Recently I was contacted by Ghograjan Tea Estate to review some of their teas on my blog, and I thought to myself, who do I know that is all about Assam blacks, Earl Greys, and Masala Chai? Duh, Ben, so I pulled him in to do a guest post with me covering these three teas (he shall be voiced by italics for the duration.) What makes Ghograjan Tea Estate fancy is their Farm2Cup model, having just opened a retail branch in the US, they are trying to bypass the middleman and have consumers buy straight from the estate. This is actually pretty darn cool, even us fancy tea bloggers usually have to go through a source most the time. Without further ado, here is Ben's intro: It is late winter. The air grows warmer, new life stirs within th- okay, no. What Amanda calls “warm and clement weather,” I call a lack of compelling imagery. (It is not my fault I wrote about the weather just yesterday and soiled your flowery prose!) But still! I, the Tea Barbarian, have come forth to review an Earl Grey, in accordance with tradition. You can tell it's a tradition, because it has now happened twice. VERY traditional. The first thing I noticed about this Earl Grey is that it's actually three teas, only one of which is an Earl Grey at all. Amanda is sneaky like that, always twisting these sacred traditions which I in no way am making up as I go along. The other two teas are a straight-up Assam and a Masala Chai, so we'll talk about them first.
Or try to. Sadly, I only have so much to say. We brewed these teas according to their instructions:1.5-2 minutes. The result was very mild for a black tea, and I tried again with a longer steep. That worked better, but for both brews of all three teas, it was less robust than I tend to expect. That wasn't much of a problem for the Chai (which does have a very nice mix of spices, with a lot of cardamon), but the straight Assam suffered for it. Assams in general have a mix of woody flavor with a slightly bitter aftertaste, and for this one I got a lot less “primary” flavor than aftertaste.
I have to say, trying the Assam Golden Tips I do not disagree with him, it has a pleasant aroma and taste, but nothing really to make me go 'whoa' about. Notes of oak and malt blended with a touch of a zingy citrus note are the main flavor notes here, but I found myself wanting more depth, it is one of the things I love in an Assam, briskness without harshness, boldness without bitterness, it can take milk and sugar or stand on its own. But before I sit here and say meh to this tea I want to point out the price, $8 for 3.5oz of tea...wow...that is a lot of tea for a killer good price! So then I thought to myself 'who is this tea for?' and I thought possibly for people like my grandmother, casual tea drinkers who have to have black tea every morning and possibly with lunch too, people who want quality tea but who do not necessarily have the same level of obsession as me, so nothing wrong with that!
Which brings us to the Earl. I was concerned about this tea from the moment I smelled it. A good Earl Grey always seems to be too strong at the outset; there's a reason I always joke that you can tell quality if people couch after a sniff. This was very light, with a promising mix of tea and citrus scents almost wasted by its faintness. The tea itself wasn't nearly as faint as I'd feared, but it didn't quite gel, either. The richness of the Assam was hidden by the bergamot, which itself had to contend with the black tea's underlying bitterness. It's sad to say this in my second-ever feature on this blog (that is going to change, you are getting more features), but I can't recommend this tea the way I did the last one.
Oh Earl Grey, one of my first loves, named Vintage Earl Grey for using legit Bergamot oil instead of lemon (which is a crime, using lemon makes it a Knight at the most, no Earl to be seen) and I should point out, Ben and I like very different things in our Earls. I like mine mellow on the Bergamot and heavy on the richness, unlike Ben who wants to be pelted in the face with citrus. This tea was pretty mild on both accounts, except it had this strange soapiness that I could not shake in the aftertaste, this happens sometimes with teas blended with oils, and I will be honest it seems totally random when it decides to bug me. Sometimes I can have an oil blended tea and I get no soapy taste, but I can have the same tea a few days later and it is soapy, just proof on how tastes can change day to day. I will say this Earl had a great midtaste. malty and sweet with a hint of citrus zinginess, it came off as bright and invigorating.
Ben wandered off with my bag of Royal Masala Chai, wandered off and forgot to write the feature for me, though I did get out of him that he liked it...so much that he whipped up a thing of curry and a pot of the stuff to accompany it...ladies and gentlemen, the only person who can beat me in a Chai drinking contest!
No surprise this one was both our favorites, it had the right balance of spices and richness and won serious points in my book for being heavy on the cardamon and not overpowering on cinnamon. A frustrating thing here in the States, our Masala Chais tend to be loaded with cinnamon and all sorts of other spices making it taste more like pie then the wonderful Masala blend I prefer, so when I get one that focuses on cardamon and ginger it makes me happy.
This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.