Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review #65 - Typhoo Earl Grey Tea (bagged)

So we are back reviewing another tea that I bought, and then as luck would have it someone else bought it for me. I took that as a sign that maybe, just maybe I should review this tea next. Even more interesting, the tea comes from across the pond, jolly ol' England, but is apparently quite easy to find in the US of A. As proof I bought it from one place and the other person bought it in another store in a different state. That was enough for me. On with the review.

Aroma


The box is technically not a TBDB because there is no front panel punch out but it looks just like one. When you open the top you are greeted by a silver/fin foil bag which contains all 20 tea bags. After opening up the bag I decided to take in the aroma from the whole thing. To keep things fair I also planned to remove a bag and just smell that one alone but there was no need. The foil bag smelled of black tea and not much else, and even that wasn't strong. Since I had two boxes I opened it up and performed the same procedure and got the same results. For my regular readers, aroma doesn't make or break a tea. I just have very few with no Bergamot aroma. So lets look at the ingredients to see what we have.

From the box:
Black Tea(98.7%), Flavouring(1.3%)
My initial reaction to this was, pure delight. We have precise percentages. We are finally getting to see what is in the teas I review. This will be great. No more hidden industry secrets, we'll know it all.

Then my engineering brain kicked in and quickly squashed my initial reaction. No tea information of any kind and no information on the bergamot included. So I checked the rest of the box and found this:
Bursting with flavour
No artificial colours or preservatives
 I don't want to sound harsh but looks like something some American companies do; Try our TEA -  "It Doesn't Contain Wheat or Soy". Ummmm, it never did so what's the point? Best we move on to the steeping section.


Steeping Method

From the side of the box
Use one bag per cup
Add freshly boiled water
Infuse for 2-3 minutes
Enjoy with or without milk
So given how much of this tea I have, I'm going 2, 3, 4, 5 minutes and then my typical stress test.


The Results

I decided to work my way up so I began with 2 minutes. The tea color was extremely light, there was still no aroma, and the flavor was just black tea. After letting it cool the flavor did not change.  I then moved onto the 3 minute time and found pretty much the same thing. Lite color, no bergamot flavor and only black tea. And a lite black tea at that. So I moved onto the 3 minute time frame and hoped for more flavor. Sadly the only thing that really changed was a bit of color in the water and a bit more black tea flavor. Cooling did not provide any improvements.

At the 4 minute time I finally started to pick up some citrus flavor but I would not define this tea as "bursting with flavour" at all. The balance was still mostly black tea, the color was still very lite and cooling again did not provide any improvements. That left only the 5 minute time and as you might have guessed by now, little to no real improvement. At this point in the review I guess we can safely say that 1.3% of bergamot flavoring does not make a well balanced Earl Grey. The side of the box describes this tea as:
Deliciously balanced and fragrant blend
Regrettably I was unable to obtain that type of tea in any of the above steep times.  Which means the only thing left to do was the stress testing and at 8 1/4 minutes this tea started to give off a burnt taste so I stopped. I tried the tea at 6 minutes and at 7 minutes and at best I could describe this Earl Grey as Very Light.


Re-Steeping

Given how lite this tea is, unless you are looking only for a cup of black tea, I would not suggest it.


Final Thoughts

I didn't tell you where I got my box nor did I tell you where the other box came from because I wanted to give this tea a fair review. But it should be stated that the place I purchased it from is known for 2 runs. Meaning if you want cheap import knock offs of things like tools, outdoor furniture, etc, this is the place. The other box came from a different store but again, not first run stuff. Sadly the review did not uncover a diamond in the rough, instead it matched the incredibly cheap price tag. Because of this, I cannot suggest this tea to anyone.

Note: While adding the url link for this tea to my list a few things caught my attention. The steep times were different, there was more info on the site about what kinds of black teas were used and the price; .99 British pounds for a box of 20.










Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review #64 - Care Tea Early Grey (bagged)

So lets start this whole write up with the answer to the question that's on everyone's mind.....where have I been? I guess the cliff note version is this; Don't ever get involved in your son's Robotics Club never mind run it. Huh? I know, what does tea have to do with Robotics? Only that one totally takes over your life and doesn't allow for anything else. If that's all you need then skip the next part and head straight to the review. For the rest of you curious types hang on it's going to be a fun ride.

Last year after much prompting from many different people, I started a robotics club at my sons school. The principle found some funds and away we went. Our first year was a learning year and to be honest the team only wanted to play RoboWars. I.e. smash things together. Year 2 rolls around and the maturity of the team jumps up. After more instruction the idea of entering a competition is considered. We are given a green light and a local competition is found. From there we read the rules, built a bot and practiced alot all in about two and half months. Our plan, was try not to finish last. Not only did we not finish last but we ended up in second place after the preliminary rounds. We then ended up in 1st place after the finals round with another team. This qualified us for Regionals. In our 2nd act of pure panic, we upgraded our bot, practiced even more and at Regionals, finished 1st after the preliminary round, won the overall, ended up winning 3 trophys, and received an invite to the Vex Worlds Robotics competition in Louisville, KY.  Then things really got crazy. We were featured in a local newspapers, built yet another robot in order to compete at the next level, worked on getting funding (think GoFundMe), got our own logo, got shirts,  booked flights and hotels, and oh did I mention we had to build another bot and practiced alot? So there you have it, the reason for my absence.  The only thing bad about this whole affair, I still don't know whether Androids dream of electric sheep. Sigh. Onto the review.


Aroma

The box is your basic TBDB variety and the bags found within come wrapped in a paper pouch. Once you rip one open you will not find any staples or snaps of any kind. As for aroma, there is some but I did notice how some bags had more while others had less. It's mostly a tea smell but if you linger a bit you can pick up some citrus. It was very light so I almost wonder if I was willing myself to get it. What is making this tea smell the way it does? From the box:
Fair Trade Certified Organic Black tea, Organic Bergamot. 

It should be noted that also on the side of the box is this: Care Tea is distributed by Numi Inc. Another nice bit of info is on the other side. There you will find the NON GMO label, the fair trade label and the USDA Organic label.  Needless to say I love seeing those. But we are not through. If you look at the bottom you will find information about Care Tea's Eco Care Audit which is not something you see everyday. If only all tea makers provided such relevant information.

Steeping Method

From their box and in a mere three words:
Steep 4 Mins
With only one time given I added 5 minutes and my typical stress testing.


The Results

To be fair I started at the 4 minute time. The color was light to medium, the aroma was alot more then when I first tested it and the first tastes were pretty good. As the box says this is a light tea and not one with an overwhelming bergamot flavor. As the tea cooled it gained a bit extra citrus which was a nice surprise.

Next up, the 5 minute steep time. As expected the color darkened up a bit more, the aroma grew a bit
and the flavor was a bit more balanced. The bergamot was more pronounced then at 4 minutes but I could have still used an increase for more balance. As the tea cooled and unlike the 4 minutes time, it didn't gain any citrus. It was still on the light side but still a good cup of Earl Grey.

That leaves only the stress test and guess what? It passed. Seriously, I left the bag in the cup for well over 7 minutes while I was testing and it was only after 8 or 9 minutes that I really started to taste a change in the flavor. To be honest this was my favorite. The bergamot was the strongest it was going to be, the aroma was stronger and the color was even darker. This was obviously not how Care Tea had intended anyone to drink this tea but I liked it.


Re-Steeping

Given the "hint" of bergamot to start I don't suggest a second step especially if you go with my stress test method. But if you really want to I would do 4 for the first and let it sit for the second. It will be even lighter but that shouldn't surprise anyone.

