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.