I must admit, before you read the rest of my review, that I am currently at work enjoying this tea. However, in the process of brewing, I could not acquire boiling water, so I am not sure how this has affected the outcome. If I have an addendum to this note when I try it at home, I will certainly add it.
First, I was elated to see Chef Samuelsson’s name on a tea blend. Having just had my first experience of brunch at Red Rooster (highly, highly recommend!), and having followed his work on TV for some time now, I was encouraged that I would enjoy this tea. If you have read my previous note, you will know that I really don’t like smokey flavors added to my food, but the concept and sensation is growing on me. In the end, my appreciation for Samuelsson’s work and taste palate won the best of my curiosity and I plopped this tin in my basket. Figuring my love of Earl Grey and my boyfriend’s love of smokey flavors, someone would enjoy this tea (even if it wasn’t me).
So I cracked this bad boy open at home and was greeted with a bizarre, yet enjoyable combination of aromas. Familiarly, bergamot citrus was very obvious, but the camp fire back notes were quick to catch up. Not as intense as a Lapsang, nor as obvious as a pure Keemun, yet a definitive addition to this blend.
This morning, when I was packing up my lunch, I decided to throw a tea bag in with my cookies to be enjoyed in the afternoon. When 3pm came around, the post lunch coma was setting in so I decided to make myself a cup. I used the hot water from the water cooler, while being hot, was not boiling; I guesstimated about 185F, but it conceivably could be a bit less. I like the tea a bit strong so I left it for a full 5 minutes (despite my fear of tasting like someone lit a fire in my cup).
The smell you get from this brewed tea is nearly pure Earl Grey, but it has more foundation and body that any other I have had. The smokey that comes with simply the first whiff is much relaxed from the dry leaves, and that same idea translates to the liquor as well. While I get the obvious notes of citrus and body in this tea, the smoke quality lends a great balance. Its a very ‘dry’ undertone balanced by the sweet orange notes on both the nose and tongue. The tea itself is very balanced, with a very typical mix of body and acidity one experiences with Earl Grey proper.
I don’t know if its my tastes maturing or if it is just properly balanced, but this smoke flavor added to tea is really starting to grow on me. It adds a great, and in this case subtle, nuance to an already established taste palate. It counters the sometimes cloying citrus and floral tastes of Earl Grey with a woodsy, earthy feel. I really recommend this to someone who drinks Earl Grey, has every been scared away from the style, or simply wants to try an interesting combination of two styles. Samuelsson has done it again, and I really appreciate him venturing into a realm of taste creation rarely explored by seasoned chefs.