Final Thoughts

As the expression goes, this tea ticks all the boxes. Organic, Fair Trade, No GMOs, and the right packaging. They said right on the box, "A hint of bergamot orange" so it's hard for me to ask for something the tea is not. Yes I would have preferred a more balanced tea but that's not how they blended it. So if you prefer a lighter Earl Grey and like knowing exactly what is in your cup of tea, I would definitely give it a try.



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Review #63 - Wissotzky Tea Imperial Earl Grey (bagged)

"Houston we have a problem." Or should I say we've had a few problems? Either way I should apologize for taking so long to get this next review out. I did something different this time and gave my twitter followers the choice of picking my next review. I then planned to do the review during the Christmas break (Happy New Year everyone) which was not a good idea. Surprise, surprise, I was way busy and never got to it. Then we hit the next bump in the road and the review almost didn't happened. So after some thought, I decided to move forward. But before I begin I'm going to take a deep breath, and try not to rant.

The tea I am reviewing today was given to me by a friend. This friend is not an Earl Grey fan nor are they tea drinkers. But given the friend title they were nice enough to find and then pick this tea up for me after checking my site. I didn't think anything of it until the actual review began. With my apologizes to Wissotzky, I really feel the tea industry needs some standardization because this tea contains cornflower but it doesn't state that point anywhere except the back. To be fair I will raise my hand and say, "ok, I should have checked before I started this review" and admit fault. But the industry as a whole needs to settle on some distinct names. I saw the word IMPERIAL and didn't even consider looking at the ingredients because other Imperials from other tea houses don't have cornflower. My friend doesn't really drink tea yet if they had grabbed this and tasted it, they would have thought this is what Earl Grey is. With all of that said, you can probably guess how this review is going to go.

Aroma

The box is a bit different then your typical TBDB because this one has this nice overlapping cover and no area at the bottom to push out for individual sales. Once you open the box you will find a foil pouch which holds all of their "silky pyramid tea bags". The aroma is not like typical Earl Greys because the cornflower changes things. I also wondered if the foil bag could be used to keep the bags fresh. After looking at the side of the box, it's apparent they did not design the pouch for that because they suggest you store it in an airtight container. As an aside, I think the amount of glue used to keep the tag stuck to the bag is too much. I ripped open 2 different bags until I finally learned to slowly peel it off.

So what is in this tea? From the box:

Selected Ceylon tea, cornflower blossom and bergamot flavor.   
You know what I am going to say about the word "flavor" so I'll just get it over with. Not knowing what is actually in my tea is not a good thing.

Steeping Method

From their box:
Pour freshly boiled water over the teabag, leave the tea tag out and allow to brew for 3-5 minutes or until the beverage reaches desired strength.  

The Results

At the 3minute mark I was met with a lighter color and aroma of a tea that has cornflower. I let it cool for a bit but the cornflower flavor didn't diminish.  The tea was definitely weighted towards the cornflower and tea and the bergamot got lost in the mix.

At the 4minute mark the color darkened a bit and the cornflower really took over. If you held the tea in your mouth for a bit you could just about pick up on the citrus. The tea was still unbalanced with the cornflower and black tea drowning out the bergamot.

At the 5minute mark this tea started to act like other teas I have tried that had cornflower. Meaning the cornflower flavor was starting to burn off. So I went to 6 minutes and even though I started to pick up some stronger flavors, burning maybe, I could taste the bergamot/ citrus a slight bit.


Re-Steeping

Given my preferences, I went straight to the 5 minute time for my first steep in an attempt to burn off
the cornflower and another 4 minutes for the second steep. What ever cornflower they used could not be burned off so my experiment didn't work.

Final Thoughts

Just to repeat, I almost didn't do this review because I went in knowing the results before the first bubbles ever formed in my electric pot. I'm not a fan of cornflower and I honestly believe that anything listed as Earl Grey should only contain two ingredients; Black tea and bergamot. If companies wish to try new things, go for it just please label them properly. If you like cornflower in your tea and don't mind not really knowing what ingredients are being used, try it. If you are more of a traditional Earl Grey drinker and believe you should know everything in your tea, then I would skip this one.