Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Betrayal Made Public! I Return To The Old Love, Twinings Earl Grey Tea!

The Good: Excellent flavor, Nothing detrimental in the nutrition department, Good aroma, Caffeinated
The Bad: Superfluous papers and strings, Could use sugar for best results.
The Basics: A perfect flavor of tea is just slightly undermined by the extra packaging that might be a standard in the industry, but is annoying. Yummy and tea flavored.

So. Once upon a time, there was a geek. That geek loved, absolutely loved Star Trek: The Next Generation (reviewed here!). Like many geeks, it did not take long before Captain Jean-Luc Picard's regular order of "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot." became embedded in memory. Like many young, impressionable geeks, the demands of fandom put that as a recurring beverage order. More often than not, that geek would drink Earl Grey Tea from Bigelow or Twinings of London in its yellow box. But then that geek aged and became more independent of the trends of the television series that the geek adored (and, truthfully, became more of a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). And as an avowed liberal, that geek began to consider where the money spent on such things as tea went afterward and that geek became a lover of Celestial Seasonings and its great tasting teas and its corporate responsibility.

My name is W.L. Swarts and I am a loyal Celestial Seasonings tea drinker and an unabashed geek. It had been four years since my last cup of Twinings Earl Grey tea before I received a box of it as a gift and began brewing it up. This is my confession: despite my love of Celestial Seasonings' teas, I have never managed to get around to trying their incarnation of Earl Grey. And when I tried Twinings again, it sure took me back!


Earl Grey Tea is a black tea from Twinings of London. Black tea is made from mature tea leaves that are dried on the tea plant. Twinings has its Earl Grey tea available year round and it is - in many ways - the gold standard for that flavor of tea. Earl Grey is what I call and adjective tea; the flavor is its own, the name does not hold it to any standard other than to represent what is generally accepted as that flavor.

Earl Grey comes in Twinings' standard tea bags, which are individually paper wrapped and have a five inch string. The string is attached to a paper tab that must be torn out of the paper wrapper and the other end attaches to the tea bag via a staple. A box of Earl Grey tea comes with 20 individual paper-wrapped tea bags. After years of drinking only Celestial Seasonings' tea, this seems remarkably wasteful now to have so much waste as far as paper, string and staples.

Ease Of Preparation

As a black tea, Earl Grey is ridiculously easy to prepare. A single tea bag will make the standard 8 oz. coffee mug worth of tea and could be reused and make a second cup of Earl Grey with little loss of flavor. Indeed, this is one of the best teas for those who like to reuse tea bags. The second cup often comes out about as strong as the first, provided the first steeping was not over the recommended time. I tend to make my tea using a 32 oz. steeping tea pot and that works well, though in this method, the second brewing is - at best - about 3/4 strength.

To prepare Earl Grey tea, bring a pot of water to a boil and pour it over the tea bags. For Earl Grey, roaring boil is just fine! This tea takes only three to five minutes to steep according to the directions. In my experience, it gets no stronger after five minutes and as a rather strong tea, it does not truly need to be stronger than it naturally is.


Herein lays the problem with reviewing Earl Grey tea or any adjective tea that is rather limited in its taste: how does one describe the baseline for a flavor? Twinings Earl Grey tea tastes like Earl Grey tea. It tastes like tea.

Earl Grey tea is a very strong tea, the type that kicks the morning out of bed, whips up the drinker at night and allows for a pretty level drinking experience to those drinking it throughout the day. The most reasonable analogy I can come up with is to compare it to Lipton's rather pathetic version of tea. This Earl Grey is like sucking on five Lipton tea bags in each sip. It is a very concentrated tea flavor and it has a bold flavor without being woody.

The scent is also very strong and unique to the tea, most likely a function of the Bergamot flavoring. Honestly, I don't know what Bergamot smells like, but as I do know what standard teas smell like, it seems reasonable that the forceful, dry scent of Earl Grey is the Bergamot.

Actually, dry is an excellent way to describe the taste of this Earl Grey tea. The Earl Grey flavor is strong and dry with an aroma that smells like tea and warmth. It is worth noting that Earl Grey does not have a spiced flavor to it; there are no components to pick out in the flavoring. This is a tea-flavored tea and it is quite a bit stronger than the standard tea.

Earl Grey has no aftertaste, at least not the Twinings brand of it.

With a teaspoon of sugar, Earl Grey becomes surprisingly sweet, but no less dry in its flavoring. The result is a tea that is easy to drink and tastes quite good, but is very awkward to describe in its flavoring. The truth is, Earl Grey is a flavor of its own and I consider Twinings to be the baseline, though I have not had a better Earl Grey.


The ingredients to this tea, which will explain my inability to describe the flavor, are quite simply: Tea and Bergamot flavouring. There are no other ingredients or flavors, nothing that cannot be pronounced.

In terms of nutrition, this tea is devoid of it. One 8 oz. mug of this tea provides nothing of nutritional value to the drinker. There are no calories (save what one adds from sugar, which I recommend), no fat, sodium, or protein. There is caffeine, but how it relates to other beverages remains a mystery; Twinings does not put a scale on their boxes of tea. This tea is rather caffeinated, though and it will wake the drinker up.


Earl Grey tea is very easy to clean up after, provided one does not get it on fabric. The tea bags may be disposed in the garbage, or composted if you have a good garden and/or compost pile. If composting, though, one must remove the paper tag, staple and string, which is just a tedious extra step. The tea itself will stain a mug a faint brown if it is left there for days on end, but otherwise may be cleaned up easily by rinsing out the vessel.

Earl Grey is a rather dark tea and as a result, it will stain any light fabrics it comes in contact with. As a result, it is highly recommended that one not let it linger on anything they wish to protect and not have stained. It may be cleaned off if the spill is caught quickly, but if it lingers, it is not at all easy to wash out of clothes, linens or other fabrics.


Well, if it weren't coming from a replicator, one might easily imagine Captain Picard drinking Twinings Earl Grey tea. He is fortunate, though; his tea comes fully prepared without the extraneous papers and strings. All that truly keeps this tea from being a perfect tea (yes, this truly is blasphemy for a Celestial Seasonings junkie) is the annoying extra packaging and waste that comes as a result of it.

Flavorwise, despite my inability to describe this unique flavor articulately, it truly is a perfect flavor. It's easy to see why the heroic Captain Picard would love drinking it. Anyone who likes their tea strong and distinctly tea (not flavored like something else!) will enjoy this. It is a staple tea and a must have for any tea drinker, despite the packaging.

For other tea reviews, please check out:
Celestial Seasonings Tension Tamer
Bigelow Sweetheart Cinnamon
Lipton tea


For other food or drink reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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