Saturday, December 16, 2006

"What else would you expect a salesman to say to you?"

That was the first sentence of a comment I received today. It is a great point, and one I have been meaning ot bring up for several days now.

On November 5, I posted comments I received from one Wayne Evans, a VP of Sales and Marketing at Twinings North America. He denied any changes to the Earl Grey blend, and invited me to visit the Twinings NA headquarters, so that they could "restore [my] faith in Twinings and further enhance [my] enjoyment of [their] teas."

At the time, I was optimistic that the offer was sincere. A family field trip to Twinings could be fun. That and an overly-developed sense of fairness motivated me to post his comments in full. However, it soon dawned on me that this fellow offered no contact information whatsoever. Was I supposed to print his comments out and carry them with me to the doorstep of Twinings NA? Maybe if I explained the situation to some random customer service representative they would be able to transfer me directly to his extension? So I invited Mr. Evans, via this blog, to contact me privately through email in order to set something up.

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that he has not responded. Once I posted his comments, his "friendly" message--and utter denial--was there for the world to see. His job as Marketer to the Masses was complete. Oh well, so I'm a dupe.

Meanwhile, comments continue to roll in from people who have noticed some change in their enjoyment of Twinings Earl Grey and have done a quick Google search to find out if they are alone. In fact, you are not. Thanks to all for writing in.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Gift from the Fam

My sister is no tea connoisseur. You'll see in "About Me" that I grew up on southern sweet tea. My sister did as well. Her interest in tea has never moved beyond that. So, though she's never said as much, I expect she thinks this little blog of mine is a bit quixotic.

Consequently, I was really touched this week when I opened a box from her and found... several boxes of Twinings tea (Earl Grey, of course) in the original packaging. Apparently, when I told her months ago of my frustration over the Twinings changes, she began scouring local groceries for the last remnants of the old tea. I suppose that in the South, where she now lives, stocks of Twinings and other fancy teas stay on the shelves longer than they do here in NYC.

Anyway, this week I was able to have a nice hot cuppa of Twinings Earl Grey from the original packaging. And I instantly noticed that the tea simply tasted better. Stronger, more flavor. A little bitter--which is good, and entirely lacking from tea out of the new packaging.

I still haven't undertaken more "scientific" testing, but this experience reassures me that the whole point of this blog remains valid. Further, comments continue to trickle in from all over the U.S. People take a sip of Twinings Earl Grey, and are so disappointed by the flavor that they do a little digging on Google to see if anybody else has had the same experience.

I still haven't heard back from Wayne Evans, the VP at Twinings who posted below. I hope the post was legit, and I do look forward to speaking with him more if he reaches out. I'll keep y'all posted.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Response from Twinings

I have just received a comment from Wayne Evans, a VP at Twinings North America. Due to problems with Blogger, I haven't been able to get it posted as he originally submitted, but I'll paste it here in its entirety:

Dear Sir,
I read your blog with interest and thank you for your obvious passion for tea and for Twinings. As VP Sales and Marketing for Twinings NA I can assure you that we have made no changes to the Earl Grey blend. I note that you live in NYC and would like to extend an invitation to join us in our offices in New Jersey to discuss this further. We would welcome the opportunity to restore your faith in Twinings and further enhance your enjoyment of our teas.

And a response to Wayne: Thanks for your comment and your interest. I would be interested in a field trip to Jersey, so maybe we should connect more directly. You can email me at savetwinings (at) gmail (dot) com.

NOTE: See post dated 12/16/06 for a follow-up regarding the submission from Mr. Evans.

Sorry - Blogger is Broken

Hello All,

Many apologies, but for the last few days, and possibly many more to come, Blogger is broken. For example, I have received a few comments that Blogger won't let me publish, and I can't add any comments of my own. So please check back in after a week or so. I want to hear what you have to say, and I have some thoughts of my own to share. And in the meantime, if you can complain to Google (which owns Blogger), that would be great too.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Go with its Strength: Accept its Weakness

I have yet to undertake further testing as recommended by a few of our astute contributors. I plan to do so, but I keep getting delayed. In the meantime, I thought I would humor you with a story of how I have come to cope with the weak flavoring of Twinings new Earl Grey.

The new blend is so weak, I have found, that no amount of steeping can overcome it. The upshot of this is that I can be profoundly lazy. Here's how I have turned the weak flavor into a strength that brings morning happiness.

Where I live, the summer has been hot and humid. I wake up each morning wanting something cold and crisp to quench the thirst that developed in the night. A warm cuppa simply won't do. I am very pleased, however, with the alternative I have developed. The night before, I throw a Twinings Earl Grey teabag in a mug with a bit of sweetener, pour boiling water over the top, and set it in the fridge to steep overnight. Yes, overnight. As I said, it will never in a million years steep too long to be palatable.

When I wake up in the morning, I remove the bag, give it a quick stir to wake up the sweetener, and chug it down as an ice-cold pick-me-up. It doesn't have a strong taste, but it does a nice job of quenching my thirst and washing away whatever muck collected in my mouth overnight.

