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.