Sunday, June 30, 2013

Organic Earl Grey by Tealicious

My little teacup infuser, still going strong!

Teaware: 8oz depression glass cup and tea ball infuser
Measured dry: 1 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 2 tsp Sugar in the Raw 

This sample is one of three which were sent to me by Tealicious. It's part of their new lineup for this fall, and is set to debut in October. Because of that it's not listed on their website yet, so I can't tell you exactly what the ingredients are, or what directions to follow.

I made an educated guess based on the other Earl Greys I've enjoyed during this project - most seem to be about 1 tsp/8oz for a 3-5 minute steep.

Dry, this has a sharp bergamot aroma with just a hint of something that smells almost like dark chocolate. The mix is composed of a chopped black blend as the base, some tiny red flowers, and peppercorn-size pieces of something small and yellow that may be citrus rind. There were also 2-3 longer pieces of what looked like lemongrass, but they didn't make their way into the picture.

Steeped, it's a lovely dark amber. The taste is just as impressive - the black blend is the first wave, followed closely by a sweetly and surprisingly mild citrus flavor with just hints of floral notes. It's not very astringent - it's been one of the few so far that hasn't left me with a dry tongue.

I'm actually surprised at how much I enjoyed it - after nearly 20 Earl Grey reviews, they're starting to seem a little similar. But this? I just wanted to cup my hands around it and sink in, maybe with a book or a pen in hand.

In an effort to extend it, I tried a second steep and it impressed me again. It was weaker, but held up fairly well. A lot better than many of the other Earl Greys I've tried during this project! I will definitely consider re-steeping this one in the future.

Overall, this is a highly enjoyable cup of tea, and I'm glad I have just enough of the sample left for one more cup because this is moving on to the next round in the Battle of the Earl Greys!

Prominent Notes: Black tea and bergamot
Aftertaste: Citrus and very light floral
Overall: A surprisingly solid contender - a wonderful cup!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Earl Grey Impérial by Mariage Frères

Mariage Frères generously supplied samples of three of their Earl Grey blends for this project. 

Today I'm starting with the Earl Grey Impérial, but look forward to the Earl Grey French Blue and the Earl Grey Provence in the next week!

Seller Description: "Darjeeling exquisitely flavoured with bergamot."
Directions: "Measure out 2.5 g of tea for 20 cl of pure, filtered water. Bring the water to a simmer (about 95° C) and let the tea infuse for 3 to 5 minutes."
Cost9,50 €/100g

Teaware: 16oz tetsubin and depression glass cup
Measured dry: 1-1/2 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw

Earl Grey Impérial
I think I've fallen in love! This is an attitude adjustment in a cup - each sip is so gorgeously smooth yet complex that I find myself just sinking in to it with a smile. For a lovely moment the worries melt off my shoulders and I can just relax into the cup.

Dry, it smells like a slice of citrus and a wave of something sharp and green that I just can't identify. It's a wonderful contrast, but I have to take my nose out of it long enough to prepare a cup! Based on the online conversions I found, the directions are approximately 1/2 teaspoon per 7oz. I was so excited to try this tea that I forgot the old adage about a teaspoon per person and one for the pot!

I'm glad that I did, as it forced me to be more careful with my measurements. What can I say? I'm an English teacher and not a math teacher - I avoid it when I can, but I'm quickly learning that the best cup will include a couple equations. 

The first steep's color
The first pot had 1-1/2 teaspoons and was a little light so I decided to do another go later... but I overcompensated and let the 2 teaspoons get a little too rounded. Because of that the second pot was slightly bitter, so I think in the future I will use 1-3/4 level teaspoons with my 16oz teapot. It's a wonderful tea, but it is a little assertive about the way it's prepared. 

With all that out of the way, I was able to re-focus on the taste. When it comes to Earl Grey, I never really though a green tea version would be a strong contender. In my mind, I just couldn't mesh the ingrained concept of a black tea Earl Grey with the vegetal flavors of a green. This tea has turned that idea on its head and done a little victory jig around it!

The dry smell has translated beautifully into the cup, and that same sharp green flavor - something like a minty mix of fresh garden herbs - continues to twine with the citrus notes and buttery Darjeeling base. There's enough astringency to leave my tongue a little dry, but nothing I can't work around!

The infused leaves
While writing this up, I noticed that the longer it sits the more prominent the Darjeeling notes become. It made me wonder how this one would taste cold. That's not entirely surprising, as it's supposed to hit 103° F today! 

