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.