The Good: Caffeinated, No aftertaste
The Bad: Individually wrapped, Surprisingly weak taste
The Basics: Fine for a generic tea, terrible for an Earl Grey, Bigelow's Earl Grey is a dud not worth the time of a serious tea drinker!
For those who do not follow my tea reviews, I am a big fan of Earl Grey tea. Yes, all of those years of watching Star Trek: The Next Generation led me to hunt down Earl Grey teas and try as many as I could. So, when I was swiping tea from a hotel this summer on my cross country trip, I was all too happy to swipe some of Bigelow's Earl Grey to use for comparison. I've already reviewed Celestial Seasonings Victorian Earl Grey (reviewed here!) and Twinings Earl Grey (reviewed here!). So, it seemed fair if I was straying from my beloved Celestial Seasonings, I might as well give Bigelow a fair shake.
Unfortunately, Bigelow provided me with the most unpleasant of surprises in this regard as it turns out that Bigelow's Earl Grey is easily the weakest Earl Grey tea I have tried (to date). In fact, even after leaving the tea to brew longer for a second cup with a new bag, this ends up being a strangely watery Earl Grey and for all of my love of Earl Grey, it's easy for me to not recommend this one!
Earl Grey is a tea from Bigelow. It is a tea that has caffeine and it is a surprisingly weak black teas compared to other teas Bigelow makes. Earl Grey comes in Bigelow's standard individually-wrapped tea bags, means that each tea bag has a wax papery envelope it is sealed in for freshness. Each tea bag has a five-inch string with a little paper tab at the end, which is quite a bit more waste than I like from a tea bag. When I make pots of tea, I tend to use two bags and making a steeping pot of Earl Grey reminds me of why I like the easy environmentalism of Celestial Seasonings' stringless bags. A box of Earl Grey comes with 20 individually-wrapped tea bags.
Earl Grey is marketed as a tea-flavored tea and it is adequate in that regard, but easily falls short when compared to any other brand's Earl Grey (at least of the brands I have tried!). If one wants something that is flavored like tea leaves this will more or less fit the bill. I tend to like flavorful teas, not the bland ones that are simply what they claim to be.
Ease Of Preparation
Earl Grey is a black tea, which means preparation is as easy as boiling a pot of water! Earl Grey, as the directions clearly state, require water that is boiling. A single tea bag will make the standard 8 oz. coffee mug worth of tea, though reusing the tea bags yields little more than hot water. These tea bags can be reused and the resulting beverage is about 1/2 strength and has a more potent dry aftertaste than the original brewing. I tend to make my tea using a 32 oz. steeping tea pot and that works well, even for a second pot.
To prepare Earl Grey, simply boil up some water, and pour it over the tea bags in a cup, mug or steeping pot. This tea is recommended to take one to two minutes to steep and after a couple cups and pots, I've found that with boiling water, the tea is ready at the four minute mark and letting it steep longer does not truly change the results. Letting the tea steep more than four minutes does not net any additional flavor, nor does it denature the flavor of the tea. Sadly, in this case, it means that the tea never quite loses its water undertaste.
Earl Grey is a tea that tastes like what it is. Earl Grey is a tea flavored tea that is defined by the flavor of bergamot. Sadly, that's the best way to define it as Earl Grey is a mix of black tea and bergamot. Ideally, Earl Grey has a forceful flavor that assaults the taste buds and overpowers virtually anything that is combined with it. It is a very masculine tea and one that is strong, rich in aroma and uncompromising in its flavor.
Bigelow's Earl Grey is the Earl before bulking up. No matter how strong I've made a pot, it still tastes watery. Earl Grey is generally known to have a very dry aftertaste and Bigelow's does not have that. In fact, one suspects that in the attempt to prevent the tea from having an aftertaste, Bigelow reduced the oil of bergamot and the result was a tea that was so weak as to be utterly unworthy of the name Earl Grey. In fact, this tastes more like a standard Lipton plain tea than the rich, woody flavor of Earl Grey from every other brand I've tasted. Ever.
With a teaspoon of sugar, Earl Grey becomes a little drier, but no more strong. Strangely, my cups of Bigelow Earl Grey have ended up accenting the taste of water in the tea when the tea has sugar added to it, diluting the sense of the tea flavor even more. The aftertaste, somewhat dry, was slightly stronger than it was before the addition of sugar to the tea.
Similarly, milk does little for the tea, save overwhelm the tea flavor. It dilutes it to the point that it tastes more like flavored milk than flavored tea. As the tea becomes cooler, it continues to taste drier, becoming more and more sour as well. This is not an ideal tea to have iced, unless one likes cool, dry and sour for their beverage choices.
It is incredibly disappointing that this tea does not live up to any objective standard of what an Earl Grey tea ought to be, as the only ingredients are black tea and oil of bergamot. Earl Grey tea is all natural, gluten free, and does contain caffeine. There is not a ton of caffeine (the box does not say how much there actually is in this, but it does seem like it is sufficient to keep one awake, especially when drunk late at night).
Were it not for the sugar I add whenever I make pots of Earl Grey, this tea would be devoid of any nutritional value. It contains no calories, fat, sodium, carbohydrates or protein.
Earl Grey is supposed to be a fairly dark black tea, but this version of it is strangely light. As a result, cleanup is rather simple, save on fabrics. The mugs and steeping pot easily rinse out. This tea will stain if it is left on fabrics, so simply do not let the tea cups or mugs linger on light colored materials that might stain!
Earl Grey is easy to clean up after - the tea bags may be disposed in the garbage, or composted if you have a good garden and/or compost pile. One of the nice things about this tea - like most - is that so long as it is kept cool and dry, it can last for a long time and it is easy to clean up. However, like all Bigelow teas, there is extra waste from the strings, paper tabs and individual wrappings around each bag.
This version of Earl Grey is too bland to be worth the time of anyone looking to drink a black tea. If you want bland, go for a green tea; at least then you don't have to worry about kidney stones! And if you want Earl Grey, best to look to a different brand; Bigelow doesn't have this one down!
For other Bigelow tea reviews, please check out:
I Love Lemon
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© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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