As it turns out, the Darjeeling doesn't back down when this is iced, but the minty flavor is actually the part that pops out. I'm having a difficult time deciding which way I like it more! 

Out of curiosity I did attempt a second steep, but even at 5-1/2 minutes it was still very weak. The tang of the bergamot does hold on rather tenaciously, but the base isn't there to back it up. In the future this tea will be a single steep for me. 

Prominent Notes: Bergamot and Darjeeling
Aftertaste: Bergamot and mint
Overall: A solid contender - this will be moving on to the next round!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summertime Earl Grey by Simpson & Vail

Seller Description: "Don't let the name fool you, this tea can be enjoyed anytime of the year! The tea brews to a dark amber cup with a smooth, refreshing, light peach taste and subtle Earl Grey undertones."
Classifications: Kosher
Directions: Brew tea at 212º - steep for 3 minutes. 
Cost: $7.20/4oz

Summertime Earl Grey
Teaware: 16oz tetsubin and depression glass cup
Measured dry: 1 tbsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 1 tbsp Sugar in the Raw initially, a second added later

Another sample from Simpson & Vail! After my first tea this morning, I was still craving something fun and fruity. I sniffed through the samples a bit, and zeroed in on this peach!

At the first waft, I couldn't help but think back to family road trips and summers of camping by Olallie Lake. It wasn't until I looked at the seller's description that I understood why! It smells like peach fruit leather - not the artificial tinge of Fruit Roll-Ups, but the real dried fruit taste of the kind you get in the natural foods section.

Steeped Tea
Steeped... mmm. Okay, give me a moment while I savor my happy place. It just tastes so fresh and fruity - this is exactly what I was craving! I love how each sip is bringing back memories - the florescent orange whistles we wore everywhere around the lake, the warmth of the sun as my best friend Katie and I took their canoe out on the water, my little sister diving in after fishing lures... oh, it's morning sunshine in a cup!

Like the Citrus Paradisi, I can't really taste the traditional Earl Grey flavor profile. If the bergamot is in here it's well hidden. This is more of a peach black than an Earl Grey, but it's so good I just don't care! It's my new favorite peach tea, and I just couldn't resist making iced tea with it.

Summertime Earl Grey - Iced
I poured it over a glass of ice, and took a sip. Based on the smell, I kind of expected the peach to taste much richer, but it did gain more depth. I was surprised at how much more prominent the black tea blend became, but it didn't detract from the taste. I'm glad I tried this, but I do prefer it hot. 

Overall, this is a very tasty tea with a wonderful capacity for brining back shiny summer memories!

Prominent Notes: Peach!
Aftertaste: Black tea blend
Overall: Just tasty and wonderful - a new cupboard staple!

Citrus Paradisi Earl Grey Blend by Simpson & Vail

Seller Description: "Citrus Paradisi is a citrus lovers delight. We've combined our best selling Earl Grey black tea with natural grapefruit oil to create a taste sensation. The tea brews to a dark amber cup with a hearty, full bodied taste. The aroma and taste of this blend is captivating and refreshing. Earl Grey tea is a favorite with bakers in many culinary recipes. It goes especially well with cakes, cookies, confections and any recipe with chocolate!"
Classifications: Kosher
Directions: Brew tea at 212º - steep for 3 minutes. 
Cost: $7.20/4oz

Citrus Paradisi Earl Grey Blend
Teaware: 16oz tetsubin and depression glass cup
Measured dry: 1 tbsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 1 tbsp Sugar in the Raw

This is the second tea from the sample set Simpson & Vail were kind enough to send my way. I felt like something a little summery this morning, and the dry smell of this tea seemed like it would hit the spot quite nicely!

Dry, this tea smells more like an herbal - the grapefruit and other citrus flavors nearly jump out of the bag and dominate your senses. I couldn't smell the black tea blend at all, and had to give the package's label another glance to make sure it was, in fact, an Earl Grey blend!

Steeped, the pendulum swings and the citrus flavors surrender to the demands of the black teas. The citrus notes fade into the background and it's difficult to pick them out at all. I have to sip them extra slowly, and let the tea linger on my tongue in order to taste the grapefruit at the tail end, while I still can't pick out the bergamot which is supposed to give Earl Grey its distinctive flavor.

