Sunday, October 23, 2011

Less Inspired Than The Original, Decaf Earl Grey From Bigelow Disappoints

The Good: No aftertaste
The Bad: Individually wrapped, Surprisingly weak taste, Decaffeinated
The Basics: A truly disappointing rendition of Earl Grey tea, Bigelow's Decaf Earl Grey is the tea without the kick of caffeine or the flavor of rich Earl Grey tea.

Despite being fairly underwhelmed by a product, I will occasionally give a variant of it a fair shake. So, for example, when I was unimpressed with Bigelow's version of Earl Grey (reviewed here!), this did not stop me from giving the Decaffeinated version of Earl Grey a try. Now, though, I find that I wish I had left it with the uninspired original.

At best, Decaf Earl Grey by Bigelow is a lackluster impersonation of the original tea. It is surprisingly weak for an Earl Grey tea and the lack of kick from the absence of caffeine is noticeable. Why one might want a decaffeinated Earl Grey is a mystery to me. Why one would want a weak Earl Grey where there is no caffeine to kick the consumer awake when the taste does not do the trick is even more of a mystery to me. At least it made it easy to consider this tea for review!


Decaf Earl Grey is a tea from Bigelow. It is a tea that lacks 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 Decaf Earl Grey is the Earl without the inspiration. 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, Decaf Earl Grey becomes a little drier, but no more strong. Strangely, my cups of Bigelow Decaf 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 decaffeinated black tea leaves and oil of bergamot. Decaf Earl Grey tea is all natural, gluten free, and does not contain caffeine.

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.


Decaf 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. As for the purpose of Decaf Earl Grey, I'm lost and one suspects that if a company were going to bother with Earl Grey - caffeinated or not - they could at least make it taste like that. This Decaf Earl Grey is too disappointing to waste any more time on.

For other Bigelow tea reviews, please check out:
Decaf English Teatime
English Teatime
Mint Medley


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

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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