In my quest to increase my knowledge and fuel my passion, I’m always on the lookout to experience new coffees and teas. Recently, while surfing Facebook for coffee and tea groups, I discovered the Cupteavity fan page. Cupteavity hails from New Hope, Pennsylvania, and offers a wide variety of loose leaf teas ranging from traditional black and green teas to more exotic herbal tisanes and natural remedies. They were offering to send out free samples so I quickly accepted. A few days later, a package of loose leaf Earl Grey tea arrived.
Earl Grey is one of my all-time favorite teas. I frequently have it strong and sweet as a refreshing iced tea on a hot summer day, or hot and black with oatmeal and toast to start my morning just right. I’ve been disappointed with many of the brands of Earl Grey I’ve picked up, especially recently. True Earl Grey is more of a scented than flavored black tea. Its very strong aroma is the result of it being blended with or exposed to the essence of bergamot, oil from a citrus fruit. Some variations will include more orange or lemony notes, while others blend blossoms such as rose hips with them. While the aroma is potent, the fruit flavor produced by the bergamot tends to be light, and its sweet finish always reminds me of drinking the milk from a bowl of Fruit Loops. Some of the Earl Greys I’ve sampled over the years have ranged in flavor from minty to bland and grassy. While it’s one of the most popular and common traditional black teas, it seems to also be the one that’s hardest to find when it comes to high-quality, fresh teas.
Cupteavity’s Earl Grey has a heady aroma, both potent and cleansing. The strong citrus zest is set off by a hint of floral undertones. I was surprised to see the long dark leaves dotted with a small portion of lavender-colored blossoms that I believe are rose hips. I’ve never had Earl Grey blended with rose before so this was to be a true first for me. With London Fog being all the rage in cafes right now, I decided to experiment with vanilla and milk. While I steeped my tea, I also measured out some real Mexican vanilla extract (the kind you brew and age in barrels like a fine liquor), sugar and milk. I invited my teenage son to try it with me and talked him through the tasting process.
When I first poured the cups, I noted the russet color with a hint of oil swirling on the surface. When cupping my hand over the steam to inhale the aroma I noted that it was pleasant and cleansing with strong citrus, almost lemony notes, a hint of floral and an edge that reminds me slightly of mint. By cleansing I mean that after breathing in the aroma, my sinuses seemed to open up and I breathed deeper, the air seemed fresher and cooler and the aromas stronger and purer.
My first taste is always unsweetened. I slurped the tea and thought about the mouth feel of it. It came away clean with just a hint of tangy left on the back sides of my tongue. The taste was mildly malty with a slight fruit flavor and there was a mild aftertaste of floral that hinted at rose. Overall, it had a very balanced flavor, the bergamot and rose remaining tantalizing but neither dominating the flavor of the tea. Rose hips are not among my favorite flavors but their presence here was not unpleasant, just unexpected. It’s almost a tease of flavor because any time you think you’ve got the taste figured out, it eludes you again.
After trying it black, I experimented with light amounts of milk, sugar and vanilla. The resulting flavor reminded me of fresh-baked, home-made sugar cookies. While it was a bit sweet for my tastes, my son fell in love. We ended up splitting the rest of the pot, with me drinking mine black and he having me doctor up each refill with just the right amount of sugar and vanilla. While I can’t imagine myself drinking this Earl Grey on a daily basis (I tend to use Twinings most frequently), I can see myself getting this tea for special occasions or company since it is a pleasant experience that I hope to repeat. Cupteavity’s Loose Leaf Earl Grey tea is definitely one of the better Earl Greys I have had. I’m looking forward to trying other Cupteavity offerings as they have several teas I’ve not yet had the privilege of trying.
You can learn more about Cupteavity at their website, cupteavity.com, or, if you live in the New Hope area of Pennsylvania, you can look them up at 88 South Main Street.