First and Second Steeps

As you can see from the image above, the first and second steeps were very different. While the wet tea leaves did continue to smell like grapefruit throughout, the second steep is a much lighter cup - both in color and in flavor. The bergamot does finally come out to play, and the grapefruit is diminished. At this point it actually begins to taste like an Earl Grey, albeit a watery one. Because the flavor does wane in the second steep, I will treat this as a single-steep tea in the future.

When you wrap it all up, this is an interesting blend - I've never had one play such games on me! First you've got a tongue-in-cheek game of Got Your Nose! with the dry smell, and then you play Hide & Seek with the flavors in the steeped cup. While I do enjoy it, and will be happy to finish the pot, this will not be moving forward in the Battle of the Earl Greys because it simply doesn't taste strongly enough like an Earl Grey.

Prominent Notes: Black tea blend
Aftertaste: Grapefruit
Overall: A playful cup

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lemon Crème Parfait by Della Terra Teas

Seller Description: "Creamy lemon, what a most amazing parfait that would be! Well, we have in this amazing fuit blend the perfect blend of cream and lemon. Parfait, literally means perfect in French, and we feel that is exactly what this blend is."
Ingredients: Lemon bits, lemon rind, lemon flavor, cream flavor, lemon grass, apple bits, dried cranberries.
Directions: 1 to 1.5 teaspoons per 6oz, 210 degrees Fahrenheit, steep 2-5 minutes.
Cost: $8.50/2oz

Facebook Giveaway!
Teaware: 24oz tetsubin and depression glass cup
Measured dry: 2 tbsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 2tbsp Sugar in the Raw

A couple weeks ago, Della Terra offered a giveaway contest on their Facebook page, and I was lucky enough to win a 2oz package of their Lemon Crème Parfait. It just arrived today, and I couldn't wait to try it! 

I've been trying to get better about picking out different scents and investigating each step of the process instead of just the end result. To explore the dry smell I thought a little comparison/contrast would help. The husband and I have really enjoyed another one of their lemon tisanes - the Lemon Chiffon. I had a little bit left, so I decided to get it out and compare the two. While they both imitate different lemon deserts, both Jake and I were surprised at how very different they were. The Chiffon has more of a dessert smell - a wee bit more artificial and sugary sweet. The Parfait, though, smells more fresh and authentic. It's almost like I just grated some lemon rind while getting ready to make the real thing. 

Lemon Crème Parfait
The dry appearance was vastly different as well. The Chiffon is a Rooibos and has very small pieces, while the Parfait is much, much chunkier. Not quite as bad as a Teavana (I've had to avoid some of theirs before because the pieces wouldn't fit in my steeping equipment!) but still at least four times larger.

We decided to pull out the larger teapot, both because of the dry size and because we thought we might be coming back for seconds!

What we discovered is that this tisane wasn't done surprising us yet! The dry smell is completely different from how it tastes after the steep. To my husband and I, this is like a rush of lemonade quickly followed by lemon meringue. The toasted, creamy flavor is actually adhering to my tongue just like a real meringue would. It's a bit of a mind boggler for me, as this is the first tisane I've tried that truly tastes like what it advertises.

The lighter second steep.
Of the ingredients, I don't really taste the apple and cranberry, but the cranberry certainly comes out in the color: a pretty crystal pink that contrasts in an interesting way with the overwhelmingly lemon flavor. 

I did try a second steep, and it's caused my only disappointment in this mix. It just doesn't hold up, and even when I forgot to set the timer and let it go for nearly 20 minutes it was weak and watery. This is good for a single-steep only. 

All in all, I've really enjoyed this tisane and I am very excited that it was a 2oz bag, so we can continue to enjoy it for some time to come - but only for the first steep!

Prominent Notes: Lemon and cream
Aftertaste: Lemon meringue
Overall: Seconds, please!

