Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Earl Grey Supreme by Harney & Sons

Earl Grey Supreme by Harney & Sons

Seller Description: "To the connoisseur we offer Earl Grey Supreme, which uses a higher grade of teas along with the addition of Silver Tips. Most of our customers have never gone back to our regular Earl Grey once they have tasted the Supreme. If you love Bergamot and fine tea, this is the blend for you."
Directions: "...a teaspoon of tea for each cup of tea desired....pour boiling water over tea & steep 5 minutes."
Cost: $7.50/4oz tin

Teaware: ForLife NewLeaf 16oz infuser mug
Measured dry: 2 tsp for first cup, 3 tsp for second cup, 2-1/2 tsp for third cup
Water Temperature: Boiling
Steeping Time: 5 minutes for first and second cups, 4-1/2 minutes for third cup
Additives: 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw

A close up of the dry tea
Sometimes I forget how much television is offered online, so when I came across PBS' streaming Antiques Roadshow episodes I just had to settle in for a marathon. I'd heard wonderful things about this tea, so I figured it would be a great companion.

I was very, very wrong. It took three different cups of tea, and iced version, and a re-steep to figure out that I really don't care for this... and I wish I hadn't bought a whole tin!

When I first opened it, the smell sent my senses for a loop. The aroma is a spicy bergamot - more straightforward than Mariage Frères' Earl Grey French Blue, brisker bergamot than Teavana's Earl Grey Black, and spicier than Simpson & Vail's Earl Grey.

For my first cup, I followed the directions exactly: 1 tablespoon per cup for five minutes. Instead of a bracing cup to start my day I was left with a flavor that started mild and ended with a very watery aftertaste. Even the infused leaves were weak - the aroma that had tantalized my senses initially was now a pale imitation of itself. I dumped the leaves and gave the rest of that cup to my husband.

The infused leaves
For my next attempt, I increased the amount of dry tea to 1-1/2 teaspoons per cup and stayed at a five minute steep. That cup showed more promise, but I think I used too many leaves because it was fairly bitter. I shoved the rest of that cup into the fridge to cool and tried again.

The third attempt was 1-1/4 teaspoons of dry tea with a 4-1/2 minute steep, and I think I (finally!) hit as close as I'm going to come to the sweet spot. 

The bergamot was still milder than the dry smell would indicate but the watery and bitter notes had been eliminated. There was a lot more astringency than I expected, and the dry mouth feel was a lot more pronounced than other Earl Greys which have had similarly mild bergamot notes. At this point my patience for this tea was starting to wane, so I dumped the rest of the third cup in the fridge with the second cup.

First attempt
Now on to attempt a re-steep. I kept to the same steeping time as the 3rd attempt, and I was pleasantly surprised. It's a mild cup, but the Earl Grey flavor profile still dominates the flavor. Actually, the re-steep is very similar to the first attempt I made, but without the watery aftertaste.

Finally, we come to the iced-tea version of this tea. It's at this point that I want to completely give up on this brew. The cold has not improved it, and as a last-ditch effort to gain some enjoyment from this tea, I poured in a dash of milk. Now it tastes a little like bitter bubble-tea. 

That's it. I give up on this stuff. It's just too finicky to mess with. During the school year I'm usually running around juggling fifty-zillion things at once, and I don't have time for a tea that's this picky about how it's prepared. I could spend another morning attempting to dial in just the right way to brew it, but I have much better things to do and a whole line-up of Earl Greys with better manners and behavior.

Update 7/5: I think I needed a bit of time to allow my frustration level to simmer down. It's two days later, and I finally feel up to trying again. I have completely disregarded the directions at this point, and at the suggestion of JaquelineM on Steepster, I used 3 very level teaspoons of dry tea, slightly cooler water (boiling minus 5 minutes), and a 4-minute steep. Once I removed the infuser basket I added 1-1/2 tbsp Sugar in the Raw, and, finally, I was able to enjoy it.

When prepared this way, it's a surprisingly smooth Earl Grey. There are no jarring notes, and the mild bergamot twines nicely with the black tea blend. There's little to no astringency, and it is nice to enjoy an Earl Grey without the usual dry mouth sensation as a chaser. I've tried this same method a couple times now, and the consistency has forced me to change my mind about this blend. I am actually going to move it forward to the first elimination round.

For right now, I'm going to settle back with the rest of the cup - and savor the idea that this whole dialing-in process happened with the infuser mug I'm using for both the Battle of the Earl Greys and school in the fall. I don't want to do this again with another piece of teaware!

Prominent Notes: Mild bergamot
Aftertaste: Black tea blend
Overall: Moving forward to the first elimination round

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