TeaHaus’s Victorian Earl Grey

Victorian Earl Grey by TeaHaus
Black Tea / Flavoured
$6.30USD for 50g

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TeaHaus has provided me with Victorian Earl Grey for the purposes of providing an honest review. I received this product at no charge to me and received no other compensation.

First Impressions

I make it no secret that one of my favourite teas is Earl Grey, so I was really excited with TeaHaus sent me a sample of their Earl Grey blend, Victorian Earl Grey. The dry tea is lovely, I love being able to see the lavender buds and rosemary in the tea. The bergamot oil in this tea isn’t overpowering the black tea base, but there is a nice brightness with the bergamot. I can also smell the lavender and the rosemary, which is nice, although I can’t smell the rose blossoms in the dry leaf.

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Victorian Earl Grey consists of: black tea, first-rate bergamot oil, lavender, rosemary, and rose blossoms. All of the ingredients are visible, aside from the bergamot oil.

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Preparation

TeaHaus recommends steeping Victorian Earl Grey in boiling water for 2.5 minutes. As my usual, I used the black tea setting on my variable temperature kettle and used water that was 100C (212F) and I steeped the tea for 2.5 minutes.

First Taste

Victorian Earl Grey steeps to a lovely deep orange colour. There’s a subtle mix of bergamot and floral aromas that waft up from the tea as I poured it into my tea cup and it’s quite inviting. When sipping the tea, there’s a lovely balance in the flavour profile of this Earl Grey. I can’t really make out the rosemary in the steeped tea, which is a bit disappointing since it was noticeable in the dry leaf. However, the lavender/floral notes are quite strong in the steeped tea and it balances very well with the bright citrus notes from the bergamot oil. I found that the black tea base played a good supporting role to this tea blend – there was no bitterness or astringency noted in the steeped tea.

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I often doctor up my Earl Grey and I made no exception for this tea. I tried it with honey, which helped to really brighten up the bergamot and lavender flavours. I also made it into a tea latte (London Fog) and it made a great base for a London Fog. The lavender was significantly toned down compared to the bergamot oil after the addition of milk, which was very nice and I do tend to prefer my London Fogs without lavender. I make my tea lattes at home without any fancy frothers or equipment, check out my post about making lattes at home.

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A Second Cup?

I did resteep Victorian Earl Grey three times (four steeps overall). I found for the subsequent steeps that the flavours were very similar to the initial steep for the first two resteeps, although the second resteep was a bit weaker. I found the third resteep to be weakest overall and would recommend two resteeps for this Earl Grey blend.

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My Overall Impression

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I loved TeaHaus’s Victorian Earl Grey. I am very fond for Earl Grey, so I am a little bit picky about it. I generally don’t like lavender in my Earl Grey, but I did find this one to be quite palatable. The floral notes were not over powering the bergamot, which is one of my favourite qualities of a cup of Earl Grey, so it was quite good. The balance of floral and citrus notes make it a tasty cup of tea. I love that the tea holds well with being modified a little bit, what with honey and milk. I do think this tea benefits from a sweetener as it helps brighten up the flavours added into this tea blend.

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DavidsTea’s Happy Valley Darjeeling

Happy Valley Darjeeling by DavidsTea
Black Tea / Straight
$14.98 for 50g

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First Impressions

When I found out that DavidsTea was getting a new collection of straight teas in, I was curious. I’m a sucker for a good straight tea so when I walked into my local DavidsTea shop I asked to smell all of them (there are three) and then I went ahead and bought a small bag of each. The nice thing about living locally to a DavidsTea location is that I don’t have to purchase a full 50g of each tea (like I would if I was ordering online).

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Happy Valley Darjeeling is an organic black tea from Darjeeling, India. As per the product page, DavidsTea describes the tea as a second flush tea from Happy Valley, a tea estate in Darjeeling with a long, rich history of producing tea. First flush is tea harvested in mid-March while second flush is harvested in June. The tea leaves of Happy Valley Darjeeling have a very bright fruity smell to it, I mostly smell fruity tones that remind me of stone fruits (like plums).

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Preparation

DavidsTea’s packaging suggests steeping this in “near-boiling water” for 4 to 7 minutes. Their website suggests that near-boiling is 90-95°C (194-203°F). I did my initial steep at the recommended water temperature for 4 minutes.

First Taste

Happy Valley Darjeeling steeps to a beautiful golden orange, there’s a great aroma that wafts up from the tea that reminds me a lot of plums still. There’s a bit of sweetness to this steeped tea that can be smelled. On first sip, I note that the tea is a bit astringent. It’s not overpowering the overall flavour of the tea, so it’s still quite palatable. The plum notes are soft, with the natural fruity sweetness of this tea. The plum notes are delicious, and play well with the astringency in this steeped tea.

