Ok that was a really depressing intro, I am sorry about that, so I am going to make it up to you all with some really pretty happy tea, yep, it is a fuzzy golden tea, this time with an epic twist! Whispering Pines Tea Co's Earl Gold, a blend of Golden Snail (one of those Yunnan fuzzies I rave about quite often, and WPTC's is something else) and cold pressed Bergamot oil, and then it was aged for 30 days. Before I get too into this review, you might have noticed I do not review a ton of Earl Grey Tea, turns out I am not really a huge fan of it, the real Erlkönig (think folklore not Goethe) is Ben, he is a connoisseur of the stuff. With that in mind, allow me to describe these fuzzy coils' aroma, they smell really good, like really good. Blend cocoa and malt, chocolate and roasted peanuts, and underneath all of that is bergamot's citrus zing that grows and grows until it is like having my nose pressed into a bergamot fruit. I like how it is not an immediate punch to the face with bergamot, since that is usually what I don't like about earls.
Into the gaiwan the tea goes, yeah, this is going to be a gongfu earl session, that might be a first for me. The wet leaves are very sweet, notes of yams, cocoa, peanuts, and rich malt blend seamlessly with bergamot. The aroma reminds me of like the best ever chocolate orange, man I love those things so much. The liquid is a delicate blend of peanuts, yams, and cocoa, and hello bergamot at the finish, it just sits there and is friendly, not at all overbearing.
First steep, oh that is smooth, very smooth and very sweet. Not what I ever expected to encounter from an Earl, the expected bliss from the Golden Snails with a really crisp and tangy bergamot blend together really well. It starts with malt, cocoa, and peanuts, this builds to a really strong cocoa sweetness and honey, with a lingering honey finish. And then there is the bergamot, it starts mild and builds, underneath the other notes and never overpowering them. Again, it reminds me of the best chocolate orange.
Second steep, the leaves have more or less totally unfurled now, and the tea area smells really good. The aroma is a balance of cocoa and bergamot, like a perfect balance, it is rich and sweet and mouthwatering. I am salivating over an earl, what has the world come to? The taste is rich, very rich, hello malt and cocoa, and of course bergamot. This steep is not as sweet, and the bergamot has a touch of sourness that really wakes my mouth up, and it lingers for a while.
Third steep! Strong cocoa and bergamot reaches my nose from the cup, tea blenders, please, make more EG that is a citrus themed nose caress and not a punch! The punch is nice for some, but I really like being able to tell how good the base tea is. The taste is very rich and balanced, the sweetness returns and blends well with the cocoa and malt notes. The finish is citrus and lingers. Ben and I had many steeps of this and both became quite tea drunk. So what does the Tea Barbarian have to say for himself when it comes to this tea?
"Like all the best Earls Grey, I could smell the Bergamot from across the room as soon as Amanda unsealed the package. That's a promising start, even if it didn't make her cough when she sniffed it as some past favorites have. Actually drinking it was an unusual experience - Earls are, of course, usually made with 'Western Standard' teas from South India, which tend to be strong nearly to the point of overpowering. As a tea barbarian, that's the sort of thing I'm used to. The fuzzy gold used here is much more mild - enough so that I'm not sure I would call it an Earl Grey, exactly. However, to my pleasant surprise (and unlike several other "Early Grey but with fancier leaves" experiments I've tried before), it actually works really well. Whether Gongfu-style or Western, the milder leaves compliment the Bergamot, rather than being overwhelmed by it - the result is a smooth, earthy Earl variant less suited to kicking you into gear before exploring ancient ruins than to soothing contemplation atop a throne of skulls. An Ambassador Grey, if you will.
All the powers in the world couldn't convince me to review an ANYTHING Grey going strictly by Gongfu - an insistence upon English-style* steeping is part of why I called myself a Tea Barbarian in the first place - but there's one further surprise there. Don't tell Amanda, but this tea actually remains much more flavorful when taken Gongfu. It's a very unique Grey variant, all-round."
* Okay, fine, it predates the English using it. In fact, Amanda tells me the Mongols were the first to brew tea that way, so that's EXTRA barbaric. Though I use rather less milk than either the Mongols or the English tend to.