1183 Tasting Notes
The fourth and last of the Upton Earl Grey sampler samples. This one has more bergamot smell in the can than the others; it smells the most like an Earl Grey in its dry state. Steeped, the bergamot aroma lessens but is still obvious and easily identifiable.
The description seems to indicate that the flowers are just for decoration, so that must mean this is the Earl Greyest of the Earl Greys in the sample. No other flavors added.
Indeed, that is my impression of the taste. In this, there’s a very discernible bergamot aroma and flavor, moreso than in the other three samples. It’s not too strong, nor is it too mild for me. It’s just right, said Goldilocks. The bergamot is citrusy, not perfumey. It doesn’t do a number on my stomach.
I’d like to taste it next to the Harney & Son’s, but it seems to me to be in the running for my staple Earl Grey.
Tea no. 3 in the Upton Earl Grey sampler. It’s called Earl Grey Chocolate on the sampler label but has the same catalog number as Chocolate Earl Grey.
I’ve been looking forward to this, as I am at least a 200 on a scale of 1-10 in terms of chocolate fanaticism.
I must admit to being somewhat baffled by the all the variations on the Earl Grey theme. Seems to me at some point it ceases to be Earl Grey and starts being something else, but perhaps I’m just old school. Of all the variations, this is the most puzzling to me so far. But that’s probably only because I haven’t come across marzipan-halvah-cookies-’n-cream-melba-toast-pineapple-lime-spaghetti-mutton flavored Earl Grey yet.
This is a very colorful, pretty blend: yellow, green, blue, tan and brown/black. I love anything with cornflowers in it as that shade of blue is so calming and beautiful. It smells strongly of cocoa, and the cocoa has a mint-like lilt to it which defies explanation by the ingredients. The undercurrent of the tea, by contrast, smells almost coffee-like. I am getting nothing in the bergamot or lemon department.
But after steeping, there is both lemon and bergamot in the aroma, along with unsweetened cocoa (that still has that interesting minty-upswing). The taste is very strongly of the cocoa. As with the creme vanilla variety, the bergamot’s role seems mostly to be to corral the cocoa to some extent. The lemon actually seems to be the stronger citrus note here, and seems to be helping the bergamot with the task of keeping the cocoa from turning this into a single note tea. Interestingly, the bergamot hopped onto my tongue a few minutes after my last sip and sat there for about a minute before scurrying away.
Fortunately I have more of this so I can play with it some. Right now I’m in that place where I like the idea of this tea more than I probably like the tea itself. But the idea is so interesting, I really want it to knock my socks off. Right now it’s not doing that; it’s not striking me as that much different from a pretty standard chocolate flavored tea. I’m wondering if steeping 4 minutes would make a difference. Perhaps milk and sweetener would as well.
That said, I haven’t tried any other Chocolate Earl Greys, so there isn’t one I’d choose instead of this. Nor can I say this is signficantly better than any others. It’s either this one or nothing for me right now, and for that reason I’m giving it a default very good rating.
Ah. There we go. This is the first in the series of Earl Greys in the Upton sampler. In my zeal to taste the lavender one, I didn’t see the little number that indicates this is the first in the group.
In the can, this smells like vanilla, then tea. The vanilla isn’t a pure, beany vanilla smell. It’s more the ice creamy/cream soda variety of vanilla, which makes sense given the word “creme” in the name. It does make me wonder whether anyone has done a pure vanilla Earl. (Note to self to be on the lookout.) Thinking back on it, I’ve mostly seen Earl Grey cremes, with or without the word vanilla included. I can smell a citrus note toward the end, which is where the bergamot seems to be hiding.
The tea’s aroma is very pleasing, creamy and citrusy, with an undercurrent of sweet black tea. I think I’m already noticing a trend here in the Upton Earls, which is that the bergamot and whatever else is flavoring the tea sit above the tea base as a foundation more than interacting with it.
