Saturday, October 22, 2016

Review #62 - The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company Earl Grey Darjeeling (loose)

Today's review is a result of a nice email chat I had with a ... or I should say bloke (right??) named David from The Kent and Sussex Tea and Coffee Company.  That would be across the pond in the UK. In a virtual sense he gave me the keys to his shop and said, "go check out ALL our Earl Grey teas and pick something out for your self and I'll mail it to you."  After much thought and debate I picked out the tea we are reviewing today. Needless to say that was very cool. By the way, if anyone from Canyon, Colnago or Focus is listening, and would like to do the same thing, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Also I was contacted by a fellow Earl Grey drinker who said I should get a nicer plate to display my teas and that I should contact someone to get something especially for this site. Thanks for the idea but I can't justify asking for something of that magnitude. If someone decided on their own to do something like that, well that's completely different, but I just couldn't bring myself to send an email asking for a free plate. Now off to the review.


As you can see from the picture the sample arrived in a resealable package. Before I cut it open I tried to pick up any hints of tea but I could not. Good start for some good packaging. Once opened I was met with a bunch of different things. To start there was definitely tea but also in there was some citrus. Not alot but still enough to warrant me to note it. At the bottom of the aroma chart was some deeper things which I believe to be some extra aroma Darjeeling brings. I pulled out my current selection of that same kind and sure enough it was in there. So what made this tea give off such an aroma? Directly from their site:
This is a unique Earl Grey Darjeeling Tea. We use a good quality medium sized leaf Darjeeling which we scent with Oil of Bergamot. 

 On the tea side it's very nice to know the kind of tea I am drinking (and that's its from India) but the bergamot oil is a bit unknown. As always I like knowing where my food comes from so maybe a location for the bergamot or maybe whether its organic or not. For some this is nit picking, but my loyal readers know it's sort of my thing.

Steeping Method

I will admit, their times caught me by surprise. From their site:
Brewing instructions: Best brewed for 2 - 3 minutes use boiling water.
What?! No 4 minute option? How can this be? So I decided, oh why not, I'll do a 4 and 5 as well.

The Results 

Starting at the 2 minute time I found a light tea with a fair amount aroma. The flavor leaned more
towards the Darjeeling side while the bergamot flavor was much less. The color was very light and the aroma sweetened up a bit as it cooled. The cooling actually let the tea balance out a bit, but this was still a Darjeeling first Earl Grey.

Next up, 3 minutes. As expected everything increased a bit more. The tea got slightly darker, the aroma improved and the flavor gained a bit more citrus. This meant it balanced out a bit but still not enough for my liking. As it cooled a bit more sweetness was added and the tea gained some complexity. It was nice to enjoy some extra flavoring.

We will now step outside the suggested steep time and let you know how things went. The first time I tried was my ol faithful 4 minutes and I have to admit, things edged towards my preference. The color was darker, the aroma gained a bit more but most importantly, the tea was even more balanced especially when allowed to cool. The flavor was still on the light side due to the distinct Darjeeling flavor coming through but now it had more complexity when it cooled. In my opinion this was the best time.

Keeping in mind we are well past the suggested steep time, I give you the 5 minute results. Unfortunately the bergamot didn't increase but rather the opposite. At this time I lost most of the bergamot flavor but like I said, it's not Kent and Sussex's fault. I went way past where they said I should go. But then again, everyone kind of knows by now when I review tea there will be stress testing. I would like to add even thought the flavor was changed, it was still a good cup of tea. I think this reflects the quality of tea used in this blend.


As you have read, this is a lighter Earl Grey which makes re-steeping a tough call for me. If you really want to get an Earl Grey both times I would go 3 then 4 minutes. If you go with my suggestion of 4 right off the bat there is very little bergamot left but you will still get a good cup of Darjeeling.

Final Thoughts

I am happy to report I think Kent and Sussex have something here. From my testing its apparent they started with a good Darjeeling as their base. We don't know where the bergamot comes from but at least they are not giving us the same old tired, "Natural flavors" ingredient listing. Is the blend to my preference? No because I like a more balanced and bolder flavor but there definitely was some nice flavors in this tea. So here are my final thoughts. If you prefer a lighter Earl Grey I would definitely suggest you try this tea. If you are like me and want something a bit bolder then go for the 4 minute steep time while keeping in mind this is not the strongest Earl Grey. Because just like wine, just because I prefer Cab Sav it doesn't mean I can't appreciate and enjoy a Pinot Gris.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Review #61 - Teekanne Earl Grey (bagged)

With the summer now officially behind us it's time I get back to reviewing Earl Grey tea. This time I thought I was traveling to a far off land where Strudel and Bratwurst are everyone's favorite dish. But instead I found a curve ball thrown my way regarding who actually makes this tea. Then when I got over that one, I was hit with another one. This time with the actual ingredients. So as I set aside my Hogan's Heroes references let's quickly dive into another review. Schnell!


