously, at the 5minute mark the color was even darker, there was -more- aroma and there was even ---more-- bergamot flavor. I've used the word before so I'll use it again, it was overwhelming.

I then decided it was time to try the 3minute steep time in hopes of taming this Double bergamot infused Earl Grey beast. Thankfully this time provided a bit more balance but you had to work for it. The aroma was still as strong as when you first open the wrapper but in this case you could actually pick up on the black tea. It wasn't much but it was there. When I let the tea cool a bit, the sweetness actually allowed some of the black tea flavor to come through.

This is going to sound strange coming from me but for this tea, I enjoyed the 3 minute time the most given it had a better balance.


Even though this tea over powered me, the fact that it comes in bags needs to be kept in mind. While testing the re-steep I was expecting tons of flavor in the re-steeps but failed to obtain what I thought might happen. I obviously was wrong and needed the logic and facts to take over. If you like the 4 -5 minute steep times, forget re-steeping. But if you are like me and enjoyed the 3 minute time, you are in luck. The second steep isn't bad if you go 3 minutes on the first and 4 minutes with the second.

Final Thoughts

So what am I going to use to help describe this tea? Hot Sauce. Some sauces bring the heat but don't do it at the expense of flavor. Then there are the sauces that are just so hot that unless you are an avid chile head, all you'll get is the overwhelming heat. That's how I felt while drinking this tea. If you love bergamot, then this is your tea. Put your timer to 5 minutes and be ready to get all the bergamot you can handle. But if you like a bit more balance, then crank down on the steep times and you should be ok. If you are the type of person who never really liked Earl Grey because you found other brands too sweet, then to use a famous catch phrase.... "This is not the tea you are looking for."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Review #40 - Brew Leaf Earl Grey Black Tea (loose)

With spring finally hitting our area I have my next review to release. In this case the fine folks at Brew Leaf contacted me and sent me some Earl Grey samples. Given the sheer volume of places selling tea I had not heard of them but that did not stop me from looking forward to trying another Earl Grey. So lets get right to it.


The packaging for the samples were your basic food grade heat-sealed foil bags. The name of the tea was clearly listed along with Brew Leaf's company label showing the tea is Organic and Fair Trade. Missing from the label was any form of brewing instructions and when I went to their site I couldn't find the tea I was reviewing on their site. Now to be fair, websites are in a constant state of flux and they could be doing some work on their site. So I sent them a message and asked for the URL. When it arrives I will be sure to update this review.

Once you open the bag, along with it's zip lock, you are greeted with earl grey along with black tea in a limited amount. The aroma was on the clean side but it didn't overwhelm the tea. Both could be detected which showed some good balance. Then my first surprise occurred. When I grabbed my first teaspoon I did not find much in the way of leaves but more like dust. It looked like I had just opened a teabag, which needless to say really surprised me. Since their website at this moment does not provide any info, I can't give you any information regarding the ingredients other then they are fair trade and organic.

Steeping Method

Because the bag contains no info, and the page for their Earl Grey is unavailable, I will default to my typical 4 minute time and will also try both 3 and 5 minutes.

The Results

To begin I wasn't able to do all the testing on this tea I would normally do because there was only enough for 2 servings. As a result I did some searching around and many tea reviewers only ask for 2-3 servings for their reviews so maybe all my testing variations are a bit out of the ordinary. Since Brew Leaf provided this sample pack free of charge, it isn't fair for me to complain. But I wanted my readers to know why this will be a shorter then normal testing section.

At the 4 minute mark I received my next surprise. The tea had a very dark color, an improved aroma and the flavor was balanced and very good. Until I got to the bottom of my cup and the flavor turned totally bitter. On pure human instinct I looked inside the cup and that's when I saw all the dust particles. It appeared the dust I saw before somehow got past my mesh strainer and got into the cup making for a bitter surprise. If you look hard at the picture to the right you can just see some of the dust at the bottom of the cup. To finish the flavor was definitely balanced and for me personally was only a touch shy of being at the level I prefer.

Then I tried a 5 minute steep time and to be perfectly honest, I burnt the tea. Oh how I wished I had tried 3 minutes instead, but that's the way the tea steeps sometime.