Earl Grey Lavender by Rishi Tea

Seller Description: "Our contemporary version of this classic blend was developed in French tea salons and has pleased the palate and raised the eyebrows of more than a few Earl Grey purists. Earl Grey Lavender is handcrafted in small batches and infused with pure essentials oils of real fruit and flowers."
Classifications: Organic and Fair Trade
Directions: 1 tablespoon per 8oz, 212 degrees Fahrenheit, steep 3-5 minutes
Cost: $4.00/oz

Teaware: 16oz tetsubin and depression glass cup
Measured dry: 3 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 2tbsp Sugar in the Raw

While I was in graduate school, my friend Drea and I rented an adorable house in Portland's Hawthorne District. Like so many homes there, ours was a bit of a hodgepodge of second-hand and hand-me-down furniture. It was cheerful chaos, and everything kind of meshed in the way that nothing matched but it was all wonderful and unique. Our front porch did not escape. It was dominated by a green swing, covered in tropical floral cushions. Spiders loved it, but so did we. I remember taking breaks from studying or grading, lounging on that swing and watching the people who passed by. Piercings and tattoos, yuppie and hippie alike - and often accompanied by the strangest variations of canines. You've got to give it to Portland - we have wonderful people-watching! 

Earl Grey Lavender - Rishi
Just in front of the swing, the front flower bed was dominated by a solid block of lavender. Even though I'm still stuck here in Dallas, this tea just took me back to those deliciously lazy summer moments on that swing. 

This is the second Earl Grey Lavender I've tried during this project, and not only does it taste amazing, you also get the pleasure of knowing each cup is both Free Trade and organic. 

I've tried floral teas before that have tasted like I'd dunked my tongue into a vial of perfume, but this is smooth and fresh. This tea finds a gorgeous balance between the notes - it stays true to the flavor profile of an Earl Grey, but kicks things up a notch with the addition of the lavender. Neither dominates, nor does either go after your taste buds with a sledgehammer - they twine and play together beautifully. A sinuous dance inside the cup!

Steeped Earl Grey Lavender

I am so glad that I made a full pot of this, as I just can't seem to get enough of it! Thank you again, Short Sorceress, for the Steepster swap that gave me the opportunity to try this wonderful tea!

Prominent Notes: Lavender and Bergamot
Aftertaste: Black tea blend
Overall: The best Earl Grey Lavender yet!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Earl Grey by Simpson & Vail

Simpson & Vail was kind enough to send me a selection of their Earl Greys for this project! I'll spread them out, but look forward to their Victorian Earl Grey, Summertime Earl Grey, Creamy Earl Grey, Citrus Paradisi Earl Grey Blend, and Mrs. Grey's Blend in the weeks to come! For now, let's start in the beginning, with their Earl Grey Aromatic Tea:

Mei Photo-Bomb - Again!
Seller Description: "One of Mr. Vail's 15 original tea blends. If you enjoy the floral notes of Bergamot, this Earl Grey tea will become your favorite! This exceptional combination of Darjeeling, Assam, Chinese, and Sri Lankan teas, sprayed with the oil of Bergamot has been satisfying our customers for generations....Certified Kosher."
Directions: 1 tsp at 212°F for 3 minutes
Cost: $9.10/4oz tin

Teaware: 8oz cup with tea ball infuser
Measured dry: 1 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 1 tsp Sugar in the Raw, with a second added later.

From the moment I opened the bag, I wanted to bury my nose in it! The delicious scents of the traditional Earl Grey blend were nice and pungent - it lives up to the "aromatic" part of the name! I got out a couple other Earl Greys out to compare, and while the scent did back off a little after that initial waft, my husband and I agreed that this had a smoother citrus fragrance than the sharper notes of the Arbor and Teavana that we'd pulled out. 

Simpson & Vail - Earl Grey

I decided to go small this morning, and just made a single cup instead of a pot. I started out by only adding one teaspoon of sugar, but the cup called for a little more. The first sip, with the single teaspoon of sugar, had more of a bite than I would usually care for, and it left my tongue feeling dry. 

Adding another teaspoon of sugar really helped smooth it out. If I had remembered to stop by the store and pick up milk, I think a dash would help kick this up another notch and balance out the dry feeling. I'll try to update when I make that happen! 

I did try one re-steep, but it didn't hold up - even with a longer steep time the flavors had waned and it was a little too watery. I think in the future this will be a single-steep tea for me.

Altogether, this is a nice, easy-going Earl Grey - the black tea blend does dominate the cup, with only a mild kick of bergamot to give it that distinctive Earl Grey flavor. It's matter-of-fact and straightforward - a good cup of tea! If this is the starting point, I really look forward to trying the other Simpson & Vail Earl Grey varieties!