The tea comes in a TBDB box with each bag individually wrapped. I should point out the box has a slight variation in that you can also open the box by unwrapping it from the center. There is a tab that once pulled back actually reveals the steeping process in some small descriptive boxes. Peel back a bit more and there are the bags.  After all this work I still could not pick up any tea aroma, so their sealing system is dead on. Once I did get the bag open I must say I thought I had a plain black tea bag and not an Earl Grey version. I could not make out any of the bergamot or any fruity fragrances. So what was in that little bag.....welcome to our first curve ball.

If you look at the front of the box it states the following:
"Premium black tea blended with Natural Bergamot flavor"

But if you look a bit closer to the actual ingredients you'll find a few extra things in there:

"Black tea, Natural Bergamot with other natural flavors, orange peel and lemon peel."  

To start, the dreaded "Natural flavors". As you know I am no fan of unknowns in my food and those words always get me wondering. Next up, both lemon and orange peels have been added which again, if you know me, kinda make me think this really isn't a traditional Earl Grey.  Which brings us to our next curve ball, who makes it.

If you pull out your Sherlock Holmes glass and give the box a good inspection you will find the following bits of info:

"Produced for Teekanne (emphasis mine) Redco Foods Inc ...... Little Falls NY"
After reading that, any thoughts of strudel went right out the window. So in fact this German tea is not actually created....made......blended....???? in Germany but rather in the US. Technically there is nothing wrong with that but the idea of trying a German tea is not going to happen with this version.
That's too bad but that's how the tea industry works for some.

Steeping Method

One of the things I did find different for this tea was the suggested steep times. Are you ready for this?

They suggested 5 - 8 mins. Which meant there was no need for me to stress test this tea because we kinda already are when compared to other Earl Greys.

The Results

Just to set the stage, this tea is all over the place when it comes to steeping, cooling, and aroma. For
example, I compared the 5 and 6 minute steep times side by side not once but twice. Hopefully I can explain this properly.

When steeping, the 6 gave off far more citrus then the 5. But once the bags were removed and it started to cool there was a 1-2 minute window where they reversed and 5 was producing more aroma then 6. But then it reverted back again. Now you know why I did it twice.

As for the flavor, I got to see some of the same behavior. When done steeping 5 had more citrus flavor while the 6 had a bit more Must. It was clearly a thicker flavor with less citrus. But after letting my oldest son try both of them I tried them again and they reversed. The 5 now had the thicker flavor while the 6 had blended quite nicely to a point of a good balance between tea and fruit. So I let the teas cool a bit more and they went back to their original state. I noticed the same thing at the 7 minute steep time. Just after you take the bag out the tea tastes one way. Let it cool and it starts to blend and mix and you get another flavor pattern. And if you don't like that, let it cool a bit more and you get another.

Thankfully the 8 minute time did not exhibit this pattern of changing. It was just a strong tea flavored Earl Grey. The balance was clearly on the tea side which is strange given there were three fruit sources. As for the color of the tea, as you can probably guess it was very dark compared to other versions.


Given how long these teas are steeped for, you can imagine there is not much left in the bag when you are done. So I would not suggest it at all. But if you must, I would shoot for 5 minutes the first time and 8 minutes the second.

Final Thoughts

So after all of this testing and cooling and all the rest, here is my take. To begin this tea starts with two strikes against it. It has unknown ingredients and it has some musty (dare I say artificial?) flavors. Where are those flavors coming from?  I don't know. As for the steeping times, you definitely can make the best cup for you given how flexible this tea is. But given how the tea reacts to cooling that may be an issue if you are a slow drinker. There are three different sources of citrus in this tea yet it still remains a mostly black tea. To end, if you are like me and like knowing all the ingredients in your food, I would skip this version. But if that is not a concern, I'd say give it a try and see if you can find a steep time that makes you happy.

