Grey tea

Earl Grey tea at Sierra

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If you look closely you can see me in the pot…

 

It is not often that I feel inspired to blog about tea in a mall,  but is a worthy exception.
The first cup had notes of lavender,  and the second a deep richness reminiscent of a dark roasted oolong with rich caramel notes.

The presentation was also immaculate and really made the experience… especially with the high backed armchairs… I will be coming back here again soon with friends.

 

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Categories: Grey tea, Tastings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

(not)Russian(not)Earl Grey tea

Semester is over… Time to get back at the blog!

First up is Lipton’s rendition of a Russian Earl Grey, and it is about as plastic as tea gets.

My flatmates mother works and lives in Egypt, and on her recent visit back to New Zealand she picked up a couple of teas from the local markets. Lipton is big in the United States and is marketed and owned by Unilever. This particular blend is manufactured in The United Arab Emirates. So first off, its not Russian in origin, but blended to a ‘Russian flavor’. I strongly suspect the tea is picked in Pakistan for this blend being a unilever brand. Being a grey tea, it is also flavoured with Bergamot… well imitation Bergamot. So… it’s a London owned Pakistani tea manufactured in the UAE as a Russian blend containing fake bergamot… without even opening the box, I’m already concerned…

Each tea bag is individually wrapped and comes with a drawstring. The leaves are of a similar cut to other Unilever brands with an ample amount of stalkage within the leaves, there was also a heap of what looked like concrete or moldy leaf matter that on closer inspection, and going against my instincts, taste… turned out to be the Artificial Bergamot mentioned on the box.

The smell is quite pungent and chemically, with a very sweet citrus odor… I could not smell the tannins of the tea at all. And the flovour… ever had a swig of warm L&P the morning after a long binge drink orr picked up that bottle from the back seat of the car on a warm day? It tastes close to this… actually, it tastes worse than this, it’s a warm lemonade tea. No awesome Russian styling the Russian caravan by Twinnings, and nowhere near any grey tea I’ve ever had. I’ve had lemon teas that are less lemony, Heck, lemongrass and lemon is less lemony.

Categories: Grey tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Dilmah Revitalised (and not just the box).

Dilmah has, for many years now offered a range of specialty teas that in my youth I found great for exploring the different ways tea could be prepared. My first real branching out from the Standard was purely by little other than choice as in the motel, hotel, or conference venue where I was seeking a bag had only the Dilmah single serves of English Breakfast, or the Earl Grey tea. Now I did know other types of tea existed, at some point My lovely mother, or one of her friends had purchased the Twining’s selection box, which included five of each of their specialty range. I recall being fond of the Twining’s prince of wales… yet at the time, and even to this day it is only really accessible by buying the full sampler box. But I digress, The English Breakfast by Dilmah made its mark and I stuck with this peculiarity of specialty tea in either the Dilmah or the Twining’s range for some time.

Just recently I noticed that Dilmah had released new packaging while working down in Rotorua for the Trust Waikato Symphony Orchestra, I had forgotten a packed lunch and made my way to the local supermarket. As is custom I checked out the tea range and discovered the Earl Grey had been re-released in a new box and wrote a review of it a few days later. A few weeks later I had managed to round up what I believe to be the full range.

I sure do hope the Irish tea Will be re-released too…

It took a bit of time to find them all, some places had not put out the new stock yet, others only had one or two from the range, but I found them all and spent up till today figuring them all out.

Earl Grey [Mild]

I covered this little gem a few weeks back, so rather than repeat myself you can find it here.

The Earl Grey Strong is well traveled; I have grey tea drinkers on stand by for tasting checks…

 

Earl Grey Strong

At first I thought that the Earl grey that had previously been completely undrinkable had been replaced, then I discovered the Strong Blend and just figured that it had been moved along. Not quite, the strong is bolder in its flavours, but the bergamot has been changed too. Gone is the heavy pungent punch of bitter citrus that previously gave a slight chemically aftertaste, and the slight butteryness from the mild is notable in the blend. Maybe I’ve just habituated to it… I suspect not and that a better source of the bitter fruit had been discovered and is now in use. There is also a slightly different blend of leaves than that of the Milder Earl Grey, It is reminisant of the Dilmah Strong blend found in a purple box (really need to get round to that one) and fitting for the bigger brother in the range. Definitely designed for the grown up earl grey drinker who can handle the stuff and if you are new to earl grey, stick to the mild at first.

Ceylon Supreme

This is a more robust form of the standard Dilmah tea, with more complexity, and more flavour. The previous version of this tea never seemed to brew well. I recall thinking at the time that it was that I just didn’t appreciate the subtleness of the delicate flavours. With this re-release I think I might have been right in that the previous blend was less than on par.

Both bags were added simultaneously. You can already see the colour difference…

It is also worth noting that this blend is far less forgiving than your standard blend of Dilmah, or the original release; many a time I have left the bag in just a little bit too long in the cup and returned to a tea that was bordering on undrinkable. It’s not a bad tea by any stretch of the imagination; it may even give the Dilmah Strong blend a run for its money… But if you distract anywhere as easily as I do HOVER OVER THE CUP UNTIL IT IS DONE, that way you won’t waste this brilliant example of what a Ceylon tea can be.

