So, I have to state right off the bat with this one that this is a unique tea. It is not a typical Earl Grey. Traditionally, Earl Grey comprises a blend of Chinese black teas sprayed with natural bergamot oil. This, on the other hand, is a Vietnamese wild picked black tea that is sprayed with natural bergamot oil. If any of you out there are familiar with The Tao of Tea’s Vietnamese Wild Black (and if you aren’t, I would recommend checking that one out if you are looking for a rustic, woodsy black tea), this is that tea sprayed with bergamot oil. The base of wild Vietnamese black tea gives this Earl Grey an interesting flavor profile that is slightly different from many of the standard Earl Grey blends on the market.
I prepared this tea using a one step Western infusion. Although The Tao of Tea recommends a steep time ranging from 3-5 minutes in 200 F water, I raised the temperature of the water slightly. To prepare this tea for consumption, I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 205 F water for approximately 5 minutes. As a side note, I have tried temperatures ranging from 200-208 F and steep times ranging from 3-5 minutes with this tea, and all of them have produced consistently strong results.
Prior to infusion, the nose is filled with the unmistakable aroma of bergamot, as well as a slight woodiness. After infusion, the liquor displays aromas of toast, malt, wood, and of course, bergamot. I also thought I detected fleeting impressions of leather and chocolate as well. In the mouth, the bergamot is slightly more subdued than I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, it is still there, but I was expecting it to be a little more intense. There are also pleasant notes of cream, malt, toast, wood, smoke, leather, and chocolate balancing the bergamot a tad. The bergamot amps up a little more on the finish, but is still more or less balanced, with the other flavors described above still present enough to notice.
I rather like this Earl Grey. It is unique. That being said, however, I don’t think I would reach for it as often if I had a truly exceptional traditional Earl Grey available to me. You see, I quite liked The Tao of Tea’s Vietnamese Wild Black. I am a fan of quirky and/or rustic black teas, and both of those labels fit that tea perfectly. Unfortunately for me, the addition of bergamot oil to the Vietnamese Wild Black base smooths out some of the tea’s inherent quirks-the very quirks I happened to appreciate so much. I suppose that is by design, but I still wish there was a little more of the woodiness of the base showing through in this blend.
Flavors: Bergamot, Chocolate, Cream, Leather, Malt, Smoke, Toast, Wood