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.