Sunday, July 21, 2013

Earl Grey Organic by Mighty Leaf

Earl Grey Organic by Mighty Leaf

Seller Description: "A regal blend of the finest golden tip, organic black tea leaves infused with rich first-press bergamot oil. An inspiration to the epicurean with a fancy for the classical."
Directions: "Brew time 4 minutes."

Teaware: 16oz glass mug with lid
Measured dry: 1 tea sachet
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 4 minutes
Additives: 1 tablespoon of Sugar in the Raw, a dash of milk

I remember when the "sachets" first started to appear in grocery stores. I liked the idea of full leaf teas and at first I was just wary of adding extra garbage to the landfills. It was later that I realized I also had to worry about possibly contaminating my drinks with chemicals from the heated plastic.

PLA sachet with stitching
When this tea was given to me to review, I knew I had to do a little research. What I found on their website was surprisingly reassuring. Mighty Leaf describes their sachets as "100% polyactic corn based compostable material," and goes on to state that they are also biodegradable. The sachets are actually sewn closed with cotton string instead of staples or glues.

So far, it was sounding a little too good to be true, so I looked up "polyactic" and discovered that polyactic acid (PLA) is a renewable resource that's actually being used in medical implants that are meant to break down in your body - like dissolving stitches. You can click here to read a Smithsonian article about its common uses and issues, but, when it comes down to it, PLA does look like a step in the right direction.

Now, if you've been reading my blog you've probably noticed that the one previous entry for a teabag was a little harsh. Well, a lot of that comes down to not only what its made of, but what's inside. Sachets like this one include full leaf tea that you can actually see, and they generally allow the leaves a lot of room to expand. Teabags, however, are usually much lower grades of tea. It goes all the way down to "fannings": the tea dust left over once higher quality teas are created. That's one thing I do have to give sachets; they offer the convenience of a teabag without the left-over dust that's used in teabags.

But on to the tea itself! 

To make sure this tea was able to live up to its promise, I was very careful with the steeping instructions. I've heard people say before that one of the reasons tea snobs raise their noses at teabags is because well, a) the contents, but also b) they don't prepare it with the exacting nature they do loose leaf.

Infused leaves from sachet
To that end, the quantity was pretty straightforward (one sachet of tea!) and the brewing time was marked on the package (4 minutes), but the ratio was not. It can mean a big difference to a tea if you use one teaspoon of dry tea in a 6oz teacup versus a 16oz mug. One may be overwhelmingly potent while the other may taste like flavored water. 

With all the different teas I've been able to try this summer, I've noticed that no one plays by the same rules and some makers give you dry measures for 6, 7, or finally 8 ounces. That's usually my default, because its the actual cup measure, but it doesn't always make the best cup. 

For this tea, I filled my 16oz mug 2/3 of the way full, which amounted to approx. 10oz of water, and let it steep for four minutes. At first sip the tea was a little mild (next time I will try to hit the 8oz mark on the head) but it held a lot of promise. 

I waited until after the first couple of sips to add a dash of milk, in order to get a better feel for the tea. The black tea notes are the most prominent, with just enough bergamot oil to complete the traditional Earl Grey flavor profile. Because the bergamot is so slight, it contributes to a very subtle tea with pleasantly low astringency - no dry mouth here! Once I added the milk the flavors smoothed out even further and it seemed to bring out some added creaminess in the tea.

Lighter second steep
I did attempt one re-steep, but while the tea's original flavor was present it was pretty light. This will be a one-steep tea for me in the future.

After all the steepings were done, I decided to satisfy my curiosity and open up the sachet. If you go back to the teabag I opened a month or so ago, there is a world of difference between the sachet contents and the bag contents. Instead of the coffee-ground texture of the teabag, the sachet revealed recognizable leaves which had the room they needed to unfurl.

Between opening up the door to some new knowledge and changing some of my preconceived notions about pre-packaged tea, this blend has managed to impress me. It's easy and tasty - things that I definitely appreciate during the school year. Because of that, it will be moving forward into the first elimination round of the Battle of the Earl Greys. 

Prominent Notes: Black tea and light bergamot
Aftertaste: Black tea
Overall: This will be moving on to the first elimination round!

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