Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Review #48 - Dominion Tea - Earl Grey Organic (loose)

When I started this little endeavor it was for personal data collection. Then I decided to put it online so I could access it anywhere I had a connection. One thing led to another and the next thing I know, I've got a que of teas to review which is a great problem to have. Being the typical engineer I was always looking to improve my reviews not just with the way that I reviewed the tea but in how I presented it. Meaning the technical aspect of the website and the pictures they would contain. To be honest I was never happy with about half of the photo's I uploaded but I only had a point and click camera so I just said that's good enough since this was a hobby. Well that camera started to die which meant, time for a new camera. Then I saw this video by DIY TRYIN  and I decided to build my own Light Box. Since this was my first time messing with this stuff I kept it inexpensive and spent only about $7. When it was finally done, I was pretty blown away by the results. I'm sure you'll agree that my pictures are alot clearer and don't have that annoying glare issue. I'm still messing with different bulbs to get the best (warm white?) background so I can get the best shots. Because if all these companies are going to be nice enough to send me tea, the least I could do for them is make it look the best I can. Onto the review. 


As you can see from my clear (not bad huh? ;-)) picture, the tea arrived in a nice resealable pouch. The size of the pouch was 2oz which meant I had plenty of tea for plenty of testing.  The bag has two stock labels on the front and back with extra lables on top of them for the specific tea contained within. The stock stickers/labels contain the company name, logo and URL on the front and some company info along with steeping instructions on the back. With the bag inspection out of the way I cut it open and was met with one of the best smelling teas I've ever had. Citrus, tea, nature and all things natural is the best way to describe it. There was absolutely no hint of anything artificial which is exactly the way I like it.

Since this tea is normally bought from their site, I did some searching and obtained the following info.

Essential oil of bergamot and a good quality Chinese black tea is all that is in a traditional cup of Earl of Grey. So why do so many Earl Grey’s taste so different and how do you get a really good cup of Earl Grey? In short, focus on the bergamot. - See more at: http://www.dominiontea.com/earl-grey/#sthash.iudDTqFw.dpuf  
Then I clicked on the full story link and found an entire page dedicated to just Earl Grey and how bergamot plays such an important role. Do yourself a favor and read What is it really?

As for the contents, the tea is organic and after reading their bergamot page, it's quite apparent these "guys" are serious about putting the best ingredients in their tea.

Steeping Method

Directly from their site:

Steeping Instructions

Step 1:
Preheat mug with boiling water, discard and refill.

Step 2:
Steep 1 tsp or 3-4 grams of tea per 8 oz of water.

Step 3:
Steep for 3-5 minutes as desired. Experiment with slightly cooler water or shorter steeping times. Try one additional steeping if desired.

I didn't think I was going to need anything else then those direction but I did which I will explain in the next section. 

The Results

I started with the 3 minutes mark and received a very light tea. The color was very transparent but the
aroma was still very nice. The flavor of the tea was more on the tea side but once I let it site for a while the bergamot came through a bit more. There was no bitterness only a very light flavored Earl Grey. 

The 4 minute steep time saw the color darkened and the flavor increase. The aroma actually subsided a bit allowing the tea to be taken in a bit more then at 3 minutes. Again I let the tea sit for a bit and the flavors blended quite nicely. Normally this is my favorite steep time but at this point started to realize this may be a lighter Earl Grey by design. 

At the 5 minute mark the aroma continued to impress, the color darkened and the flavor increased as well. The flavor was very balanced with both tea and bergamot not overwhelming the other. But to be honest, I wanted a bit more. As I have stated in previous reviews, I like (using wine as a reference again) a Cabernet or Bordeaux type of Earl Grey where the tea has a full taste to it. But at the same time can appreciated when tea blenders go for more of a Chardonnay approach. At this point, this was a Chardonnay which got me thinking. This wasn't the first tea to brew up light and in that case I upped the serving and it changed everything. 

So I threw out the instructions and went with a huge heaping teaspoon at the 4 minute mark and two teaspoons also at the 4 minute mark. The result was exactly the type of Earl Grey I enjoy. The color was darker, the flavor more intense and it even gained some additional sweetness when allowed to cool. Some teas cannot do this but this tea was able to transform itself just by adjusting the serving. Granted this changes the dollar value of this tea but if you re-steeep, it might just even things out. 


What I found during all my testing was not surprising and not a bad thing at all. If you prefer a lighter tea I would not re-steep this tea because it starts so light to begin with leaving very little to enjoy. But if you start with my extra servings you can get a second steep. Go heaping teaspoon at 4 minutes to begin and 5 for the re-steep. The second will obviously be lighter but it will still be a good cup of tea.

