Posted by: dan | July 13, 2009

early version


Dan: When we got our big box of teas from adagio, we also got 4 sample bags from the Baxter Tea Company. We both took two, but got distracted by the vast wealth of teas we already had. So after several months of neglect, I’ve pulled out one of the two samples I took, and brewed it up. I chose their Earl Grey, for a number of reasons. I had gone off Earl Grey teas for a while after having one too many bad cups, and I don’t rate it as highly as other kinds of tea anyway. But when it came to choosing a new tea to try, and I fancied a black tea, I remembered there was an Earl Grey hiding in my collection somewhere and decided to re-appraise it.

A very pale black tea

A very pale black tea

After pulling the plastic pouch from my tea basket, I opened up the seal and took a whiff of the leaves. Strangely enough, it smelled slightly fruity. There was a definite orange-y aroma to it, which I thought was a little odd.¬† Surely the Orange Pekoe rating system is a name-only thing? It doesn’t mean higher quality teas taste more citric, it’s just a method to show off how good a tea is. There are several levels in the OP system, by the way. It starts with the bog standard OP (which is still miles better than anything in the separate CTC (Cut, Torn, Crushed) system you’ll find in teabags) and goes through many unmemorable variations along the lines of FOP (Flowery Orange Pekoe) and TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe). The highest level is FTGFOP (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe), which seems to me to be a ridiculously high standard to aim for, and unless it really is the best tea in the world, it seems very snobby (an image not helped by the ‘Far Too Good For Ordinary People’ joke).

But I digress. The Earl Grey from Baxter is advertised as OP, which is plenty good enough for me, and quite adequately describes the quality of the leaves. They do appear to be quite small, but the texture and scent give away its true character. So I popped a couple of teaspoons worth in to my teapot, and brewed away for 4 minutes. This was a guess at how long it needed, as our samples came without brewing instructions. Can’t be difficult to get Earl Grey right though; it’s black, so it needs boiling water, and brewing for somewhere between 3 and 5 minutes. The smell of fruit still pervaded the air around the teapot, and it carried across to the flavour of the tea as well. Now, the tea is very tasty. It’s a little paler than most Earl Greys, or most black teas, in fact, but the taste cannot be knocked. I might even start liking Earl Grey again.

How not to store teas

How not to store teas

But, there is one problem. Yet again, I think I’ve done something wrong, and it’s all to do with that fruity flavour. I’ve mentioned that the samples came in plastic packets, and I also mentioned that I received another one from Baxter. The second tea was their China Black OP Mango. Yes, I had a tea with fruit flavours sat in a plastic bag next to my Earl Grey for 3 months. It seems a little odd that the smell and taste would transfer from one tea to another, but I’m fairly sure that’s what happened. I once left a packet of mints in a cupboard next to some cake for a week, and because the mint is such a strong flavour, it made the cake taste minty. I could be mistaken, and it could be that this Earl Grey does have some fruit oils in it, but by keeping the tea in thin plastic bags for an extended period of time, I think I’ve allowed the flavours to transfer. Oops.

So what have I learnt?

1. Do Not keep teas in plastic packets.
2. Do Not keep teas next to each other if they are in a thin container.
3. Do Not leave teas for ages before trying them if they are in a thin container.
4. That FTGFOP joke is probably aimed at people like me.

Once again I’ve done things a bit wrong, but there you go. Some things you have to learn the hard way, and it’s not exactly troublesome. For one thing, it’s looking likely that I’ll enjoy the China Black OP with Mango. Another good thing is that now I’ve made the mistake, you won’t have to. But I’ll try to get the next tea right.

Dan was drinking Baxter Tea Company’s Earl Grey, available in the US only, at $7.25 for 4oz.



  1. Just goes to show how important storage is really, you can definitely get transferral of flavours with strong flavours like Mango and Earl Grey. By the way, I saw you were in Oval recently, you should have popped in to the office, two minutes from the tube!


    David (JING Tea)

    • We would have loved to, but we were a bit short on time. It was a work night, and we needed to catch the next train home. We will bear you in mind next time we’re in London though!

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