Note: I could not find this tea on their site so I posted their main URL. I apologize if the language barrier prevented me from finding it.  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Review #60 - Bromley's Earl Grey (bagged)

You can thank my youngest because he is the one who found this tea when I wasn't even looking for one. I believe we were at one of those "We sell everything for your kitchen" stores. You know the type of place I'm referring too, it's the one that would make Alton "I hate uni-task-ers" Brown scream in pain. So there we were getting something, and that's when my youngest called me over. "Dad, I found an Earl Grey, have you reviewed this one yet?" Which I replied by giving him a High-five and answering, "No, No I have not, great find. "

Next up, as an engineer and someone who has written his fair share of code, I need to employ a technique in my reviews often used in Software Development. It's called Code Re-Use. The process is quite simple,  you re-use code you have already written because why should you re-invent the wheel when you have already done so.  To make things easier I will no longer review the box the tea came in if it fits into what must be a industry standardized box. After some internet research I found most places call it the (drum roll)  Tea Bag Dispenser Box. So from now on I will only refer to it as the - TBDB -. Hey if Rachel can call Extra Virgin Olive Oil, EVOO, I can do the same with boxes.


The tea comes in a TBDB and was sealed properly because none of aroma could be detected. Once opened you will find each tea bag sealed in its own foil that looks like the side of the TBDB. After ripping open the foil I was met with a fair amount of bergamot. Meaning I could smell it before I even put my nose close to it. When I did take a deep breath I'd call the aroma deep with a bit of linger. Meaning the aroma doesn't dissipate quickly.  What I could not pick up on was the tea. In this case the bergamot was all that was coming through.

A quick look on the bag will give you the ingredients:
"A fine blend of Black teas flavored with pure Italian bergamot oil"
To see if I could get more information on the ingredients themselves I headed off to their site. Regarding the tea I found nothing extra. what I did find if you look around their site enough is a recipe for Earl Grey Truffles. I'd post it here but I don't want to break anyone's copyright. So in this case we have to hope both the tea and oil are sourced properly and are natural in origin.

Steeping Method

A quick look to their box provides brewing suggestions:
"Bring fresh water to boil. Pour the steaming water over the tea bag. For optimum flavour, let it brew 3 to 5 minutes." 
That means I will follow their suggestion and then do my typical stress test.

The Result

 Starting with the 3min steep time, you obtain a very light colored cup with a more balanced aroma.
The flavor is very much on the light side. It's balanced but there really isn't much to it. I let it cool to see if things would improve but they didn't.

Moving on to the 4min steep time saw the color darken up a bit and a bit more flavor to enjoy. The aroma remained about the same but at least the flavor improved. That was the good part, the bad was the flavor. Yes it was still on the lighter side but what really struck me was how plain, or bland it was. The flavor was definitely Earl Grey but it really didn't make me sit up and take notice. Again I let the tea cool and this time I did get a hint more citrus but nothing that swayed my initial opinion.

That left me with the 5 minute steeping time. Just like before the color got darker, the aroma became more pronounced and the flavor increased. But, the flavor itself didn't improve, it was just more of the same. For the last time I let the cup cool in hopes of coaxing something extra out of this tea but in the end, nothing really changed. Meaning there was no complexity.

Which brings me to my stress test and guess what? I have found another tea you can just leave the bag in the water. I tried it twice to make sure and in both cases the flavor increased a bit beyond the 5 minute steep time but never really went beyond.


Given the nature of this tea, I personally would not re-steep. With such a light flavor to begin with there really isn't alot left for a second cup. But, if you must, I would go 4 minutes, finish the 1st cup then just put the bag back in and leave it for the second.

Final Thoughts

After looking around the box and the company site, I couldn't find any description of what kind of Earl Grey this was suppose to be. So I will assume (scary thing to do)  it's a light Earl Grey and treated it that way. If I'm right this tea will work for those who like a light Earl Grey. For people like me, this is a Rose' in a Merlot world and not something I would buy for myself. But if you like this type of Earl Grey, I would try it for yourself. And remember, if you do try please leave a comment so fellow Earl Grey drinkers can learn from your experience.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Review #59 - Pique Tea Earl Grey Organic Black Tea

That sound you just heard was my review system going up in a mushroom cloud. That's right, the tea sent to me doesn't really fit into my system. For example, I normally stress test most bagged teas. Can't do that with this one. Re-Steeping is another thing I look into. Buzzed! Again, can't do that either. So why is everything so messed up? Lets get on with the review so you can understand why things are soooooo different.


