T2 Earl Grey

NPG D34953; Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey by Samuel Cousins, published by and after  Sir Thomas Lawrence

After I discovered that tea was something that didn’t only come in bags, which was a relatively recent thing all things considered, my first source of loose-leaf tea was T2. I’m sure that true tea connoisseurs roll their eyes but this place was a revelation for me, and introduced me to the plethora of teas that are possible. I love their packaging and their variety and I think their stores are lovely enough that I go out of my way to avoid them lest I be sucked in. So of course I have their loose leaf Early Grey…

3 min steeping

A bit less than 1 tsp sugar

Unknown.jpegNice colour – what I expect!

Very rich scent: noticeably more orange than the Twinings or Dilmah teabags.

Taste: the orange/bergamot comes through right from the start, which I really like.

In my notes, I wrote that in the past I have found this tea too overpowering to be really enjoyable, but that perhaps I have over-steeped (something I am prone to, especially with a history of maybe slightly stale teabags), since I was enjoying this particular cuppa.

… and then I went back and added that a large mug of the stuff (how I usually drink it) is indeed too much. I actually find it too rich, almost oily. My husband enjoys it though, so it’s not going to waste.

Dilmah Earl Grey

NPG D34953; Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey by Samuel Cousins, published by and after  Sir Thomas Lawrence

This teabag was sent to me by the lovely Alisa Krasnostein.

For no good reason I have always looked on Dilmah as the poor second cousin to Twinings. I think this may result from it never being the brand of choice in the house and I just assumed my parents (OK, my mum) were buying the right stuff? Or something. Who knows. Anyway, as a result – as one does – I have never bought Dilmah and rarely drunk it. So yay for trying something so ubiquitous and challenging my idiotic preconceived ideas.

4 min steeping (3-5 min recommended)

1 tsp sugar

Maybe a little darker than the Twinings when steeped.

imagesSmell is a bit more citrus-y than Twinings, too (take THAT preconceptions).

Taste: quite similar to Twinings, which really shouldn’t be a surprise since I think they’re using similar tea (at least, that’s my assumption), and let’s be honest these are supermarket brands so they’re not going to be using top-quality whole tea leaves or whatever. Nonetheless, I think I would actually rate this a bit higher than Twinings; it’s got a smoother feel, and I think it may be a bit more citrus-y which is something I definitely value.

Cream Earl Grey

NPG D34953; Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey by Samuel Cousins, published by and after Sir Thomas Lawrence

This tea, from The London Tea Merchant, was sent to me by the wonderful Ann when she heard I was doing this experiment.

4 minutes steeping (recommended)

No sugar

Quite pale when steeped. A faint orange smell when in leaf form, but less so when steeped. It does smell a bit creamy – perhaps vanilla?

Tastes a bit weak. Used 1 tsp of leaves, as recommended.

IMG_1416.JPGAdded sugar, but it didn’t bring out the bergamot as sometimes happens.

Next time:

Used a bit more tea, and got a resulting darker colour. Tasted a bit stronger but still not much of a bergamot flavour.

The website says that there’s a slight bergamot taste, along with vanilla and rice pudding, which I think I get.

Overall this is an ok tea, but it’s not a great Earl Grey tea.

Twinings Earl Grey

NPG D34953; Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey by Samuel Cousins, published by and after  Sir Thomas LawrenceAs I mentioned in my first post on this topic, this is where I started. Twinings Earl Grey teabags. Even though they’re not my favourite they are still my touchstone in terms of what Earl Grey tea is. So…

3 minutes steeping (recommended)

About 1 tsp sugar (I always have, probably always will)

It’s exactly the colour I associate with tea. ZERO SURPRISES.

UnknownThere’s definitely a hint of orange in the smell of the tea after steeping.

Taste: yup, definitely still that Earl Grey taste I remember. There’s definitely more taste in this teabag than in most other teabags I’ve tried. It’s not exceptionally orange-y, except in contrast with non-Earl Grey. Nonetheless… if there’s only teabags, this is the one for me.

I have had Earl Grey teabags sit around for years and they’re still drinkable, perhaps with a little more sugar than when they’re not, you know, a bit stale. I will never understand people who drink milk with their Earl Grey…



Honey tasting

I got honey as a present and I decided to do a horizontal taste testing; and I decided to do it as a series of posts on FB, because why not. This is the collation of those posts…

Are there honey fiends? I guess there must be. I’m not one of them – I mean I like honey but I don’t go out of my way to get really good honey, mostly because I don’t know what really good honey is. But I’m about to experiment and I thought I’d share that here. I’m not very good at comparing tastes over multiple days… so the fact that I got a box of honeys from Beechworth c/my work Kris Kringle this year (totally above and beyond) is a magnificent opportunity to do a horizontal tasting! And then somehow I have three ‘ordinary’ honeys at home (what even?) and I was given a large jar of honey by another friend because she didn’t like it… so: ten honeys. Let’s see what this is like.

First, the supermarket honeys.
1. Capilano “Natural floral honey: Manuka”. Tastes… like honey? Maybe a little bit savoury? I guess this works as a base line.
2. Allowrie “Mixed blossom”. Definitely a bit sweeter and smoother, too (the Capilano has crystallised a little, although that doesn’t impact on the taste). This is nice but definitely not ‘challenging’; I guess it’s a good inoffensive one.
3. Beechworth Honey from the supermarket – no info about blossoms or what have you. Not quite as sweet as the Allowrie, I guess a bit more… tasty? As in, not just straight bland sweetness.
Hey, describing honey is hard, who knew?

