Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Earl Grey French Blue by Mariage Frères

The first cup, just before I removed the infuser.

Seller Description: "Graceful and sophisticated, this classic blend reinvents itself by pairing the fruity, zesty and lightly peppery notes of refined bergamot with the sweet-scented hint of cornflower. Balanced and full of body with ample and lasting flavour, the liquor floods the palate with its charm and majesty."
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."
Cost: 8,50 €/100g

Teaware: ForLife NewLeaf 16oz infuser mug
Measured dry: 1-1/4 tsp for first cup, 1-1/2 tsp for second cup
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 4 minutes for first cup, 5 minutes for second cup
Additives: 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw

This marks my 20th Earl Grey review during the Battle of the Earl Greys! I couldn't resist pulling out my new mugs this morning - I bought two of them for side-by-side tea comparisons in the elimination rounds as well as practical use at home and work. It was a difficult choice. At first I couldn't decide if I wanted a professional tea cupping set or something more practical. I had to sit myself down with the question: If this is a quest to find the perfect tea for me, how will I actually prepare it in the future? I'm not going to drag a cupping set to school, but I will need to have something compact yet still enjoyable, so this set emerged as the winner.

Earl Grey French Blue
But on to the tea! This is the second tea in the Mariage Frères trio of samples. Unlike its counterparts, the dry smell of this tea is more floral than citrus, and the black tea blend is an after note. The dry blend is actually quite pretty - the blue flowers are surprisingly plentiful and vivid.

They don't stay that way. One of the first things I noticed about the infused leaves is that all the color was leeched out of them and they were left pale and grayish yellow. Luckily that doesn't influence the flavor!

I was very careful with the measurements this time, and was right on the mark for the tea to water ratio. For the next cup, I think I'll increase the amount of tea and the steep time because this first try was a little weak. The floral notes from the cornflowers are overwhelming the bergamot, and this tastes more like a floral black than an Earl Grey right now.

Infused leaves at the end of steep
That's about as far as I got this morning. My allergies were acting up, so I had to take some Benadryl and it knocked me for a loop. I took a completely unexpected nap, but managed (barely!) to put the rest of the tea in the fridge before my head hit the pillow. As an iced tea, this is a lot more forgiving and the weak taste does not detract from it - rather, it becomes a strength and gives it a nice laid-back flavor. The black tea blend becomes a stronger note, and the citrus notes begin to peek out around the floral.

For my second hot cup of this, I increased the amount of the tea by 1/4 tsp and the steep time to 5 minutes. Small changes, but at first sip I can tell they made all the difference. It's a much richer cup with a deeper color and flavor. The bergamot has woken up and is making its presence known, knocking the cornflowers down where they belong! There is no question now that this tea has an Earl Grey flavor profile, but the small kick of the cornflowers is giving it an extra punch which brings it to a higher level.

The second cup - with steam!
It is more astringent now, but only in a mild way. The dry mouth feel is light but present, where it was missing before. It's just enough to let you know you're drinking an Earl Grey!

I had serious doubts about this tea after the first cup, but the second one has completely wiped them out! I am absolutely loving this, and it will definitely be moving on to the first elimination round!

Prominent Notes: Black tea blend and bergamot
Aftertaste: Prominent notes plus faint floral notes
Overall: When brewed correctly, this is a wonderful cup!

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