Prominent Notes: Black tea, mild citrus
Aftertaste: Black tea blend
Overall: A great place to start!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cream of Earl Grey (Organic) by DAVIDsTEA

Seller Description: "Lovers of Earl Grey adore this creamy alternative to the original blend. You’ll recognize the same high-quality black tea, the same citrus burst of bergamot oil, the same beautiful grey-blue petals. However this version adds a touch of vanilla, and the result is an unexpectedly rich, creamy taste experience. (MK Kosher)"
Directions: 1.5 tsp at 208°F for 3-5 minutes
Cost: $5.75/1.76oz

Teaware: 8oz cup with pinch infuser
Measured dry: 1.5 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 1 tsp Sugar in the Raw

I was rearranging my tea supply, and realized I hadn't tried this one yet! This is another tea that I received from Emilie in our Steepster swap. Dry, it has a somewhat sharp aroma, like a mix of coffee and dark cocoa, but that doesn't translate into the steeped tea.

Earlier, I accidentally over-steeped it for something like eight minutes and tortured my taste buds with - if you don't mind the alliteration - a bitter, bracing brew. Apparently this is not very forgiving, but if you're careful about your steep time... mmmm. 

The fresh cup is creamy and has just a little bit of a bite at the end. So far this is right up there with the Earl Grey Moonlight by Adagio - the Earl Grey flavors don't have to take up arms against overwhelming cream and vanilla. They are there, and unmistakable, but in much more of a supporting role. Given a choice between the two, I would promptly head in this direction because it's listed as organic and I believe that as a consumer you vote with your dollars.

Because I do like this and want another cup, I attempted to re-steep it. I don't usually have good luck with that, but I figured it would be worth my while to at least try. I didn't want to chance the bitter zone of my first attempt, so for the second attempt re-steep I let it go for three and a half minutes. It wasn't quite as impressive - it was less flavorful, and the cream was starting to step out around the EG flavors. I set the timer for another minute, in one last attempt to eke out more of the original flavor, but it did not noticeably change. I think this will be a single-steep tea for me in the future. 

Prominent Notes: Black tea, bergamot, vanilla, and cream
Aftertaste: Bergamot
Overall: A very tasty and well-balanced Earl Grey cream, but this not a strong enough Earl Grey on its own to move to the next round.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Earl Grey (bag) by Tazo

Seller Description: "A traditional tea scented with the essence of bergamot."
Directions: None listed on bag
Cost: Varies per seller

Teaware: Depression Glass cup and saucer set (Hazel Atlas' Newport/Hairpin pattern)
Measured dry: 1 teabag
Water Temperature: Boiling, minus 5 minutes
Steeping Time3 minutes
Additives: 1tbsp Sugar in the Raw, dash milk

TAZO Earl Grey Mid-Steep
I've been steering steadily away from bagged tea, but this was a surprise addition to a swap, so I decided to give it a try. 

After my first sip, I really wish I hadn't! Either this tea is revolting or some kind of cross-contamination occurred. It's incredibly bitter, and has a seafood aftertaste. Yeah, you read that correctly - I think it's salmon. Which is wrong. So very, very wrong.

Teabag Autopsy
In an attempt to make it remotely palatable I added Sugar in the Raw and milk. Over the seafood, I can now taste elements of the Earl Grey flavors, but they just can't break free of the fish.

Since I just can't manage to drink the rest of this, I decided to open up the teabag and see if anything was remotely recognizable. As you can see... nope. It looks more like... well, as I've already grossed you out with the fish, I'll let you draw your own conclusions. Suffice it to say that I cannot identify any leaf-like structures in the... substance inside the bag. 

So, to wrap up, this was absolutely horrible. To drive that home, Mei-Mei decided to inspect it while I was busy typing. Usually she'll try to sample just about anything -not that I'll let her, but she still tries! Mei-Mei was a feral kitten when she was rescued, so she has no qualms about anything edible, drinkable, or even resembling food. This? She actually turned her nose up at it. Good decision, cat. Very good decision.

Prominent Notes: Seafood, bergamot
Aftertaste: Seafood
Overall: Dump it! Dump it now!

