The Earl Grey tea that I measure all other Earl Greys against is my favorite (so far) from Rishi: http://steepster.com/teas/rishi-tea/5258-ancient-tree-earl-grey-organic-fair-trade. To me, that selection is the mother of all Earl Greys. It is strong, bursting with bergamot, and a complete, full-bodied, black tea blend. I was curious to see if this Harney & Sons offering could go the distance with Rishi.
When I opened the double-sealed sample packet, so kindly provided by ashmanra, the bergamot aroma immediately drew my attention. It was strong but not overwhelming.
I steeped the black leaves at 212 degrees for five minutes. I’m experimenting with five minutes for all black teas now. I like my tea to be potent in the morning as I need all the help I can get to shock myself out of the previous night’s slumber.
When my tea maker beeped completion, the bergamot aroma was much more subtle than I expected, particularly with five minutes of brewing at a boiling temperature. The smell was still pleasant. The color was a golden red.
With my first sip, the dominant taste was black tea. The flavor was nice, smooth, and malty, without bitterness, but I had difficulty sorting out the bergamot from the black tea attributes.
As the number of sips quickly multiplied, my tastebuds began to pinpoint the bergamot beneath the commanding black tea taste. It then occurred to me that the bergamot was not hidden behind the black tea flavors. The bergamot was so perfectly balanced with the black tea taste that it was actually fused into the overall tea flavor. Once I figured that out, my sleepy brain was able to separate the bergamot from the black tea when desired.
To sum this tea up, it did not dethrone my Rishi favorite, but it is tasty, smooth, and malty, without astringency. It would still be a great breakfast tea minus the bergamot.
If you like bergamot to slap you silly in your morning Earl Grey (like the aforementioned Rishi product), this tea may be a little too mild for you. However, if you can only tolerate bergamot when it is a quiet aspect of your cup, this selection will be a great choice. This Harney & Sons product will also be a winner if you prefer your bergamot intensity to fall somewhere between those extremes.