Earl Grey was the first tea that wowed me. Until then, and for another couple years after, I drank tea only occasionally, and thought of it as something warm to drink that was hopefully pleasant tasting as well. I wasn’t a coffee drinker, so tea was sometimes just the default.

I remember my mom’s boxes of Constant Comment, stored conveniently above the microwave for easy access after zapping the water in her mug. Or at least that was the plan: discovering her mug in the microwave hours later or the next morning was a not infrequent occurrence. It was a hectic life.

In more recent years she became downright extravagant: cabinet stocked with a selection of flavored tea impulse buys from TJ Maxx, plus some Turkish mystery tea my sister brought over. She’d even fire up the stove to heat water in the kettle. At least when I’d take her up on her offer of tea. It still breaks my heart that if I declined, she’d skip it too. (Next time I visit, I’m bringing her a little electric kettle and some great teas to share.)

So, Earl Grey. Having tried a somewhat regular Earl Grey (Harney’s Earl Grey Supreme) and the two common variations (a lavender and a cream), I was still curious to try more. Hence this sample of Viennese Earl Grey (a Darjeeling base) and Winter White Earl Grey (Chinese Mutan White with bergamot).

These two teas surprised me in the same two ways: by being surprisingly successful in their blends and by teaching me that I am currently not much of a fan of bergamot. Softened with some milk or cream, sure. But I just don’t see adding milk to white tea or Darjeeling. And there is plenty to appreciate just as they are. I must applaud Harney’s blenders, since the many, many Harney flavored teas I’ve tried have all — yes, I think I can say all — have struck me as rather well done.

Smooth is not a characteristic I would generally apply to Earl Greys when taken straight. But smooth this is, even though the bergamot is prominent, and very well balanced so that the Darjeeling reveals itself also. I did reduce the steep time to 3 min, rather than Harney’s recommended 4-5, and then reduced it further to 2 min, but that is just my preference, to soften the bergamot and since I tend to like my black teas on the lighter side.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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