As you can see from the photo there is no bag per say. Meaning there is no tea bag in the typical sense of the word because this tea has already been brewed and then crystallized. I guess you could call it powdered tea (Dare I compare it to Matcha?) but we'll stick with crystallized since that's the name Pique uses. To give you a sense of how small this package is I measured it. 3 1/4" x 3/4" at about 1/8" thick. On the front is their company name and the words Earl Grey. On the back Organic information and brewing directions.

As for the actual aroma, not much of anything which I guess is normal for this type of tea.  Given how small the package size is, there is little room for many details. So I headed on over to their website and grabbed the following:

Our delicious Earl Grey is made from the finest Organic and Fair Trade certified leaves from the world-renowned Idulgashinna Estate in the Uva region in eastern Sri Lanka. A really special area, at 3,300-6,500 feet in elevation, the Uva region receives tons of rain in winter very strong, dry winds in late summer. 

As I already touched on it, this tea is organic and sourced from Fair Trade certified tea farms so good on both points. So how do you make...brew...create.... this new tea? Lets find out.

Steeping Method

I will now present the shortest write up for this section of any review. Ready... because if you are not ready you will miss it.

                   Pour package contents into glass, add boiling water, stir and drink.

That's it.

The Result

So lets start with the tea itself and then discuss other matters. The tea has a good color and the aroma appears the minute the water hits the crystals. I would describe it as mellow, meaning it doesn't have alot of citrus to it but it definitely doesn't give off any form of perfume. The tea itself is just like it's aroma, mellow. The flavor is closely balanced weighted more towards the tea then the bergamot. Again I prefer a bit more citrus but this tea is exactly as they describe it on their site.

I let the tea sit for a bit and it pretty much remained the same as when I first poured it. As for complexity this tea doesn't really change all that much in the mouth. The first sip is very much like the last leaving a touch of sweetness. With the tasting out of the way lets talk how this tea may or may not influence the tea market.

Normally I wouldn't talk about such matters but given how quickly I was able to review this tea, I felt like I had the time and space. To begin, one of its strengths is the repeat-ability of this tea, the other is speed. As for steeping, it has to be one of the easiest I have ever tried. You don't need a pot to brew it in, you don't need to worry about getting the brewing time just right, it all just works and fast. Another positive is the package size and type. With most bagged teas the bag comes in a wrapper of some sort but some of them are paper and don't really hold up. The Pique "bags" could easily be thrown, yes I said thrown, into a backpack on your way out the door for a day of hiking.

Ironically one of it's biggest positives is also one of it's biggest negatives. Because the work of brewing this tea has been taken out of the equation you cannot tailor this tea to your liking. I did mess around with the amount of water in an attempt to change the flavor but my efforts only made it weaker. Also, because you need a certain amount of water to give the crystals room to dissolve going the other way is just not possible. Maybe a bit but, beyond that must start messing with their recipe.

Before I finalized my opinion I talked to a number of fellow tea drinkers and got their opinion on this new idea. Like me they were fascinated by the idea, thought it great for people just getting into tea but then paused because we all shared the next opinion. Part of the whole tea experience is slowing down and going through the whole process especially when having others join you. That is clearly missing from this experience. As one person pointed out, it very much reminded them of the instant coffee days.

So where does that leave us? As it always does, up to the individual to decided.


Again may just be the shortest entry I've put in this section. Ready?

Impossible. Nothing left to re-steep.

Final Thoughts

Wrapping this review up will be harder then most because Pique has created something rather unique. My engineering side likes to see people push the boundaries and try new things so this tea, as I said before, fascinates me. The results speak for themselves because it's a good tea that is beyond easy to make, and is very super convenient to handle.  But at the same time that convenience does take away from the experience and the ability to tailor the tea to your personal likes or dislikes. Either way, try it and see if it fits your requirements.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Review #58 - Allegro Tea Earl Grey (bagged)

And you thought you had to wait long for the last review? 

There is no other way to put this, life just kept getting in the way of this review. As you can probably guess I rewrote this intro several times as I got closer and closer to finishing. But then something would come up and Wham...need to start over because I would lose my train of thought and need to have more of the tea and ... and ..... Well all of that is behind me. I got this tea from Whole Foods, I paid for it myself. It's organic and if I don't get this review done today I fear it will never happen. Lets begin.


