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.