This is an Earl Grey with a lovely aroma that starts with the dry leaves. When I first opened the package, I was struck by how lemony the bergamot smelled. Many times, it’s hard to remember that bergamot is a citrus tree, but with this tea, one can easily imagine the whole citrus family. I think it’s because there’s less of a bitter note here than with some bergamot – this one is more like a sweet lemon, though there’s no actual sweetness. Anyway, I could have sniffed at the leaves all day. A better air freshener than anything they sell for your kitchen!
Upon brewing, the citrus aroma is joined by a slight bit of a floral aroma, surprisingly. Normally I don’t expect that in an Earl Grey, but I suppose that the blend of teas here – combining Assam and Darjeeling, like a good breakfast tea, plus some Ceylon tea – just happens to allow for new notes to develop as the tea steeps.
The taste is complex – the bergamot tastes more like bergamot, less like lemon, than it smells, but it still has that faint trace of a sweetness that isn’t added sugar, and a smoothness that goes with the floral part of the aroma. The black tea itself is quite strong, as one would expect from a blend with Assam in it, but it’s not at all harsh – it’s full-bodied, without being overpowering. Altogether, I think this is one of the best balances of tea flavor and bergamot flavor that I’ve ever tasted. It’s an Earl Grey I could drink breakfast through afternoon, and if I weren’t sensitive to caffeine at night, I’d drink it with dinner, too – the flavor of this tea would complement many dinner entrees as an added “sauce.” (I think that I am going to try cooking some rice with Indian spices and the sorts of seeds in a pilaf – fennel, in particular - in water with this tea added – as I’m imagining the combination, it seems as though the flavors will combine wonderfully!)
The leaves of this tea are large and expand quite a bit on steeping – make sure you use a large enough infuser or paper tea sack.
Alvin’s of San Francisco describes this tea as:
In the ancient Persian court, legend says that the ideas of royalty, excellence and the good life evolved around the sacred tea ceremonies where only the very best tea blends were served. Centuries later tea is still a staple of Persian cuisine. We are proud to present Persian Choice Royal Earl Gray Tea, a secret blend prepared in accordance with these ancient sentiments. Made from the absolute highest quality tea leaves from Ceylon, Assam, and Darjeeling, this pungent Earl Grey blend has been transformed into pure royalty. We use the finest tea leaves available to ensure the least bitter taste possible. We blend these exquisite tea leaves with a secret variety of natural and organic extracts. With hints of bergamot and the aroma of a middle eastern spice market our Persian Choice Royal Earl Grey will transform any event into an elegant setting. CERTIFIED ORGANIC, FAIR TRADE, and KOSHER. We are proud to announce that our Persian Choice Royal Earl Grey Tea has won FIRST PLACE in the North American Tea Championship in the Earl Grey Category.
If one doesn’t steep the tea the first time for too long, this tea is also good for a second steeping – use water slightly under boiling, and let it steep for somewhat longer, the second time, five minutes rather than three. There’s still a floral note, and though the flavor is milder, it’s still a superior taste.
And have I mentioned how beautiful the label is? The large flowers in the illustration of a royal woman drinking tea in her garden are a wonderful hint of the flavors to come.
All together, I can see why this is an award-winning tea, and based on the quality of this, I am eagerly looking forward to the next tea I try from Alvin’s!