For what it’s worth, I’m using little wooden spoons for the tasting – I did a bit of reading that suggested wood was best. And I remember the first Gastropod episode where they talked about the way different materials for utensils make a difference.
4. Golden Nectar Organic Real Leatherwood Honey: c/ a friend because they didn’t like it. Well THAT bodes well… Wow. That is definitely more character-ful than the others. I like it! It’s got… punch, or something. More on the savoury side of sweet (yes I know that’s silly). Not floral. I’m going to assume Leatherwood honey is a fairly distinct taste. It would presumably lend a noticeable taste to a marinade, I guess depending on what else you were using.

And now: the fancy ones. The Beechworth Honey jars are presented in a very nice little box. Each jar is labelled with (I presume) the blossoms the bees mostly fed on to make the honey, and a statement like “Bee… Fruity.”
1. Orange blossom: “Bee… Fruity.” The jar gives this 2/5 stars in terms of mild –> strong. Yes, by comparison with the Leatherwood it’s definitely mild. Sweet although not overwhelmingly so (my mother would tell you my sweetness gauge isn’t to be trusted though). Fruity? … I guess so? Not sure how you judge that. Nicer than the Allowrie.
2. Red Gum: also “Bee… Fruity”, hence why I’m doing it next. It’s got three stars on the mild –> strong scale. The fruitiness is more noticeable here and I’m glad I did it next to the orange blossom because yes, it’s definitely a step up in terms of strength of taste. It’s not as sweet, it’s more interesting to taste, and I like it more than the orange blossom.
Things learned so far: I think I prefer stronger honeys. Good to know.

I may have done these in slightly the wrong order; turns out there are two that are right at the mild end of the spectrum, and two at the 4/5 end. So, mild first:
3. Ironbark: “Bee… Delicate.” Gets 1/5 stars on the mild –> strong system… and yes, definitely more mild than the Red Gum, and completely different from the Leatherwood. A bit closer to the Allowrie in terms of pure sweetness, but more… interesting, I think. Can’t describe why: it’s more than *just* sweet?
4. Creamy Honey: “Bee… Creamy” (obvs). This has a special place in my heart already because creamed honey always makes me think of my Grandma. And this is super, super creamy: the honey doesn’t move in the jar, it has a lovely white layer on top, and I’m already excited about just eating it from the jar (in very small amounts of course). It’s a 2-star honey, and yes it’s quite mild, but it’s also not overwhelming in its sweetness, especially compared to the Ironbark. Super tasty and I adore the texture.

Last honeys: the strong ones.
5. Macadamia: “Bee… Warm.” I mean. Macadamia. What’s not to be excited about? 4/5 on the strength-o-meter so I’m assuming I’ll like it. Aaand… it’s nice, but not that exceptional. Tested it against the supermarket Beechworth Honey and it’s definitely more interesting than that – which is why doing a horizontal tasting is the only way I can figure this stuff out. I’m a bit surprised that it’s a four on the strength rating, I wouldn’t have thought it was that much stronger than Red Gum.
6. Stringy Bark: “Bee… Bold.” Well that’s an ambitious claim for the honey, isn’t it? I would give it to Leatherwood for sure. This is also a four on the strength meter. And oh yes, that’s a delight. Not as strong as the Leatherwood – it would have to be a five, or maybe a six, out of five – but definitely punching the standard supermarket honeys in the face.

Well, now to figure out how to use these I guess. Aside from just stealing spoonfuls when I need something sweet.

Year of the Earl

Unknown.jpegI grew up in Darwin – the tropics. I think this is a large part of the reason for my not being interested in hot drinks as a kid: I didn’t see the point. My parents, having lived in Adelaide their whole lives, still drank them; Mum was into coffee (it was the ’80s, so it was Nescafe), while Dad was into tea. In my memory, my house had two sorts of tea: Lipton’s black tea and Twinings Earl Grey. Now on the rare occasions that I had tea, I treated it almost like a cheat’s dessert. I would add milk, and two sugars (…heaped). Dad, however, drank the Earl Grey. I assumed that he was simply being snobbish, because I assumed Earl Grey was just a brand. And then one day – I don’t remember why, but I must have been in my mid-teens – I tried Earl Grey without milk.

And the world changed. There was something different… what was that taste? Was it orange?? I was never going back to plain black tea, for preference.

Despite the discovery that Earl Grey was about flavour, not just brand, I didn’t become a tea drinker overnight. I still didn’t really see the point, even when I moved to Melbourne and it was cold. Over time, though, I came to enjoy tea more. I discovered T2 and the idea of loose leaf tea; I discovered variations on the theme of Earl Grey, as well as other flavoured black teas. These days, I happily drink cup after cup of tea in holidays, and I even have some lovely tea pots and I knit tea cosies.

Which brings me to this year. 2018 is going to be my Year of the Earl. My plan is to taste many different Earl Grey teas: different brands and different variations on the theme. I’ll Charlesgrey2.jpgbe sourcing lots of Australian teas, because they’re the easiest for me to source, but there will be a few international guests as well.

Things to note: I generally have sugar in my Earl Grey (1/2-1 tsp); I never, ever add milk; I am on board with the flowers being added.

I’m really excited to see what comes up over the year. If you have a favourite boutique tea, let me know in the comments, or send me an email! And if you have a favourite tea – English Breakfast, perhaps, or a green tea? – why not consider playing along? Tell me about it and I’ll feature your story here!