And yes, Mei's name is a nickname on Firefly. I believe it means "little sister" in Mandarin. She totally embodies that! Akasha's is from Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned. They were about 6-7months old when we adopted them, so we just found nerd-esque names as close as possible to the ones they'd gotten used to: ChiangMai and Acosta. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Earl Grey Moonlight by Adagio Teas

Seller Description: "By popular demand, we have finally added an Earl Grey 'cream' blend. Comforting flavors of vanilla and cream combine to soften the citrus notes of traditional Earl Grey. Your taste buds will swoon at first sip of our Earl Grey Moonlight."
Directions: 1tsp/8oz, steep at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-5 minutes.
Cost: $6/3oz

Teaware: 16oz capacity hand-thrown mug
Measured dry: 2 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 5 minutes
Additives: 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw

I’m liking this one! A lot! I didn’t think that I would rate an EGC this highly, but the cream aspect here is toned down considerably and there’s a nice licorice aftertaste that I adore. I do wish the bergamot had come through a little stronger, but otherwise this tea and I have no issues!

Update: Now that I'm mostly over that cold (and no longer on all the lovely cold medicine!) I'm not quite as effervescently enthusiastic about this one, but this is still an enjoyable cup of tea! I continue to be weirded out about the creamless-cream flavoring in general (if it's there, you should see it!) but when I compare this to the other EGCs I've tried (like the Della Terra) this one actually does allow the Earl Grey flavors to do more than just peek through. Without a doubt this is the best EGC so far, but the EG is just not strong enough to be in the top tier.

Prominent Notes: Cream and bergamot
Aftertaste: A mix of vanilla and licorice
Overall: The best EGC so far, potential for upper tiers

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Earl Grey Bravo by Adagio Teas

Seller Description: "A classic blend of premium black tea from Sri Lanka, flavored with bergamot (a citrus fruit). The perfect afternoon tea: zesty and exhilarating fresh citrus aroma, slightly dry to the nose, with a rounded and balanced orange rind flavor to match the tang of the Ceylon. Pleasantly dry finish with lingering citrus sweetness."
Directions: 1tsp/8oz, steep at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-3 minutes.
Cost: $6/3oz

Earl Grey Bravo by Adagio
Teaware: 16oz capacity hand-thrown mug
Measured dry: 2 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw

So my search for the best Earl Grey has brought me here, by way of a delightful Steepster swap with moraiwe. This is my seventh EG in three weeks, and I can’t wait to see how it stacks up against the rest!
With my sore throat and less-than enthusiastic outlook on anything remotely complicated this morning, I opted for my big pottery mug with a pinch infuser ball. I filled the ball a little over half-way, dumped in 2 spoonfulls of Sugar in the Raw, and steeped for 3min.
My first impression is that I’m drinking entirely too much EG! This is more… full than others I’ve tried, and the various notes seem stronger without the cream that’s somehow infused several of the others. The creams do continue to weird me out when I can’t locate the source of their creaminess, so this one’s lack of pretentiousness is refreshing. It is simply and straightforwardly, an EG, and a delightful one at that. I like how strong the bergamot notes are, and how well they twine with the other flavors. I’m glad that Moraiwe sent such a generous amount, so that I will have it in my cupboard to return to later!

Update 6/17: Summer vacation is truly here, so I broke out the teapot but used the same amounts as last time. I still love the balance of this one, but I'm tasting a hint of vanilla that I didn't notice before. It's just making me like it more!

Prominent Notes: Bergamot
Aftertaste: Vanilla
Overall: This is a contender!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Earl Grey Lavender by Adagio Teas

Seller Description: "Lavender has a long history of medicinal, culinary, and household use. For one, its sweet, floral fragrance is notably sooting, invoking relaxation. Combined with the classic blend of Earl Grey's citrus and a hint of cream this black tea blend is sure to become a quiet time favorite."
Directions: 1 tsp/8oz. Steep at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-5 minutes.
Cost: $6/3oz

Teaware: 16oz capacity hand-thrown mug
Measured dry: 2 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 5 minutes
Additives: 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw

School’s out, the building is locked down for the summer, and now I just have two days of ESL training at district office before the real vacation starts! At least my morning started off on a high note – my husband made us biscuit, egg, and cheddar sandwiches for breakfast this morning, while I made us each a cup of this.
It’s been a while since I’ve had an Earl Grey Lavender, but I don’t remember the EG taking the backseat in such a decisive way. The lavender and the cream flavor are definitely the dominant notes, while the EG is little more than an aftertaste.
All in all, I think I would have liked this a lot more if it hadn’t been an Earl Grey cream. It’s still an okay tea, with all that lovely caffeine, but I don’t think this will be a cupboard staple.