The box looks like every other tea box out there. Tiny display hole in the bottom all wrapped in sealed plastic wrap preventing aroma from breaking it's contained area. Once you get all the packaging off, you are met with individually wrapped bags. As should be the case with all bagged tea these days, no staples so that means the string is wrapped and fitted to the tag. As you open up the pouch you are greeted with a muted aroma. You definitely can tell this is Earl Grey but it's not going to knock your socks off. It's on the sweeter side but not artificial at all. It definitely has a more lemon-y smell which if you read their site is exactly what they describe:

Balanced and hearty, with natural bergamot and a hint of ripe lemon, it has a distinctive flavor and aroma that is enticing, yet not overpowering.
The tea is organic and if you spend some time at their site you will see this company is about making connections with the people who grew what they need. They also make coffee and they are part of many organizations where fair trade and everything that comes with being a responsible company is paramount.

On a personal note I was very happy to see the words balanced and hearty when I first picked up the box. I've made it very well know through my wine analogies that I like a stronger but balanced tea. Needless to say I went into this review with my interested peaked.

Steeping Method

As with many Earl Grey's the steep time of 3-5 minutes using boiling water is not a big surprise. I'll be trying all three times with my typical stress test at the end.

The Result

This tea is so linear its not even funny. With some teas you start at a lower steep time and then all of
a sudden, as you work your way into longer times, the flavor just sort of turns on. I know that's a very weird way to word it but that's how it feels and tastes to me. But not this tea, as I will now explain.

I started at 3 minutes and got decent color and good aroma. The flavor was good when first steeped but became nicely balanced as it cooled. You could pick up on the citrus but at the same time could still define this tea as being on the lighter side. Not as thin as some other teas but a little less then where I personally like them. Remembering Allegro's statement about this tea I moved on.

At 4 minutes everything increased. The tea grew alittle darker, the aroma increased and the flavor became bolder. But at the same time the flavor stayed the same. I doubted myself so I made another 3min cup and directly compared the two times. It was amazing how one tasted like a watered down (think positive not negative) version of the other. Even when I let both of the cups cooled the flavor remained just as balanced for both.

It was time to try 5 minutes and I hate to say this but again, more of everything. Darker tea, more aroma, more flavor. With some teas the balance is different from steep time to steep time. It's almost as if the tea or bergamot doesn't fully release it's flavor until a certain temp. But with this tea, that wasn't the case. Which meant it was time for some stress testing.

At 6 minutes this tea finally stopped acting like a dial where you adjust the amount of flavor you want via the steep time. No at 6 things really didn't change all that much except fot the lack of citrus. You could tell the balance was no longer there. But it was definitely an ok cup of tea at this point. That brings us to the 7 minute point where this tea raised the white flag. Yeah I pushed it too far and pretty much found nothing. Given how good the suggested times are, it was expected.

For those of you going, "come on, this tea can't be perfect" and you would be correct. This tea has very little complexity. Like a fine wine left in the mouth, you started to pick up different flavors. Not with this tea. Once you got to the point where the balance was just right, that was the flavor you would get.


For all of it's linear flavor, this tea did not fair well with re-steeping. Personally I wouldn't but if you must, 4 minutes 1st steep, and between 3-4 for the second. The second will obviously be alot lighter but if you don't mind that, go for it.

Final Thoughts

To put this quite simply, for the price, you can't go wrong with this tea. The tea is organic so you know what's in your cup. The flavor is pretty darn linear so you can control what kind of tea you are making and for a bagged tea that's pretty rare. On the down side the tea lacks complexity and I've only ever seen this tea sold at Whole Foods so availability may be an issue for you unless you are willing to order online. But overall I would definitely give this tea a try for yourself and let us know what you think.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review #57 - Ringtons Earl Grey Tea (bagged)

So now that we are back into the swing of things, wouldn't you know it, I run straight into a challenging review. When Michael of Finest English Tea contacted me I was, as always, looking forward to trying another tea I had never heard of. Then the shipment arrived, I read the box and found something I had never seen before. What was it? Read on to find out what the challenge was.


The box I received looks like your typical tea box minus the display tab at the bottom. The expiration date is printed in easy to read letters right on the top and the back has some history and the steeping directions. On one of the sides you'll see that Ringtons is a member of the ethical tea partnership which is always a nice thing to see. Last thing you want to learn about your tea is how the people who grow and pick your tea are being taken advantage of.

