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.