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A Second Cup?

As Happy Valley Darjeeling is a straight tea, I couldn’t help myself when it came to resteeping this tea. I steeped the leaves again at the same temperature of water, just adding an additional 30 seconds per each subsequent steep. I did a total of three resteeps (four steeps overall) before the flavour started to really be a ghost of what the initial steep resembled. The astringency doesn’t mellow with additional resteeps, and the sweet plum notes held up well until the last steep that I did. I would suggest doing a maximum of two resteeps for this straight black tea.

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My Overall Impression

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I liked DavidsTea’s Happy Valley Darjeeling. I think as a straight tea, the flavours are nice. The sweet plum flavours mix very well with the astringency in this black tea, and the tea leaves hold up well for a few resteeps to get more flavour and value out of the leaves. I’m a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to get more steeps out of these leaves, but I found that the steeped leaves were quite broken up once they had opened up and I could see that they weren’t whole leaves. For the price, I would have expected a few more steeps, but the tea itself is quite good for the steeps that I did do with it. I think the plum sweetness is a delight for the taste buds, and this tea doesn’t need additional sweetener (although that may help to temper the astringency if that isn’t your cup of tea).

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Grand Tea’s Organic GABA Black Tea

Organic GABA Black Tea by Grand Tea
Black Tea / Straight
$42.50HKD for 25g

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Grand Tea has provided me with Organic GABA Black Tea for the purposes of providing an honest review. I received this product at no charge to me and received no other compensation.

First Impressions

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I have never had GABA tea before. For those not in the know, GABA is short for gamma-Aminobutyric acid (γ-Aminobutyric acid), which is a neutrotransmitter. GABA teas were developed in the 1990s in Japan, where a new type of tea was developed with GABA in the tea leaves and then a method of fermenting tea leaves was developed in an oxygen-free environment to keep the GABA in the tea leaves. I don’t know all the details about this (I did read a little bit about it on the Organic GABA Black Tea page and on Wikipedia).

When I opened up the sample of Organic GABA Black Tea, the first thing I noticed is that there was a lot of tea in there. The tea leaves are huge and wiry with light twists. There are some deep plum notes that I smelled at first, with some subtle notes of grass and hay. Organic GABA Black Tea is a straight black tea.

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Preparation

Grand Tea did not have any preparation recommends for Organic GABA Black Tea. I steeped mine in 100°C (212°F) water for an initial steep of 4 minutes.

First Taste

Organic GABA Black Tea steeps to a beautiful golden orange colour. There are some berry notes when I smelled the tea as I waiting for it to cool. There’s also a bit of a grassy fragrance to this tea. On first sip, I could taste the grassy notes, a fruity taste that reminded me of currants, and light floral sweetness. The tea itself is very smooth, there’s a pleasant mouth coating feel to this tea. I find it to be very ‘light’ feeling for a black tea (especially compared to all those breakfast teas I’ve reviewed lately). It’s quite refreshing to sip. The floral sweet notes are just enough, I don’t think a sweetener is needed. It’s bitter-free and that’s always nice in a black tea.

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A Second Cup?

I found the second steep of Organic GABA Black Tea to be a bit crisper in flavour. It has a bit more of a bite at the end of each sip. There are heavier grassy flavours, a little less floral, and just the hint of plums. The third steep had the least amount of flavour overall, the grassy notes are low and the tea has a bit of a malty note to it. I found the third steep to be the least enjoyable, and would say that Organic GABA Black Tea is excellent for up to two steeps.

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My Overall Impression

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I liked Grand Tea’s Organic GABA Black Tea. I love trying new things, and I’m not sure if I felt calmer after drinking Organic GABA Black Tea or not because the act of drinking tea generally just makes me calmer and happier. I found the flavours to be an interesting mix and was tasty for the first two steeps. The leaves are amazing, I was so impressed with how much they opened up. I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t hold up for a third steep, but the first two steeps were delicious and so varied for being from the same tea, it was fun to taste the differences between steeps.

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DavidsTea’s English Breakfast

English Breakfast by DavidsTea
Black Tea / Straight
$4.98 for 50g

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First Impressions

I am always a sucker for a good straight tea, and I cannot believe it’s taken me so long to try DavidsTea’s English Breakfast. Maybe it’s because they have so many other teas to try, or because I was on an oolong kick for the longest time (because, let’s face it, oolong is one of my favourites), but I do love drinking black teas, and I do love trying straight black teas so lets get to it! English Breakfast is a straight black tea, consisting of black tea leaves from Sri Lanka.