Since I was only able to try two steeping times the same can be said for re-steeps. At the 4 minutes steep time there was very little flavor left. Since I went over the edge with 5 minutes the only that was left to re-steep was bitter tea. I wish I could provide more details but those are the facts; No re-steeps.

Final Thoughts

This tea provided some surprises. By the looks of it, you would have thought it wasn't going to have much flavor but at the 4 minute mark this tea was rather good. Adding to that, the ingredients are or
ganic and you can feel comfortable knowing the people producing the leaves are being paid a fair wage. If you can get by the fact this tea doesn't look like loose tea, with whole leaves and such, I would have no problem suggesting readers give it a try.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review #39 - Camellia Sinensis Earl Grey Organic & Fair Trade

With my illness now out of the way, meaning everything is back to tasting normal, it's time to review a tea I've had before, but never properly reviewed. That's right, I've had it before but never properly put it through the review paces. Meaning, all the different steep times, how it handles being re-steeped, etc, etc. So now that you have a good idea what to expect, lets jump into the review.


As you can see from the picture, I didn't order a sample size but instead got a full 100gram bag. To get to the tea you simply cut the top off making sure not to cut the zip lock section. Once cut all you have to do is pull the bag apart and you'll have access to the leaves. Because of the size of the bag there is plenty of aroma to enjoy. The smell is very earthy and also has a slight "musk" to it. Normally you get a citrus aroma but this tea is different. It's a deeper smell with the tea and bergamot sharing in the aroma.

How are we getting this unique aroma? From their site:
From Dooars, in northern India, this quality black tea is scented with a natural flavouring extracted from organic Italian bergamot, a highly aromatic citrus fruit.
But what I described as "musky" they call something else:
The base tea is a full-bodied, slightly malty black tea from Dooars (Organic Fair Trade) at the base of the Indian Himalayas. 
If you read a bit more you find their source for the bergamot is well known to this site:
The bergamot we have been using is a high grade, organic Italian bergamot from the Calabria region in the Province of Reggio. 
It should also be mentioned this tea has the ECO CERT along with it's organic and fair trade assurances.
With the aroma and ingredients explained time for the steeping instructions.

Steeping Method

The bag is hand written with instructions that match what is posted on their site:

    250ML -> Temp 95C -> 3-4Min 
As always I did a bit of stress testing with this tea and added 5 minutes to the times I steeped.

The Results

At the 3min time the tea was lighter then I prefer. The color of the tea matched the flavor but did not do so at
the expense of the complexity. Even though the flavor was on the lite side there is still much to enjoy. The malty flavor comes through with a nice balanced tea to bergamot flavor.

At the 4 min mark things edged closer to where I like my Earl Grey. The flavor was stronger and bolder while not letting either the tea nor the bergamot change the balance. The color of the tea was also darker while the aroma really kicked in. The tea had a bit more cooling flavors which added to this tea and made it more flavorful then the 3min time.

Then I went for it, the full 5 mins and I was glad that I did because at 5 mins this tea really produced a deep flavor that could be enjoyed from just poured to a bit more cooled. The color darkened up a bit but the aroma stayed where it was at 4 minutes. But most importantly the balance in flavor remained. I know that doesn't make any sense. If the flavors are getting stronger then you would think something would over power something else. Instead the bergamot and the tea remained equal partners and increased with each steep time.


But there is a price to pay for not listening to Camellia's steeping instructions. If you do as I did and steep for 5 minutes, there will be nothing left and your second steep will not be very good. But if you stop at 4 minutes and then go 4 minutes again, you will get two cups. The first being slightly less then I prefer and the second about equal to the 3 minute time. So it's really up to you.

Final Thoughts

Camellia Sinensis is located in Canada and while some people equate their location more with hockey, snow and a certain progressive rock band, they have produced a wonderfully unique Earl Grey that will probably make most Earl Drinkers happy. The tea ranges from lite to full body without ruining the balance. If you prefer a lighter tea, 3minutes is for you. If you are like me, then 5 minutes is the way to go. Either way I really enjoyed this tea and think you will too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review #38 - Whittington's Tea Emporium Earl Grey Sampler Pack

This is going to sound incredibly strange coming from this blog but, there will be no tea reviewed in this review.  The reason is simple, I have already reviewed all the tea from the sampler pack I plan to cover. This entry will review the pack as an entity to its self. This will be the first time I ever conduct such a review so it will not follow my typical format. If you feel I left something out and/or would like to see that topic covered in the future, please leave a comment. It should be stated up front that Kyle Whittington of Whittington Tea (WTE)  provided this pack at no cost to me.

