Organic high grown estate black tea hand blended with fragrant oil of bergamot and a hint of French vanilla. Fresh citrus notes followed by a rich and robust finish complete this remarkable French Earl Grey.
Ingredients: Organic and Biodynamic Black Tea, Organic Cornflowers, Organic Oil of Bergamot, Natural Flavors
Leaf Type: Black (flavored)
Where to Purchase: The Tea Merchant (out of business)
Suggested Brewing Tips:
Serving Size: 1 teaspoon per 8oz serving
Water Temp: not specified, I used 208°F
Steep Time: 3 - 5 minutes
I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but Earl Grey tea in any form has been a favorite of mine since I was a child. When I was older and discovered Earl Grey Cream tea (Earl Grey with a hint of vanilla) it was a match made in heaven, which is why if I had to pick one tea to drink the rest of my life it would almost certainly be an Earl Grey Cream tea. Granted there would be many of my favorite teas I would miss, I would go through serious withdrawals not being able to enjoy oolong ever again, but for me there is nothing more comforting than a cup of Earl Grey.
Until I tried this tea I would have told you without a doubt that I had found my favorite Earl Grey, but I had to pause for a moment and wonder if my favorite tea might have some competition. When I first opened the package I knew that I had something special on my hands. This is one of those teas that I could stand around sniffing all day, as odd as that sounds, but the aroma of the dry leaf is absolutely intoxicating and I was immediately glad that I blindly ordered a 4 ounce package. There aren't many teas that I will do that with, I'm always afraid I'll be left with a huge package of something I seriously dislike, but I had heard a lot of good things from my Steepster friends about this tea and they seldom let me down.
Before I go any further I did want to point something out because after reading the description of the tea I was left with the burning desire to find out what is the difference between vanilla and French vanilla was. This is something that as a food blogger I should probably know the answer to, but alas I am only human and don't know everything (shocking isn't it.) For my answer I consulted an old edition of the Chicago Tribune1 which explained that unlike vanilla beans which are named after the location they are grown in (such as Madagascar) French vanilla actually refers to the classic French ice cream which is made with an egg custard base.
It's immediately noticeable from the first sip that the vanilla in this tea is different from what I normally expect to find in an Earl Grey Cream tea. It has a much heavier feel to it and now that it's been pointed out to me, does remind me of ice cream made with an egg custard base. If you haven't had the opportunity to try this type of ice cream, then you're really missing out because it is absolutely sinful. As the tea cools the flavor of the vanilla becomes much stronger, which is one of the reasons why I prefer it hot instead of iced. When I know I'm going to have a busy week I like to make up a huge pitcher of tea in advance since I don't always have the time to be hanging out around my hot water pot. With this tea I noticed that after a few days in the refrigerator the heaviness of the vanilla overwhelmed the other flavors in the tea, making is somewhat difficult to tell that this is an earl grey. Don't get me wrong, this is still a great tea to drink iced, it has an interesting creamy orange flavor, but this isn't going to be my preferred way of making this tea because I find myself really missing the flavors of the black base.
Now, while I may have mentioned not enjoying this as much iced, it is a whole other story hot. The 4 ounce package that I splurged on isn't going to last nearly as long as I had hoped; in the last week I've run through nearly an ounce of this tea trying to ward off the chill from the sub zero temperatures we're having at night. I've really enjoyed the way the French vanilla, bergamot, and black base blend together, although I do prefer a longer steeping time so the black base comes out more than the vanilla. This comes down to my personal preference, while I have a massive sweet tooth I find that at a 3 minute steep the French vanilla is a little sweet for my tastes and is much better balanced with a 4 minute first steep and 5 minute resteep.
One last thing I want to mention before I end my post today is what wonderful customer service the Tea Merchant has. Now that I live in a more rural area I do the bulk of my shopping online, especially during the winter months, but I really miss the personal connection that you form when you frequent a local small business. My way of combating this is to leave a comment when I place my order online, even if it is just to say that it's my first order and I look forward to trying the tea. I've always felt that one sign of a good company is how they respond to these comments and Joey from the Tea Merchant went above and beyond responding to mine.
My Rating: 89/100
Would I order this again? Yes! The French vanilla is a great twist on the classic Earl Grey Cream.
- Daly, Bill. What's French About French Vanilla? Chicago Tribune, 15 February 2011. Web. 23 February 2014. <http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-02-15/features/ct-tribu-daley-question-vanilla-20110215_1_nielsen-massey-vanillas-ice-cream-french-vanilla>