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!

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