Once you open the box you will find a foil bag that contains all the teabags. When you actually open that foil bag prepare yourself for a wave of tea aroma because contained within is not your average 20 bag count but 50. Seriously, there is alot of aroma to take in which really puts you in the mood to do some tasting. There is one small matter with that foil bag; sealing it back up. Since the bags are not individually wrapped, once you the consumer open that large bag you really should find a way to keep the bags fresh.

As for the aroma itself, more on the tea side and less on the citrus. It definitely wasn't perfume based but it lacked that fresh citrus smell some earl grey's present.  To be fair that bit of info is explained on the back of the box.

"We've chosen a milder Kenyan tea for this blend, rather than a traditional China tea which can sometimes be bitter." 
On one of the sides, you also get the ingredients list:

Black tea (99.3%)
Natural flavor (0.7%) 
As you have heard me drone on and on about, the words Natural flavor scare me. I have also said, more companies then I care to admit, abuse the true meaning of these two words leaving consumers wondering what is really in their food; or in this case tea.  So to end, we have a (to use their words) "delicate citrus note" Earl Grey from Kenyan with fairly paid workers.

Steeping Method

So now we come to the challenging part. The part where I reveal why this review took alot more time then my typical reviews would normally take.

"Water caught just before the boil" 

I will admit, those 6 little words really caught me out. To begin,  when I boil water in my pot I just set it to the highest mark. But what does that mean? Well as many of you know boiling means the water has obtained a temp of 212F or 100C degrees at sea level.  As an engineer I can test for this. But "water caught" is a bit more open for interpretation. So I did some searching and found a couple of different opinions on the matter. Without dragging you threw the internet opinion mud I found it to be somewhere between 200 to 210F.

Their box also stated a time range of 3-5 minutes. So for the first time in like forever I will not specifically set out to stress this tea by going over 5 minutes. My gut instinct told me that was going to happen naturally given the range of temps I had to test.

So 200, 205, 210 @ 3, 4 and 5 minutes. You might want to grab a cup of tea because this is going to take a while.

The Result

I started at the 210F temp because when you think about it, that really is just before boiling.  At 3
minutes it had a very deep but overwhelming flavor of tea but very little in the citrus area. I let it cool but the flavor did not blend well at all nor did it gain anything other then when I first tried it. At the 4 minute mark the color got darker and the flavor ended up being even more unbalanced. Cooling provided nothing. The final time of 5 minutes took all the bad parts and made them worse. To end this was clearly not the temperature the tea blenders had planned for.

I then moved onto the 205 range and at 3 minutes things improved. The color looks about the same but the flavor wasn't so overwhelmingly tea. You could now start to pick out the bergamot. It still wasn't balanced but now you could honestly label this tea as light. After a bit of cooling I wanted to say the tea gained a bit of citrus but it was still a small amount and the balance was still weighted towards the tea. At 4 minutes the color darkened and the bergamot was a bit more present. Meaning you could taste it a bit more. The two ingredients were now getting closer to being a more balanced light tea. Cooling provided a bit more, but like before, nothing changed a great deal. At the 5 minute mark it felt like the temp and steep time were still not right. Yes there was more color but the balance was still off and the citrus notes were still missing.

I gotta tell you, I was getting a bit nervous. So I started in with the 200 temperature in hopes of finding my preferred temp and right away this tea changed for the better. At 3 minutes this was now a decent light earl grey. The citrus still wasn't a large part of the flavor but the tea just tasted better. The lack of over powering black tea allowed the bergamot to provide some flavor. Cooling allowed alot more balance which made me look forward to the next time. At the 4 minute time I thought things were going to greatly improve but they didn't. The color was more suited to a lighter tea, the black tea added to the taste instead of overpowering it and the bergamot was more enjoyable. But it still lacked balance, so I let it cool a bit. Thankfully that was the final piece to this entire steeping puzzle. After about a minute and half the blend came together. The tea mellowed a bit, the light citrus was there and the color looked good. To end the 5 minute time went beyond where I like it and actually brought the black tea back to where the bergamot was no longer blended. Cooling definitely helped but not like the 4 minute time.


Given the sheer number of permeation's that all of the above steep times would give you I stuck with the 200 range. Keeping in mind this tea was designed to be on the light side (citrus) you must set expectations correctly. If you go with 200 @ 4 mins, then I would do the same 200 but at 5 mins for two light teas.

