It’s fun when friends get into the act. When Gill sent to the UK, she went earl grey shopping. She discovered that Fortnum and Mason have a very wide range of loose leaf teas, and that you can get really quite small samples for very reasonable prices. So she got me a few, and we tried some of them together.
Firstly, we tried the Smokey. Gill and her husband don’t mind a smokey tea. Me, though: I would definitely rather not drink a bush fire. But I thought that trying it with bergamot would be worthwhile. So we made a small pot of tea – 2tsp; it was very smokey when dry, and very smokey when steeped. There was a bit of an orange scent but the smoke was overwhelming.
This was most certainly not my thing. I added 1/2tsp sugar which cut through the smoke somewhat but it didn’t bring out any more of the bergamot. Interestingly, Gill also didn’t enjoy it.
The packets look a bit like this:
Ovvio Organics kindly sent me some samples of their tea – not just earl grey but some of their herbal tisanes, too. I don’t tend to go in for teas that are marketed with a medicinal bent, because that’s certainly not why I drink it and I’m suspicious when it comes to claims for anything food-related having massive impact on health and well-being. But anyway, someone had recommended their black teas, so I was keen to try them out.
The French Earl Grey is a very pretty tea to look at, and quite fragrant as a dry tea. What I initially thought was fennel, from appearance, is actually lavender which makes a lot more sense. I feel like there’s a higher proportion of flowers and so on to tea leaves in this concoction than one usually finds. This is not in itself a deal breaker for me.
3 min steeping, 1/2 tsp sugar. Quite fragrant when steeped, too. The lavender definitely comes through, which is something you need to be aware of – especially if you don’t like lavender! I didn’t feel like 1tsp of tea really got me enough flavour, when I made my first cup, so my next cup I used the old leaves with another tsp or so of fresh. It was certainly more flavourful that way. This is quite a nice tea, but won’t be on my shopping list.
Another tea from the Loose Lea Tea House. How could I resist a French Earl Grey that looked like this?
3 min steeping, 1/2 tsp sugar.
There wasn’t nearly as much scent to the dry tea as I had expected, and – even sadder – not a whole lot when steeped either. It’s a nice enough tea but that’s not really a winning description, is it? Fair to say I was a bit disappointed.
The Loose Leaf Tea House has a really lovely website, and this tea is also lovely.
3 minutes and 1/2 tsp sugar. Delightful citrus scent when dry: not overpowering, but almost floral despite there only being bergamot with the tea leaves.
When steeped, it’s somewhat less citrus-y. But nonetheless, this is a really excellent tea. I think it’s one of my favourites, actually. It is on the more delicate side, but the bergamot flavour is beautifully balanced. This is one of the teas that I may well be revisiting.
This is another of the sample teas Elmstock sent me. This Long-Leaf is described as ‘classic’.
I steeped it for 4 minutes, as per recommendations, and added 1/2 tsp sugar. When dry, it’s slightly citrus-y – certainly not an overwhelming smell. Happily, it tastes more citrus-y than it smelled, because otherwise I was going to be quite disappointed. Despite misgivings when it was brewing, this was a very tasty drop. It’s not as delicate as the description had led me to fear (what a not-surprise, delicate is not really my thing…). Much more to my taste than the Madame Bergamot, somewhat to my surprise.
Elmstock generously sent me several sample teas. Madame Bergamot is not, as I initially thought, a Lady Grey, but an Earl Grey with cornflowers. Elmstock uses a long-leaf tea for this, and describes it as “subtle and delicately flavoured.”
Scent when dry is certainly a delicate citrus, somewhat floral, although that’s not from the flowers. I steeped for four minutes, as per the recommendations, and added about 1/2tsp of sugar.
This is a fine tea, but not mind-blowing. I’d be happy enough drinking it but I wouldn’t choose to have it as my forever tea.
Another sample picked up for me by Alisa, because she likes to encourage my projects.
Adore Tea’s Earl Grey Berries is Earl Grey with strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry added.
2-4 minutes steeping is recommended, so I was reckless and went with 3. I added 1/2 tsp of sugar because it’s automatic, but it may not have been needed here because the berries add quite a sweet note.
The berry notes are the most obvious part of this tea, both dry and steeped. Adore Tea’s website admits that “The berry flavour is quite strong, it is not a subtle berry” and that’s very true. In fact, I would say that this isn’t an Earl Grey tea; it’s a berry tea. It’s quite nice, but there was no discernible citrus to my tastebuds. I’m happy to drink it, but not when I want a citrus effect.
Harney and Sons sent me a sample tin of their Earl Grey Supreme. Which is really cool because I love a good tin for tea. Harney and Sons really know how to package their stuff.
This is an interesting blend: according to the website, “Four higher grade black teas are blended and exquisite Ceylon vintage silver tips and a little extra bergamot” to create it. The silver tips – basically white tea, I discovered – aren’t especially apparent to the eye, but I think they do impact on the taste. (Not that I know a whole lot about white tea, as previously mentioned.)
3 min steeping, 1/2 tsp of sugar, as normal. It doesn’t smell especially citrus either dry or steeped. It also doesn’t taste particularly citrus-y, which was a bit disappointing. I think the white tea gives it a savoury note, which was pleasant enough and a bit different, but this isn’t going to be one of my favourite teas. (Which is sad but when I’d have to order it from the UK, not the end of the world.)
Last week I discussed the discovery of my love of Fish River Roaster’s Earl Grey. As well as the Earl Grey, Fish River also sent me a bag of their Mrs Grey… and thus begins a mystery. There’s no information on the bag about what the tea contains. Looking at the dry leaves, it looks like peel and cornflowers; it’s quite aromatic when it’s dry. And the mystery deepened when I looked on the website, because there’s no information there either! In fact, Mrs Grey doesn’t appear on the site!! HOW VERY CURIOUS.
Anyway, I steeped for three minutes and added a dash of sugar. When steeped, the leaves seemed to have slightly less scent, while the ingredients definitely look like peel. Tragically, I don’t think the taste lived up to the promise of the scent. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still quite a nice tea; but with the excellence of the Earl Grey and the loveliness of the dry scent, I was hoping for something a bit tastier, a bit fuller in the mouth, a bit more interesting. I won’t mind finishing off the bag that Fish River sent, but I don’t think I’d be ordering more… even if I could… .
Edit: I emailed Fish River, like a sensible person, and it turns out their website was just being revamped when I looked. So it’s not gone. Mrs Grey does indeed have cornflowers, as well as lemon peel, so SCORE for my observational powers.
Fish River Roasters seem to be predominantly a coffee house, but they do also do tea. So I emailed them and they generously sent me a sample of their Earl Grey, as well as their Mrs Grey. And when I say generously, I do mean generously: they sent me an entire 250g bag of each!
The dry leaves give off quite the bergamot scent, which is promising. I steeped for three min, as recommended, and added 1/2 tsp of sugar to my mug. While steeping, the leaves were still releasing that lovely bergamot scent, and I was really looking forward to drinking it.
… have I built up the suspense?
Verdict: this may well be the nicest Earl Grey I’ve tried yet. It’s not a bergamot punch in the face like Akbar (which, remember, I really liked), and it’s not oily like the T2. It’s fresh and citrusy and smooth and I really, really like it. I’ve kept on drinking it to check and yes, I do keep enjoying it. I’ve even shared it with some friends who asked what I’d enjoyed so far – I figured that with such a big bag I might as well be generous – and they enjoyed it too. So: this is definitely a winner. When I need more Earl Grey (hahaha) I think I’ll be going here.