V. nice flavor. Much better than the only other Earl Grey Creme I have had, which was by The Necessiteas. The bergamot is not strong at all, perhaps not even strong enough, though it does give a citrus accent to the creme that keeps the creme from running away with the tea completely. The primary flavor is the creme vanilla sitting on top of the tea.
I think I will try this at four minutes next time and see what that does to the flavor.
Updated to add the number of this tea in Upton’s catalog as I was confused initially. In the Upton Earl Grey sampler it is named “Organic Earl Grey Lavender” but it has the same catalog number as Lavender Earl Grey (which also has a mark showing it is organic). So mystery solved, at least to my satisfaction.
This blend smells great dry. I love the smell of lavender, and that is the main thing I smell. It’s a deep, full lavender smell, which may be somewhat intensified by citrus. But I don’t smell bergamot here, or tea, really, for that matter. The addition of water tones down the lavender in the aroma, and seems to bring out a mild citrus note and a sweet black tea one.
The flavor is very nice, not too strong on the bergamot (which is how I like it) and the lavender is nicely balanced. The tea base is mild and unobtrusive.
It’s something I’d definitely drink again, though given the choice of a single Lavender Earl Grey, I’d pick the Samovar. The main reason is the tea base. The Samovar’s is delicious with a lot of character and depth. It’s far more present, but not in a distracting way; the lavender and bergamot are still clearly there. The Samovar is built more like a three-legged stool, where each of the three main components is equally important to the flavor. In the Upton the tea plays more of a foundation role, and the stars are two non-tea flavorings.
I just noticed that this was labeled no. 2 in the Upton Earl Grey sampler. Eeek, I’d better backtrack and taste no. 1!
Yesterday was River Shannon’s first trial (Assam + Ceylon), today this (Assam + Ceylon +Yunnan).
All I have time for now is a pretty rushed note, as I have to get to the office, but I wanted to put at least something down before I forgot what I was thinking. ;-)
That depth I remarked was missing from the River Shannon? The +Yunnan changes that. There’s a balance, too, that tones down the Assam a bit at the same time it gives the tea some heft. There’s more sweetness, more maltiness, more yum. It has a fuller body. It’s closer to what I’d consider an appropriate coffee substitute.
Pretty sure I prefer this one for most mornings. Pretty sure I’m a Yunnan fan, not so sure about Assam yet. I don’t have a firm reference point in my mind for it yet as I’ve mostly had blends so far. (I’ll have to try Thomas Sampson soon!)
One thing I have to figure out about this one is whether I need to add milk to it. It is pretty strong even when brewed at 3 minutes. If I’m not careful, it can grab me in the back of the throat when I’m not looking.
This is a May tea of the month on the Classic plan. Again, though, it seems to have been reblended since the info was entered here. The label lists the ingredients as: Apple pieces, hibiscus flowers, elderberries, rosehip peels, flavoring, kiwi pieces, rose petals, strawberry pieces, marigold petals and cornflower petals.
What makes it Caribbean? No idea. The earlier blend at least had passion fruit and citrus. I’ve noticed, by the way, that Teavana seems to change their blends pretty frequently and pretty much across the board. It seems to be more the exception than the rule that something with a particular name will have the same ingredients as those listed for that name several months ago.
It’s very pretty, per the usual texture/color combo for the chunky fruit blends. Its colors range from very dark purple/red to brown to medium red, with blue flashes that must be the cornflower petals. Strawberry is prominent in the smell of the dry blend, the rest being a rather generic fruit mix.
Steeped, it’s a beautiful deep reddish purple wine color, and there is hibiscus in the aroma. I’m starting to wonder if this is the Teavana answer to Tazo’s Passion, or The O Dor’s Je M’appelle Dorothee. Which is a little freaky when you consider the ingredients in all three of these are very different from each other; it gives you an idea of the dominating power hibiscus and rosehips have.