The Container

When I review tea I normally cover how the tea is packaged. In this situation, we are talking about an
~8 3/4" X 6 3/8" x 1" Metal/tin box. To give you a sense of scale I put a 9V battery right next to the box when I took the picture. Unlike some packaging there is very little space in the box when full which is good. Contained within are 4 samples, 4 sheets of paper with each tea's information and one paper for your own tasting notes. As you can see from the picture, the samples are listed along with the WTE insignia along with its title... The Earl Grey Sample pack. If you would like to see how each tea faired, I provided a link to each of the reviews.

Tea Studio - Earl Grey

Postcasd Teas - Gianfranco's Earl Grey 

Canton Tea Co. - Classic Earl Grey

Adagio Teas - Earl Grey Bravo (Note - When Kyle and I first got talking about him sending me this pack I had not tried enough Earl Grey teas with cornflower to know it was not my thing. Once I figured it out, I decided not to review it. By that time I already had the pack.)

When I first received the box my sons immediately wanted to use it to store their Lego on trips. Then other ideas kicked in about bringing decks of cards for trips as well. I thought it might also serve as a protected storage tin for my teas while on vacation. I could easily fit enough loose and bagged teas within it. My wife then said it would make a great first aid kit for the car once loaded up with the typical band-aids and such. Whether you like, agree or have other ideas about the box, I think you'll agree you can re-use it instead of filling some landfill. So on one hand, paying for this box while ordering tea may raise the price a bit, but at the same time, you are getting a rather useful container.

The Mix

For me, a sampler should be a good mix of teas. This may sound strange but you shouldn't love all the teas in a sampler pack. Because if you do, then all the teas are pretty much the same and in my opinion you just wasted your money. This pack should help you to figure out what kind of Earl Grey drinker you are. Do you prefer more tea and less bergamot? Do you prefer a bolder taste? Are you concerned with the ingredients of your tea and their source? Do you wish to re-steep your tea? All of these questions and more get answered by this pack. But the pack is not without it's faults.

The Paper Work

This issue occurred when WTE used samples within their pack that had been changed by the
originator. Obviously this is a easy issue to fix but if you are paying for this pack and then find out the tea you tried doesn't exist anymore it could leave a bad taste in someone's mouth. (excuse the pad pun)
I'm guessing this is the nature of the beast when it comes to sample packs but from a consumer perspective, you hope the originator and the packager are better connected.

As for the rest of the documentation, I think it serves it's purpose but I would have liked to see a bit more range on the steeping times. All but one of the teas has only one time listed. Given how much a tea can change I think it would be nice to see the reviewers preference but then a range to allow the person trying the tea to experiment a bit more. I'd hate to think someone trying these teas would only try the teas once and only at the times given.

The Cornflower Saga

I probably should pick a better time to touch on this but I think getting the dialog started now may lead to improvements later.

As I have said many times in my reviews, I am a traditionalist when it comes to Earl Grey. I like black tea and bergamot and nothing else and I think that name should cover only those two ingredients. But I'm starting to notice many teas with the name of just Earl Grey containing cornflower. To my right, I have a tin that I paid for, with no mention of cornflower as an ingredient. That was until I opened it up for review to find it did in fact contain the flower. (I won't mention them here but if you are interested you can DM me via twitter and/or email me to find out who it was.) So for example, Adagio's Earl Grey Bravo at least has me wondering what this blend has in it to cause the different name. Personally I would like the brilliant minded tea community to come together and create a name specifically for Earl Grey with cornflower. Maybe Grey Flower, or Earl Corn or.... you get the idea. I know Twinnings has Lady Grey but that has a fourth ingredient. So come on guys, lets put our collective minds together and fix this.

