Thursday, October 16, 2014
Nina's Paris, Earl Grey
Bergamot from Sicily. The smoothness of Keemun (Black Tea) together with the freshness of bergamot. An ancient recipe that was handed down by a high dignitary of China to Earl Charles Grey. A classic that definitely shouldn't be missed.
I originally reviewed this tea as Nina's Teas USA, Earl Grey. So why am I reviewing it again? Well, Nina's has changed the base tea from a Keemun to a Sri Lanka (Ceylon) leaf. The base has not been revised on the website or in the description above.
Red happens to be my favorite color, so I find the tin especially attractive. The ingredient list is on the bottom of the tin along with a suggested steep time of 3 minutes. The lid fits snugly and is a press fit.
Earl Grey is often highly aromatic. This one I could smell through the tin as I removed it from the box. It is a glorious, peppery, citrus, bergamot. Inside the tin, the tea leaf is further packaged in a plastic bag. Removing a scoop of leaf, shows it to be very dark, nearly black, with some hints of golden tips.
I prepared this with two different parameters just to see how the base would respond. For the first cup the leaf was added to the press with 194 F water and a 2 1/2 minute steep. This is my normal Earl Grey method of late. For the second cup I used 212 F water and the recommended 3 minute steep.
With the earlier Keemun base the cup was highly refined, even civilized. There was no noticeable astringency, and no smoke.
A Sri Lanka base is what most of my favorite Earl Grey teas have used. It often tends to have a little rougher edge. As I have stated in other reviews, I am a bit of a barbarian when it comes to Earl Grey. Nina's are masterful blenders and the blends I have reviewed thus far have been very smooth. So let's see how they handle it here.
What I can tell you immediately is the time and temperature difference between my two cups today did not make as big a difference as I expected.
They both produced a very beautiful ruby red cup that turned a little more root beer color as they cooled. The bergamot in both has a wonderful scent, and when hot are moderately light in flavor. With both, the citrus picks up as the cup cools.
Now the differences. The lower temp and time actually seemed slightly more astringent as the sip was moderately drying. I did not notice this drying with the boiling water and longer steep. That surprised me.
Another surprise was the lack of a rough edge that is characteristic of the lower grade Ceylon teas I am very familiar with drinking. I like the edge, however, I have recently started using a lower temperature to reign it in a bit. That is not all that necessary here.
What didn't surprise me was the longer steep brought out more of the bergamot flavor. I highly recommend the second approach.
But the question that remains is how does this compare to the earlier Keemun version? I personally prefer the new Sri Lanka base. While it does not have a rough edge, it does have more character in my opinion. However, those who love Nina's traditional smooth and refined approach may easily disagree with me here. Bottom line, while this is definitely not my usual barbarian cup, it is Earl Grey the way I like it - strong and with character.
You can find Nina's Earl Grey here.