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The dry leaf has nice floral notes to it, and a natural sweet smell that reminds me a bit of the smell of honey. The leaves themselves don’t appear to be very large, so I can’t say much about that.

Preparation

DavidsTea recommends steeping English Breakfast for 4-7 minutes in ‘near-boiling water’ (90-95°C/194-203°F). I did my first initial steep for 5 minutes.

First Taste

English Breakfast steeps to a nice deep golden orange, it has a great honeyed smell to it. The overall aroma I get from this black tea is one of floral mixed with a bit of maltiness. I found that the tea had no bitterness or astringency when steeped for 5 minutes – always nice. The honeyed taste to this black tea just adds a little touch of sweetness to each sip, which makes it quite enjoyable.

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I added a tiny bit of honey and evaporated milk to this tea. The honey helps accentuate the honeyed flavour in the tea, and the floral notes were a bit tempered by the milk, but still tasty.

A Second Cup?

I resteeped English Breakfast three times, adding an additional 30 seconds per subsequent resteep. I found it held its flavour well, and still made for a peppy cup of tea. The overall flavour of honeyed and floral notes stays pretty much the same for two of the three steeps, the third resteep was a bit weak and required a bit more honey to make it palatable. If you’re not one to add anything to your cup of tea, I would keep it to a total of two resteeps.

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My Overall Impression

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I liked DavidsTea’s English Breakfast. I generally do like straight black teas, and English Breakfast did not disappoint. I love the natural floral and honeyed notes in this tea – both dry and when steeped. The fact that it resteeps to a decent number of times is an added bonus, considering how small the leaves are. While it’s perfectly fine straight, I did enjoy it better with a bit of honey and evaporated milk (personal preference!). The ability of this tea to be resteeped adds to the value in the tea, and it isn’t terribly expensive as far as straight black teas go, which is a nice added bonus.

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Tazo’s Awake English Breakfast

Awake English Breakfast by Tazo Tea
Black Tea / Straight
$2.50 for 61g (24 sachets)

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First Impressions

Just a note on the price, I bought two boxes of Tazo Tea while they were on sale for 2 boxes for $5.00. Regular price is usually higher ($4.99-6.99/box, depending on retailer). The box itself is cardboard, I like recyclable packaging. The tea bags come individually packaged in paper and the tea bags themselves feel like they’re biodegradable.

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Awake English Breakfast is made up of “a blend of black teas”. There’s a malty aroma to the black tea that reminds me a lot of Assam tea, so it wouldn’t surprise me of one of the black teas in this blend is Assam. I did rip open the tea bag to see what it looked like inside, I was not surprised that the tea leaves inside of the tea bag were tiny, definitely not the whole leaf tea that I’ve been getting used to. I mostly bought the bagged tea for the convenience factor that tea bags have when it comes to having tea on the go (where I work, I don’t have a desk and I can’t have open mugs).

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Preparation

Tazo Tea recommends steeping Awake English Breakfast in 100°C (212°F) water for 5 minutes. I followed the steeping directions.

First Taste

Awake English Breakfast steeps to a deep orange, it’s got a great smell to it that reminds me of other breakfast teas. I think 5 minutes are far too long. I ended up trying again (and again) with other tea bags and found that 3 minutes was a good amount of time. 5 minutes – I wound up with a very astringent and bitter cup of tea. Less than 3 minutes and it was just very weak. 3 minutes was a good length of steeping time because I wound up with a strong cup of tea with a very strong malty flavour, but minimal astringency and no bitterness. 5 minutes is definitely far too long for this tea (perhaps if it was whole leaf tea, it would be a different story).

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Awake English Breakfast was good on its own, but also good with some honey and evaporated milk. It helped tone down what little astringency there was with the 3 minute steep.

A Second Cup?

Awake English Breakfast is a one steep wonder, I found that a second steep resulted in a very watery cup of tea.

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My Overall Impression

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I thought that Tazo Tea’s Awake English Breakfast was just okay. As far as breakfast teas go, Awake English Breakfast is okay. I don’t recommend their recommended steep time (5 minutes is just far too long!) and I wouldn’t buy at full retail price ($0.30/sachet vs. $0.10/sachet). It’s very convenient to have tea prepackaged into tea bags, which is what I typically have when I’m at work (each to steep and easy to discard). If you can find it on sale, I would recommend snagging some Awake English Breakfast for some black tea on the go. For the love of tea, don’t over steep this one and pull the tea bag out at the 3 minute mark – life is too short for a bad cup of tea.

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