The Final Word

If you read the reviews of the teas contained within this pack, you'll know I found an Earl Grey that really impressed me. I also tried a blend that really didn't fit my preferences. So for me this pack did its job which means I have no issue with suggesting this sampler pack to someone looking to try many Earl Grey's from one source. It has good mix of tea, a nice re-usable container and some helpful documentation. You can't go wrong.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review #37 - Canton Tea Co Black Tea Earl Grey (loose)

In this review I return to the Earl Grey Sampler Pack from Whittington's Tea Emporium (WTE). But this time I run into some issues with the names and such. Let me explain. The sample packet that came in the container is labeled Black Tea Earl Grey but when you head over to the Canton Tea Co site, I couldn't find it. What I did find was two other types. The first being called "Classic Earl Grey" and the second "Canton Organic Earl Grey". As stated before I'm not a fan of cornflower so that tea is off my list. But the second tea looks kinda like the one I have. But when you compare the writings on my sample pack to their description you find it's not the same tea. So here is where I stand. I will obviously review the tea but will not provide a link directly to the tea because it appears to be missing/replaced/etc from their site.


The sample pack is labeled as a "taster pack" and requires you to tear off the top before being able to access the zip lock type opening. Once opened you will find a very mild and mellow smell. Since I only have the label to go by here is what it says:

Teas from China and India and Oil of Bergamot from Italy.

Here is where my next issue with labels and such came in. Along with the samples the container holds an info sheet for each tea written by someone at WTE. Problem is they list the tea as containing cornflower with it's "indigo-blue cornflowers petals" which it does not. Unfortunately I don't know how or where this happened. Did Canton change something after WTE got their samples or did WTE get this sample misplaced? At this point I don't know so that's the reason this tea will be reviewed with only the info I have listed on the sample pack.

Steeping Method

From the packet from their pictures:

Temp 95c, 1-2 tsp, 250ml of water steep for 2minutes 
I then added the typical 4 and 5 minutes steeping times.

The Results 

I started with the suggested 2 minute time and got a very thin and very light tea. To be honest, I don't think a 2 minute steeping time did this tea any justice. As stated it was very thin, had no depth of flavor, the color was very light and even when cooled showed nothing. To give you a sense of just how light this time was, I've reviewed bagged teas that gave more flavor then this loose tea.

So I headed off to the opposite end of the steeping spectrum and tried 5 minutes. This time provided a lot
more flavor, color and aroma once brewed but lacked in the depth area. This time showed alot more color and plenty of flavor but at a cost. As the cup cooled I picked up some extra flavor normally associated with just starting to burn tea. I think 5 minutes pushed this tea a bit past it's best. The balance was still of tea but at least the bergamot came through a bit more. Which brings us to our last steeping time.

With the first two times out of the way I was hoping to find more balance and more flavor. Sadly this tea remained on the light side while the bergamot never really gave me a nice citrus smell or flavor. It just tasted flat with no depth of flavor. The color was pretty much the same as the 5 minute mark but in this case that slightly burnt flavor was not there. But this tea definitely left me wanting a more balanced tea with more flavor.  That brings us to my last attempt where I doubled the serving from 1 tsp to 2. I was expecting alot more bergamot (i.e. fresh citrus) but the tea technically didn't change. It was just more of the same flavor just more intense. It remained flat and provided no additional cooling flavors.


Given the lack of depth of flavor I thought this tea would not re-steep well at all. Strangely, if you like a very light Earl Grey then you can re-steep. Go for 4 minutes on the 1st and 2nd steep.

Final Thoughts

After reading the above it's pretty obvious I wasn't blown away by this tea. This is a very light tea with a flavor that leads me to believe not all ingredients are natural/organic. It just doesn't have that fresh citrus aroma and flavor many other teas possess. The flavor is weighted more towards the tea then getting close to a balance between the tea and bergamot. To end, if you like a very light tea then by all means try it but if you like your tea a bit bolder AND like knowing the ingredients of your tea, I'd try another of my reviewed teas.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review #36 - Den's Tea Earl Grey (bagged)

The source of today's tea should dispel any rumors that I only drink Earl Grey. Hey I'm an addict but I'm also no fool and enjoy many different types of tea. While ordering some wonderfully tasty Japanese Green Tea I noticed that Den's Tea also sells a bagged Earl Grey. So I added it to my shopping cart, along with the green tea I bought, and here we are. With all of that explained, onto the review.