Final Thoughts

This tea is organic, and uses quality bergamot which leaves the rest to personal preference. If you like a lighter Earl Grey, this is a must try tea. If you are more inline with my tastes, this tea can pull it off but at a price unless you re-steep. Either way it's so nice to review tea from a company that takes Earl Grey so seriously. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Review #47 - Whittard of Chelsea - Earl Grey (loose)

To start I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Next I would like to say, you are not seeing double even though you may be thinking, "didn't you already review this tea before?" Yes I did review a tea from Whittard before but that was their bagged Earl Grey. This review will cover their loose. Now that we have that cleared up on to the review. 


If you read my review of the bagged Earl Grey Whittard sent me you'll notice the box is practically the same minus some small details. The biggest, the box says black tea leaf instead of bagged and the top is tapered unlike the bagged box which was not. The tea is sealed in a clear plastic bag and is not hard to open at all. More on what happened after I opened it a bit later.

The aroma can best be described as smooth and clean. There is no hint of any perfume so we were off to the same good start we had with the bagged. I liked how the aroma was balanced once you got past the initial bergamot part/smell. The back of the box gives us another difference from the bagged version. Like before there is a table of info regarding the tea.

Strength : Medium
Character: Bright and Refreshing
Origin: China 
For those of you who either remember the previous review or went back and checked you'll know that the origin of this tea is different. Also found on the package is the best buy date which shows my box as:


To end this section I'd like to finish the thought that I had about the plastic bag. While the bag was sealed properly (no hint of any aroma) it should be stated you need another container to put your tea in after opening this bag. Even though I took some care in opening the bag it still didn't open perfectly leaving it very hard for me to roll it down in order to seal it back up. I tried once but noticed the rip got worse. So I transferred all the tea to another sealed tin I had. Maybe they could put something on their packaging alerting the buyer to be ready for an alternate storage option. Not a huge deal but the notice would be a nice touch.

Steeping Method

Normally this section is pretty straight forward but in this case I found it "odd" that the packaging did not provide any per cup steeping instructions only the following:

For a Perfect Pot of Tea
Use fresh water. Water left in the kettle loses vitality and makes teas taste dull
Rinse the pot with boiling water to bring out the tea's flavour
Add 3-4 teaspoons of tea to a 6-cup pot
Piur boiling water and leave to brew for 3-4 minutes
Pout through a strainer; add milk or lemon.  

I then checked their site and found this:
Brew: 3-5 minutes according to taste

So I did my normal 1 teaspoon serving and went with 3 - 4 and 5 minutes of brewing time for this review.

The Results

Starting with the 3 minute time, the color was on the lighter side but the aroma had increased greatly
since I first opened the bag. The balance was very good but like I said the flavor was on the lite side. I allowed the tea to cool a bit and was rewarded with a bit more citrus/sweetness.

Next up 4 minutes. At this duration, the color was darker and the aroma had increased as well. Both the tea and the bergamot increased their flavor but were still very nicely balanced. I let this time cool and even though it did gain a bit more citrus it still remained balanced. What this time did offer over the 3 minute time frame was complexity. There was a much nicer ending to the tea. Instead of it just being a good Earl Grey it had a bit more flavor leaving a nice fresh tea flavor in your mouth.

Which brings us to the 5 minute mark and that means we all need to keep in mind Whittard did not suggest this time (On the Box) so any issues are mine alone (or are they?) The result was an increase in the color and some additional flavors. I tried this time twice, like the others and on the second attempt started to pick up some different flavors. To be honest I think I was on the verge of burning the tea. The aroma didn't provide any burnt clues but the taste was definitely ever so slightly different.

In this case my tried and true 4 minutes was my personal favorite while the 5 minute stress test time turned out to be just a bit too much.


To begin, given the result I got from my stress testing I didn't even try to re-steep instead I just played around with the 3 and 4 minute brewing times. In the end it came down to personal preference. I like a bolder taste so I suggest a 4 minute first steep time and the same for the second. The flavor will be less then the first but I didn't mind it at all. If you like a lighter tea, then 3 minutes for the first steep then 4 minutes for the second will almost get you two of the same cups of tea. Nice when teas can do that.

Final Thoughts

I avoided the topic, which always comes up, so I will touch on it here. In the US we are facing a number of "challenges" about knowing where our food comes from.  Whittard's site shows teas labeled as Organic and they also state that all of their syrups are 100% natural. I'm hoping that natural word continues to carry more weight in the UK then it does in the US. With that aside, I really enjoyed this tea and I really enjoyed being able to compare loose versus bagged. Either one provides a good cup of Earl Grey and I have no issues with suggesting this tea. As you might guess, I prefer the loose especially given it's ability to re-steep. So don't be shy and try them yourself and let us know what you think in the comment section.