It’s definitely in that ballpark. Both the Tazo and the The O Dor tasted like unsweetened black cherry to me without sweetening and like unsweetened grape juice with sweetening. This sort of does as well, except that it’s more unsweetened strawberry mixed with cherry before sweetening (like that flavor you get from tasting dry kool aid concentrate to which sugar has been added) and strawberry mixed with grape after. And something about it isn’t as flavorful as the other two examples.
Each sip starts with a hit of flavor and ends with one, but in the middle it’s as though there’s a stretch where everything got diluted just for a few seconds (maybe they should have called it Rose Mary Woods). It isn’t too tart to drink, but it has a little pucker to it and I prefer it sweetened up a bit.
Not my favorite, but certainly drinkable. I’d like to try it back to back with Passion and see what that’s like.
Another of my “starter” group that I get to wave goodbye to. Not at all sorry to see this one go. Looking back on my previous note, I see I had convinced myself I’d been able to improve it some. Now I’m wondering whether it wasn’t that I was just better prepared for the assault to my taste buds.
This was the first vanilla tea I tried. In a way, it was probably good that it was the first because it set the bar really low. In retrospect, I now understand just how low as I’ve since had really, really excellent vanilla flavored tea.
So as I take my leave, knowing what I know now about just how good vanilla flavoring in a tea can be, I must dock some points.
Had the end of the sample tonight and it wasn’t nearly as good as the first time around. I think mainly because there was a lot of dusty stuff the closer to the end of the packet I got and I’m guessing the orange flavoring sifted down to the bottom of the sample some. It was a lot stronger and not as pleasant this time. A fair amount of the dust escaped the Breville. I went through two infusions but had no desire to do more.
I’m torn because on the one hand, I remember being so pleasantly surprised the first time around that this didn’t come near sucking. But this time it was pretty disappointing. I wasn’t planning to order more anyway, but I’m glad I found out about its darker side.
Knocking it down a few points, but I don’t feel it’s fair to rap it too hard since it was obviously a problem mostly caused by the dregs of the leaf.
My first taste of this, made in the Breville.
The dry leaves have a rich, dark smell and I’m thinking “coffee substitute.” Good. Pretty, clear, red-tinged liquor, reminds me of the color of the GM Sinharaja. I definitely get the Assam in the aroma, but it’s fairly mild under the influence of the Ceylon. Once you get past the strength and pungency of the Assam, there’s a malty sweetness.
It tastes pretty much like it smells, with one pretty significant difference. It’s smoother than I would have expected based on the aroma. There’s some briskness and bite right at the beginning and again at the end, but in between it has no sharp edges. It sweetens up on the tongue in the minute or so after sipping leaving a mildly sweet aftertaste. It’s not sugary, but it is tasty. I’d call it medium-bodied.
There’s not a lot of what I think of as depth to the flavor, but I’m not sure it’s necessary that every breakfast blend be deep. Sometimes you’re having an omlette or a Belgian waffle, and sometimes you’re having cold cereal or toast. Seems like having the ability to mix and match is a good thing.
Although I’ve been resisting additives I am tempted to try this with milk, or maybe milk and sweetener next time.
I haven’t tasted this in a long time, and I’m a little surprised that I still think pretty much exactly what I thought about it the first time I had it. I’m sometimes bemused by that sort of accuracy because I wonder whether it means my palate hasn’t developed over the past few months?
To sum up, it’s better than any of the other Necessiteas rooibos blends I’ve tried (including the Rootbeer Float, which has a lot of fans) as well as some others, but not as good as the Teavana Rooibos Tropica or the SpecialTeas Rooibos Lemon Chiffon. The rooibos is mostly concealed, but not quite enough for my taste to be up there with the other two. Still, it smells unbelievably just like the real thing, and the taste is more than halfway to the real thing which seems something of a feat to me in and of itself.
It’s something I only see myself making an occasional cup of, but there are times when I need a caffeine free alternative that I can see it hitting the spot.