Den's tea comes in a typical (at least what I call) sales box. Meaning the box can  be opened via the top, or by pushing in the perforated half circle at the bottom front. Once pushed in, people can then take out individual bags for purchase. For a retailer these things must be nice. Pop the front bottom, place it on your shelves upright, and you are in business. The box also has a fair amount of needed info in a plain and easy to read format. On one side their Earl Grey story, the Best Before date, brewing for both hot and cold, the ingredients and their location. On the back some talk about the benefits of organic foods, and some words on their support of fair trade. The remaining side has their quality guarantee and some company history.

The bags themselves are just sealed clear plastic bags/wraps and given how I couldn't detect any aroma they work well at keeping things fresh. Upon ripping one open you will pick up a bit of citrus but overall the aroma is very lite. The ingredients providing this aroma are (from their site):

Our Earl Grey tea is a blend of organic Indian black tea from select gardens and the natural essence of Italian bergamot, a fragrant citrus fruit.
Once you get the bag out you'll notice the lack of any staples on either bag or the label. Needless to say this goes hand in hand nicely with the use of organic ingredients and should be the standard for all companies. With that said, lets move on to the steeping.

Steeping Method

Directly from the box:

"Use one tea bag & 8oz of boiliny water. Steep for 4-5 minutes & enjoy." 
That meant I tried the suggested 4, 5 and of course went for 6 minutes to stress test the tea.

The Results

Normally 4 minutes is my sweet spot but in this case 4 minutes was a bit too lite for my personal preference. The color was on par with teas typically steeped 4 minutes, but the flavor was definitely on the thin side. The flavor itself was mostly black tea leaving me wanting for a more balanced tea. Letting it sit for a bit brought out a bit more citrus but not enough to win the day.

In this tea's case, 5 minutes provided the best flavor that I could obtain. The color was a bit darker, the aroma increased but most of all, the flavor was alot more balanced. The black tea was there along with the bergamot instead of covering it up. When allowed to cool the citrus really came to the front and provided a nice cup of tea. But I have to admit there was little to no complexity or depth. It tasted like Earl Grey but I wasn't blown away by it. Yes it was an improvement over the 4 minute mark but it didn't reach the heights of some other teas.

At the 6 minute mark I didn't burn the tea per say but I definitely pushed it beyond where it should have been steeped. Instead of getting more bergamot flavor, I actually got less. This leads me to believe there would be no hidden gems with this tea which is fine. Pushing the teas like I do are done for that one rare occasion and the marker of the teas are not held responsible when things go horribly wrong.


There are times when during my review I find combos of 1st and 2nd steeps that work and extract the most from the teas. In this case I found nothing which leads me to the following statement, "Don't re-steep this tea; ever". Instead dump your 1st bag into your compost bin, and grab another.

Final Thoughts

Given how I like knowing what it is in my food, while at the same time knowing the people who actually grow the food are making a fair living, I like this tea. The flavor isn't the best of the Earl Grey's I've reviewed but it definitely isn't the worse. I know that is not exactly a glowing review but that's how the tea tasted. Would I suggest it to others? If you had never had Earl Grey before, or your preference is a lighter blend, then yes. If you do end up trying it, please feel free to leave a comment regarding your opinion on this tea.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Review #35 - Postcard Teas Gianfranco's Earl Grey (loose)

With the holiday season behind us it's time to get back to work. This week I review another tea from the Whittington's Tea Emporium ( Earl Grey sampler pack. How will this sample compare to the last? Will it fall short or will it shine? Either way I get to drink Earl Grey so this year is starting out on the right foot. On to the review.  


The sample package, as seen in the picture is quite different then most foil bags in that it's horizontally aligned. Most bags are presented in a portrait style with labeling going across the bag. In this case their label goes the length of the bag. With all this talk of label alignment out of the way I opened the bag and started the process of reviewing the aroma. I would describe it as mellow and/or light. It comes across as very natural with absolutely no perfume smell to it which is a good start. As I have said many times, the amount of aroma seldom equates to the eventual flavor. Some teas are light but have plenty of flavor and we've also seen the reverse. So what is helping to create this aroma? Given how little info is listed on their label I headed off to their site and was blow away with the amount of detail given for this Earl Grey.