Final Thoughts

Like I said at the start, this was unlike any review I had done before, this one took time and now you can see why.  To be honest I still worry that I didn't compare different temperatures enough (Meaning 200 @ 4 vs 210 @ 4. )  but given the shear volume I had to draw the line somewhere. To summarize you have a tea that is sourced in a fair way but you are unsure of the actual ingredients. This tea must also be given extra time to prepare to insure the proper temps and allowed to cool before you can enjoy it. Not to mention this tea is by design a "delicate citrus" flavor so personal preferences abound.
To wrap this up, if you like to quickly throw on some "citrusy" Earl Grey using boiled water and ingredients matter to you,  I would skip it. But if you like a deeper flavor and are willing to spend some time making this tea your own by way of experimenting with steep times and temps, I would definitely suggest you try it.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review #56 - Twinings Earl Grey International Blend (loose)

So where do I begin? Lets start with, where have I been. In order to avoid all the details and just get right to it, here is the cliff note version. I spent some time in the hospital around Thanksgiving and then spent some time after that recovering. I'm nearly back to where I was but expect to be so in a few short weeks. Before you post well wishes do me a favor and say a prayer (send good thoughts, etc) to some of the people who I met while in the hospital who have much larger issues to deal with then me. Those are the people we should be praying for. After all of that the holidays occurred which meant no time for reviews. Now that you know everything, well nearly everything, lets begin the review.


As you can see in the picture, the tea comes in a larger sized tin. or as they put it, a caddy.  It is
vacuumed seal so when you pull the plastic cover off the tin you are met with all the aroma at once. You would think the amount of aroma for this much tea would be overwhelming but it wasn't. A quick glance at their leaf symbols on the front of the tin explained why. Only 2 of the 5 leaves were colored in., indicating a mild flavor strength. The aroma itself is more tea then bergamot with a deeper smell rather then one based upon citrus. I wondered what was in the tea and headed off to the Twining's site.  Here is what I found:

Black Tea, Bergamot Flavouring  

For those of you long time readers, you know this sort of listing disappoints me. As I have said countless times I understand how business works. If you have some sort of secret sauce that makes you tons of money you want to protect it but the second part is where I shake my head. What is flavouring? Wondering if this was some English (US) to English (UK) wording I looked around the site and found it was used in three other offerings of Earl Grey.

I'm sorry but in this day an age of GMOs and all the rest, the word flavoring just doesn't cut it.

Steeping Method

This may sound nit picky but I can't read their brewing instructions because the font size on that tin has be around a 3 or 4pt. Seriously, there is a boat load of information on that tin but there is no way I can read it. Yes I'm getting to age where reading glasses are being considered but even my oldest son couldn't read most of the print. It's just that small.

So I decided to go with the typical 3, 4 and 5 minute steep times.

The Result

I started at the 3 minute time and got a light tea. The aroma improved from the tin but it still had that deep smell and not one of fruit. The color was very light but I guess that was expected especially given the number of leaves Twining's used to describe it. I let the tea cool a bit, but not much changed.

I moved on to what I typically call my favorite steep time, 4 minutes. At this time the color grew darker and the aroma increased with it's deep smell. The flavor was a bit more balanced but again that unique aftertaste was there. To be perfectly honest, I didn't like it at all. I decided to let the tea cool a bit and hoped some of the sweetness would tone down the aftertaste. It helped alittle with both the balance and the aftertaste but it was still there.

That left me only one path to take, try the 5 minute steep time. Thankfully this time provided some help. To begin, the flavor was much more balanced the minute I poured a cup. The aroma was still deep but the flavor had more sweetness to it which helped offset the deep aroma. But most importantly, at this steep time there was no aftertaste. What ever was causing that extra flavor was no longer there once you added that additional minute.

To end this section, none of the steep times provided any real additional flavors when cooled.


It really comes down to the after taste. If you try it and like that flavor, then you can resteep no problem especially if you like a light tea. Go 3 minutes then 4. You'll get the aftertaste in the first steep but not in the second. If you are like me, go 5 then 5 again. The first steep will be what I described above and the second will be on the light side. But at least you won't have any after taste.

Final Thoughts

I'm sorry but I can't help but wonder what type of flavoring is causing that after taste. I don't want to sound harsh but most aftertastes are caused by artificial ingredients either alone or mixed with natural. Adding to that, there are plenty of profitable tea houses that provide better information on their tea so I don't see why everyone can't do it. With that said I will end with a familiar statement. If you are like me and like to know what is in your food then I would not suggest this tea. But if you don't share my views, then I would go with the 5 minute steep time for a decent Earl Grey.