Prominent Notes: Lavender and cream
Aftertaste: Bergamot
Overall: An interesting experiment, but the focus isn't strong enough on the Earl Grey. This will not move to the next round.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tea Earl Grey Hot by ThinkGeek

Seller Description: "What would Picard drink? Being a starship captain is tough work. You have hundreds of lives depending on your leadership, your decisions, and your grade under fire (and under the ever-annoying presence of Q). When you need a moment to collect your thoughts you don't do it with a teabag stuffed with the brown dust that is the byproduct of real tea. No, Sir. You drink real, genuine Tea, Earl Grey, Hot."
Directions: Steep 2-3 minutes
Cost: $14.99/4oz tin

Teaware: Starbucks travel mug, pinch infuser
Measured dry: 2 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 5 minutes (forgot to set the timer... again!)
Additives: 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw

While part of my summer marathon of Earl Grey, I mostly wanted to try this one to appease my inner nerd! Thanks to a Steepster swap with Emilie, I was finally able to!

Can we have a show of hands for who has tried EG simply because one of our favorite starship captains happens to enjoy it? Both my husband and I would have to rather sheepishly raise our own hands!
I tried this first without milk, and it was a fairly straightforward EG – better than a bag, but not really unique in any way that I could discern. Adding milk did bring out some hitherto unknown floral notes, but I can't quite place them. I think the search for the best EG will continue, but thank you, Emilie, for giving me the opportunity to try this one!

Prominent Notes: Sharp black tea, very light bergamot
Aftertaste: Light floral
Overall: The search will continue

Friday, June 7, 2013

Earl Grey Cheesecake by 52Teas

Seller Description: "A unique blend of premium Indian and Chinese black teas (including some Darjeeling), blended with marigold petals, oil of bergamot, and natural cheesecake flavors. YUM!"
Cost: $8.99/1.75oz

Teaware: 16oz Hobnail Tetsubin and Depression Glass cup and saucer
Measured dry: 3 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 5 minutes (After 3 minutes, I decided to steep longer)
Additives: 2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw, dash of milk

Earl Grey Cheesecake by 52Teas
This one has been on my wish list for a while! I've heard great things about it - and negative as well. It seems to vary wildly, so I have to wonder if the mix varies or if shelf-time may be a factor. This tea is out of stock, so I was only able to get my hands on it through a Steepster swap with Emilie. It sounds like there's a lot of that going on, so there could also be cross-contamination happening as it goes from hand to hand. 

I decided to make up a full pot of this, as my husband is both home and curious about this tea as well. From the first sip, I cannot escape the fact that I can’t taste the familiar tang of cheesecake, but there is a rich creaminess that harmonizes beautifully with the EG. Now this is interesting... the longer I let it sit the closer it comes. Hmm. That may bear some more experimentation, but my primary goal is to find a great Earl Grey, and this is a bit off-track.

Cat butt photo-bomb! Akasha, the sneaky huntress!
There is one strange outlier - the slight jab of green that the darjeeling adds to the mix. That I don't care for, but it doesn’t change the experience too badly.

Prominent Notes: Cream, bergamot
Aftertaste: Cream, darjeeling
Overall: Interesting and fun to try occasionally, but not top tier EG.

Earl Grey Creme by Teavana

Seller Description: "High tea is further elevated with tart bergamot orange tastefully tempered by creamy Madagascar vanilla then blended with the classic pomp of an Earl Grey black tea. A majestically smooth confection that is now available any time the senses desire. Sprinkled with sunny yellow marigold petals, this full leaf wonder is divinely delicious with a silky sweet finish. DAIRY FREE. Smooth infusion with bergamot overtones and a creamy vanilla finish."
Cost: $5.20/2oz

Teaware: Starbucks travel mug, pinch infuser
Measured dry: 2 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 3 minutes
Additives: 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw

My first morning of summer vacation, but I can’t sleep in because our apartment complex is still working on the water. It’s only bothered me in the evenings so far, because I’ve been at school when the shut-off occurs and usually don’t have to deal with anything until I get home. But today, 10am-6:30pm is an awfully long time to camp in our apartment, so we have to catch our showers before we head out to the library or catch a movie matinee.
Hence my need for caffeine this early on the first day of summer! I’ve been trying out different Earl Greys in hope of finding the perfect cup for me, and Emilie was kind enough to include this one in our swap. Right now, the Teavana Earl Grey is the front-runner, so I was curious to try their other variations.
I have to admit I definitely needed the caffeine this morning, as I couldn’t place an element and asked my husband for his opinion on it. His take? Cocoa and Bailey’s Irish Cream. I have to agree with him – the cocoa is stronger, but the Irish Cream element is light but there. A very interesting mix, but I don’t think it will supplant my usual EG. Thanks for the opportunity to try this out, Emilie!

