On the heels of the Mariage Freres Earl Grey Imperial, which I’m pretty close now to drinking my way through, the Kusmi seemed at first a welcome respite. In the sample tin, the fragrance is of bergamot, but also of a strong spicey smell I can’t identify. Pepper maybe. Yeah, I think that’s it. The spicy smell is more prominent than the bergamot in the smell of the dry leaves.
Steeping brings out the aroma of the tea more than the spice or the bergamot. The pepperiness would suggest Yunnan, but apart from that it smells quite like the aroma I associate with Keemuns (no smoke, but there’s a baked goods quality to it). Liquor is a dark amber, sort of a brandy color. I had high hopes that this would be a nice, mildly bergamot flavored, Earl Grey.
But alas. The flavor is pretty interesting. But it’s not what I’d expect from an Earl Grey, even one that is relatively easy on the bergamot. To my tastebuds it has a stronger flavor of pepper than of bergamot. I do get a shadow of citrus, but it’s not readily identifiable as bergamot.
It’s not bad, it’s just not what I am looking for in an Earl Grey. If I stand back and judge it without the Earl Grey label, it’s still not something I could see myself picking to drink over other blends. In the end, I’m having to rate it lower than the Mariage Freres because at least the Mariage Freres, as much as it is not a favorite, is definitely an Earl Grey.