English Breakfast

A Gentleman I have known for the longest of time has been a regular drinker of tea for quite some time. I personally blame him for the establishment of my minimum standard and benchmark when it comes to a good cup of tea. He is a strong advocate of the monarchy over the meddlesome parliament in the colonies, Is the embodiment of Jiles from the Buffy television series, and owns a Union Jack Teapot.

The resemblance is somewhat uncanny, right down to the occult book filled library.

However the original English Breakfast tea disagreed with him, and although I could drink it, I too noticed the slight Ill sensation that came with the blend. This new version, however, lacks this sensation of Sea sickness after consumption.

It’s still not a favourite of mine, but it is a marked improvement over the original one (on the left). The newer blend (on the right) is not nearly as strong as the original, and this is evident in the Clarity of the tea, as well as in the taste. There was also a slight chlorine(?) notes in the original blend, these are no longer evident. The Ill sensation is almost completely gone (It took a bit of focus to notice it, and could in this case be psychosomatic), and overall I am left feeling that the newer version of this tea is a marked improvement over its predecessor.

English afternoon

Normally I had to raid tea caddies from hotels and motels to find this blend; It was never an easy one to find in the tagless 50 pack either(I believe now that it was not released). Yet it has gone mainstream in the re-release alongside the rest of the range and can be found in the brave few shops that stock the full Dilmah range.

My Victorian friend and I decided to give this one a run for its money and he noticed the Ill feeling creeping back on him… It was also reminisant in strength to that of the Old Ceylon Supreme in the range too, with a straw like flavour quality and a watery finish. Normally we drink tea with milk, and sometimes add sugar should we feel in the mood, but I am a bit more adventurous and gave this tea a second run with a slice of lemon.

The lemon works with this tea… Actually it compliments it quite well with the watery finish being covered nicely by the zesty lemon. I had big concerns for this one, it had combined two of the weaker traits of the old series into a single tea. But in the traditional afternoon tea sense, taken with lemon rather than with whitener and sugar we have a tea that is quite delightful. The lesson for today being not all teas can be taken with just milk, and/or sugar, and with a bit of experimentation even a lemon can come out on top.

Categories: Breakfast tea, Grey tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Out of the darkness, and into the light…

I must say, my previous experiences with the Dilmah earl grey were somewhat… unpleasant. I had put this down to poor selection of bergamot that assaulted my taste buds like a citrus based dishwashing liquid. This new release, Dilmah Single Region Selection Earl Grey is far less abrasive. Not as buttery as the twining’s earl grey, but a bit more edgy and dangerous. This is a surprisingly drinkable tea, and I am finding myself enjoying it black without milk or sugar.

I am sure you are all wondering how I can make these bold claims of advancement. Well I found a single serve Dilmah in foil tucked away in the emergency tea rations (yes, I have those) and the difference is very noticeable.

Dilmah Single Region Selection Earl Grey 50’s, sporting a new box with a big ol’ ethical tea business logo. Shiny.

If you’re wondering where I have been for the past couple of months I have been destroying my mind and eyes with graduate studies. The semester is nearing its end and I do intend to return to my beverage based reviews, commentary, and advice. But before that, I have two major exams left to conquer. Wish me Luck!

Categories: Grey tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Suffering for the sake of the many… Finding an Earl Grey standard.

For as long as I can remember, the Earl grey has been a tea that I have personally looked down on as a cheap way to hide inferior leaves. As such on seeing the steaming cup of grey fluid, and then smelling the sour orange of the bergamot tree would normally either ask for anything but the same tea, or a glass of cold water. But in the sake of making an honest attempt to understand and comment on how to approach the budget tea market, I have soiled my lips with the poisoned chalice so that If forced to buy a grey tea, you can chose one that will not kill, but only maim.

Earl grey Is flavoured by the fruit of the Citrus bergamia; A lemon like fruit similar in sourness to the grapefruit, grown almost exclusively by the Ionian sea in Reggio di Calabria, Italy. Originally, it was added as a form of treatment for malaria, but like all things some tasteless souls found it likeable and chose to drink it as something other than medicine. Speaking of medicine, Earl grey is known to have the same interaction effects as grapefruit does on a range of medications in large volumes and after about 4 litres in a single day can be toxic…

Down at the local Pak’n Save, I proceeded to buy up the whole Twining’s range of teas (they were on special, and included three grey teas). Added to the Dilmah essentials earl grey that I already had at home for some strange friends I have who drink it almost exclusively, and the handful of single serves of Dilmah Earl grey acquired from various hotels around the nation, I began in earnest to find an earl grey that I can describe as tolerable.

I settled on the Twining’s Earl Grey as the benchmark. It has a soft buttery finish, and the bergamot is not as overpowering as the Dilmah varieties. I did enjoy the flavours of the NZ Earl grey tea also done by Twining’s, but I will discuss that one in a later post.

What was a bit of a shock, however, is that the grey tea’s have grown on me somewhat. Despite the fact I cannot really handle them without milk just yet (the correct method for the drinking of earl grey as instructed by two very English gentlemen) I have found an appreciation for them. In the future I will most likely not turn my nose up so quickly, but they are still not my preferred cuppa.

Categories: Basics of Tea, Grey tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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