This Earl Grey is based mainly on Lapsang Souchong Black Tea, a Chinese tea that is traditionally smoke-dried over a pine fire, instead of the Indian or Ceylon black teas that are usually used for Earl Grey. This gives the tea a really smoky taste – I would say the flavor of the Lapsang Souchong dominates over the bergamot.
When I first opened the package, the smoky smell was evident; the bergamot aroma was not. Once brewed – and it’s a very dark brew, even when only steeped for a couple of minutes – the bergamot becomes a little evident, but the smoke flavor is very definitely the main feature.
Smoky teas such as Lapsang Souchong and Russian Caravan can be an acquired taste – try a little before you try a lot, I would suggest. Be aware that adding sweetener does not in any way lessen the smoky flavor; only add sugar if you must have some in any tea. And I definitely would NOT add milk to this; milk tends to argue with Earl Grey anyway, and with the smoke flavor as well, milk would be an unhappy argument indeed.
Even though it’s summer, I didn’t try this as an iced tea – I really can’t picture it as an iced tea at all. This is a tea for drinking hot, at “coffee break” when you need a boost, with your lunch, or with supper if you drink black tea in the evening – the strong flavor should go well with most kinds of Asian food, for example.
Fortnum & Mason says about this tea:
First created in response to a specific request from the Palace for a smokier Earl Grey, this unique blend combines traditional bergamot with a touch of Lapsang and Gunpowder tea. For years it was the only Earl Grey available at Fortnum’s.
Yes – this product is available for international delivery.
So, if you are in the US and don’t see anything like this available locally, and don’t have a friend visiting the UK sometime soon, you can nonetheless enjoy this tea. Chances are you’ll want to browse Fortnum & Mason’s web site for some of those great English jams and jellies and other British goodies, to make the shipping costs worthwhile. They also, of course, have other teas. Oh, and their teas are all available in teabags as well as loose leaf tins.
The long and short of it is, if you love Lapsang Souchong, you’re going to enjoy this addition to the type; if you hate smoked teas, you’re probably not going to be a big fan of this one, and if you’re looking for a really strong bergamot flavor, you might be disappointed that the bergamot is in the background here. But the flavor (or should I say, flavour?) of Lapsang Souchong is definitely worth it for the tea lover.