Prominent Notes: Cream
Aftertaste: Watery dark chocolate
Overall: Not a contender

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Earl Grey Creme by Della Terra Teas

Seller Description: "If you love Earl Grey you will adore our Earl Grey Creme. It has the classic Earl Grey flavoring matched with a delicious creme. Ingredients: Black tea, bergamot orange oil, cream flavor. Allergens: Contains dairy. Suggested Brewing Tips: Serving Size: 1 tsp/6-8oz water. Water Temperature: 210 degres Fahrenheit. Steep Time: 2-3 minutes."
Cost: $6.50/2oz

Teaware: Starbucks travel mug, pinch tea infuser.
Measured dry: 2 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 4-5 minutes (forgot to set the timer)
Additives: 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw, dash milk

Earl Grey Creme
This is my first Earl Grey Creme, and I just learned an important lesson – don’t add milk to an Earl Grey Creme before you try it!

I was in a rush this morning, and just made it the same way I make my usual EG: Into the travel mug with the pinch-open infuser ball 1/2 full for 4-5 min, 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw, and a moderate dash of milk.
My first sip was like drinking creamer with milk! I sealed it back up and gave it a really good shake, but the next drinks were the same. It’s difficult to even taste the EG at all. I’m deliberately not rating this yet, and I think another cup tomorrow morning is a must in order to suss out what this tea is really like.
Update: Tried this without adding milk, and it was much better! The cream still overwhelms the EG, but at least now it has more of a presence. I may keep a small amount of this on hand for a change now and again, but I doubt it will ever be a larger order. The fact that I can’t see what causes the cream flavor weirds me out a bit.

Prominent Notes: Cream, cream, and more cream!
Aftertaste: Cream!
Overall: This is more cream than tea, and will not be part of the final tier.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Organic Earl Grey Black by Arbor Teas

Seller Description: "This organic, Fair Trade Certified version of the classic Earl Grey does not disappoint. It has the correct balance of flavoring which results in a piquant and refreshing true Earl Grey organic black tea taste. Made fashionable by the Prime Minister of English Ear Grey (1830-1834), Earl Grey is traditionally a blend of organic Chinese tea and organic India tea flavored with the oil from the Asian citrus fruit, bergamot. Ingredients: organic black tea and natural bergamot flavor."
Directions: One level teaspoon per 8oz cup of water.
Cost: $9.95/4oz

Teaware: 16oz capacity hand-thrown mug
Measured dry: 2 tsp
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 5 minutes
Additives: 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw, dash milk

The only other Earl Grey I have to compare this to right now is my Teavana Earl Grey Black, so I opened them up and sniffed them side by side. Of the two, this is less sweet and more sharp. I can’t detect the slight licorice flavor of the Teavana in it, and while it smells a little more… I can only think of the word astringent, it doesn’t shout bergamot at me either. Huh. I don’t know what I was expecting, but so far this isn’t broadcasting any kind of “Wow!” factor.
Today felt like a mug morning, so I loaded a tea ball 1/2 way and steeped it for five minutes. I’m trying to get better about not over-steeping things, so I set my most annoying timer. When its shrieks brought me back into the room, I was surprised at how dark this one came out. Even after I put in a generous pour of milk, and a tablespoon or so of Sugar in the Raw, it is only the color of hot chocolate.
I did sample it before I put in the milk and sugar, and I found that its sharp dry smell had been blunted rather decisively. This tastes a lot milder than I had anticipated, and while it’s a nice and even EG I guess I’m just craving something… different. I love everything this company stands for – organic, free-trade, bio-degradable packaging – and I wanted to love their tea as well, but it’s just not grabbing my senses and sending them whirling. It’s a nice standard cup, but probably won’t be a staple.

6/17 Update: I just made this again, fiddling with the numbers a bit to see if I could dial in a better cup, but this tea was surprisingly consistent. More leaves? Same. Shorter steep? Same. Actually, it doesn't seem to be fussy at all - this could be a solid one to take camping.

Prominent Notes: Black tea, a hint of bergamot
Aftertaste: Nothing stands out prominently.
Overall: Mild - There's no "wow!" factor