     The finest bergamots in the world come from Calabria in Southern Italy where every year Gianfranco Todisco selects fruit grown naturally without chemicals and cold presses them for our Earl Grey. Then here in London we blend black tea from small tea farms – Mineral Springs and Potong in Darjeeling and Sahyadri in Kerala – to compliment his fragrant bergamot oil.
60% Darjeeling 2nd Flush EX20 (Mineral Spring Tea Farm (av. 1.5-2 acres), Darjeeling, India)
20% Family Tea (Sahyadri Co-operative (av. 1.5-3 acres), Peermade, Kerala, India)
20% Darjeeling 1st Flush (Potong Tea Farm (av. 1 acre), Darjeeling, India)
Blend of two Essential Oils Of Bergamot (Calabria, prod. Gianfranco Todisco, 2013)
PLANTS AND PROCESSING: Blend of Camellia Sinensis Sinensis and Camellia Sinensis
This may just be the most detailed explanation of any tea I have reviewed so far. But Postcard wasn't done with providing information. If you head to their site, and if I read the caption correctly, you can actually see a photo of Gianfranco Todisco next to a bergamot tree. Fellow tea drinkers, if all food companies were this open and honest, there would be zero need for any labeling laws. Postcard should be commended.

To be fair, I should point out that the sample bag cannot be resealed unless you tape it closed or something similar. For me it's not an issue because I typically go through all the tea from each sample pack. Because of this the lack of re-sealing wasn't an issue for me but it may be for you. Like I said, I need to be fair an point that out. Lets move on to the brewing section.

Steeping Method

Given the small size of their label there is no steeping instructions so off to their site again. Here is what I found. 

This special Earl Grey should be brewed with water just off the boil and a teaspoon of tea per cup to best enjoy it’s bright, citrus flavours. It can be taken with or without milk.

BREWING GUIDELINE: 95-100°C, 3-4g per cup, with or without milk. 2 infusions.
 As you can see no time was given so I did my typical 3, 4, and 5 minute brewing times.

The Results

If I were some beyond gifted writer I would weave a story that leads the reader on a wonderfully complex plot ending with my final thoughts on this tea. But that's not me. So instead of dragging this out, lets get right to the point. This might just be one of the best Earl Grey teas I have reviewed. Seriously, I enjoyed this tea that much. How and Why? Let me explain.

Given my tendency to steep Earl Grey at 4 minutes that's where I started and boy was I rewarded. The color
was dark and the aroma that came from the tea was ( and I don't normally use this term but here goes) earthy. It was as if I were working in my garden and getting nose fulls of fresh dirt. But at the same time I could pick out the tea. To say I was both surprised and excited would be telling a lie. With such a balanced aroma could the flavor match that balance? Getting that perfect balance is for me, the Holy Grail of Earl Grey.

Well I am happy to report this tea nails it perfectly. At the freshly poured point, where the tea is still very warm, the bergamot is earthy and deep tasting while not overpowering the black tea. For people who have tried Earl Grey's and complain of their overly sweet taste this is the tea you should be drinking. But the tea wasn't done. As it cooled the bergamot changed ever so slightly providing a touch of citrus and slightly less earth all while not over powering the black tea. Complexity and Balance. Quite simply this tea was a pleasure to drink from the freshly boiled start to the cooled yet still balanced finish. In my opinion, this is what Earl Grey should taste like.

As for the 3 and 5 minute steep times, personal preference. Still good in their own way but for me 4 minutes is pure Earl Grey Nirvana. But how would it re-steep? Did this tea have a weak spot that was about to be exposed?


For those of you who noticed their brewing guidelines would have also noticed those wonderful words: "2 infusions".  Once again this tea comes through and again it surprised me. Yes the flavor was lighter then it's 1st steep but that's not what surprised me. What got me was just how much flavor remained for the second steep. I've reviewed teas that had their first step less balanced, less complex and less flavorful then this tea's second steep. Really goes to show you what happens when you use quality ingredients. So what time do I suggest? 4 for the first, and 4 for the second.

Final Thoughts

Other then the lack of steeping instructions on the sample pack, I really have nothing negative to say about this tea. Simply put, I thoroughly enjoyed this tea. Reviewing, we have ingredients which are all known and from small farmers. We have a balanced tea that has an immense amount of flavor without being overly sweet. The tea has all the complexity you would expect from quality black tea. And you can re-steep the tea and actually get a tea worth drinking.  My suggestion is very simple, contact Whittington's or Postcard Tea directly and try it yourself. I'm sure you will enjoy this tea as much as I did.