On that note, goodnight all...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Decaf Problems Too

Work has kept me insanely busy, so I haven't had time to continue with more methodical tests of Twinings Earl Grey. But I do have an anectdote to offer...

This weekend, we had guests over for dessert, and served Twinings Decaf Earl Grey. This was a box fresh from the store, with the all new packaging. Our guests commented that the tea had very little flavor. The bergamot was there, but very little flavor of actual tea. My wife and I agreed. It's interesting that they brought it up without any prompting on our part.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Scientific Results - Test A

Though I have other pressing matters, with eager anticipation I've begun scientific testing to verify (or dismiss) my assertion that Twinings Earl Grey just doesn't seem to taste as good since they adopted the new packaging.

Test A, Part 1: Visual Inspection

Procedure: The first thing I did was brew two cups of tea, identical in all ways except that one contained a teabag from the "old" packaging (delivered to NYC via Pennsylvania), and one teabag from the new packaging. I picked identical mugs. I prewarmed both mugs. I measured the water before putting it in the mugs, to make sure the amount was identical. The water was piping hot, straight out of the electric kettle.

After 5 minutes of steeping, I removed both bags simultaneously. I then transferred the tea in the mugs to two clear glasses for observation.

Results: Inconclusive. I could not discern any noticeable difference between the two glasses. They appeared to have the same color and opacity. I intended to take a picture for posting here, but I remembered after starting the experiment that a friend has my digital camera.

Test A, Part 2: Blind Taste Test

My wife volunteered to do a blind taste test with these two glasses of tea. She is a better candidate than I. First, she hasn't spent any time on this website, so she could care less if I started this all over nothing. Second, she is a supertaster. This means she has an uncommonly strong sense of taste, particularly for bitter flavors. I, on the other hand, have a weak sense of taste and am generally unobservant when it comes to taste or smell. The fact that I perceived any difference in Twinings tea from one day to another is a minor miracle.

In any case, I carried the two glasses into the room where my wife was waiting. I knew what was in each glass, but she did not.

Results: Hypothesis confirmed! After two sips of each glass, she proclaimed that one glass tasted "good" and one glass tasted "bad." When I asked her to elaborate, she said the "bad" glass was extremely weak in flavor. Just to confirm results, I asked her if she had any preconceived notion about which glass would be the old tea and which was the new tea. She said she couldn't tell anything by looking at the glass, but she expected that the "good" tea would be the older tea.

So my wife confirmed my suspicions. She selected the "old" tea as the better tea, with a stronger flavor.

Interpretation: This experiment provides strong, but not fully conclusive, evidence, that Twinings Earl Grey tea in the new packaging is a weaker tea blend than the tea included in the previous packaging. My wife has provided independent confirmation that the old tea is indeed stronger and tastier than the new tea in my cabinet. One outstanding question is whether or not the new tea in my cabinet is somehow an "outlier." Is my new tea a "bad batch," an anomaly? I will have to test this question in my next experiment.

The Evidence

Quite reasonably, some people who have emailed me have been dismissive, suggesting that maybe I just got a bad batch of tea. It is a fair point, and worthy of response. I haven't conducted a double blind study with a large subject group, but I have gathered more than my own highly subjective opinion, and am planning to investigate further.

Argument #1: Maybe it is just a bad batch
I hope this is the case, but I'm not confident that it is. I downplayed my own reaction to the "new" tea until I overheard others complaining about the change--without any prompting from me. Only after comparing notes did I realize that this is likely a bigger picture problem.

Argument #2: Maybe it's all in your head.
Response: Thanks to the efforts of my mother-in-law, I have two sets of Twinings Earl Grey in the Cupboard. She purchased the last stock of Earl Grey in the old packaging from her local grocery in PA, and brought it up to NY for me to have. Very kind of her. So, I have been able to compare the flavor of the "old" packaging against the "new" packaging, and I stand by my assessment. The previous generation is much tastier. My mother-in-law, the connoisseur most responsible for my tea habit, corroborates.

What the situation calls for is for me to go out and purchase another batch of the new tea and do a blind taste test against the tea in the "old" packaging. I plan to do this in the coming days, and will post the results one way or the other. After all, Twinings Earl Grey is my favorite tea, and my only incentive for creating this blog is to restore the tea to its former glory.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Help Me Save Twinings Earl Grey Tea!


On January 5, 2006, Twinings Tea issued a press release that announced the celebration of its 300th Anniversary. To commemorate this event, Twinings US made a number of changes. Twinings introduced new flavors, and created helpful categories to group its blends, and redesigned its packaging.

It appears that Twinings also changed the blend of one of its classic most well-known teas: Earl Grey. Since the repackaging, things just haven't been the same. Gone is that perfect mix of black tea and bergamot oil--not too strong and never bitter, but full-bodied and rich in flavor. Now, the tea is extremely weak with little flavor, hardly worthy of the Twinings brand, and a pale shadow of its classic Earl Grey blend. I thought it might be just me until friends started complaining too. Then I did a taste test with some Earl Grey from the earlier packaging--found by my mother-in-law in Pennsylvania--and my fears were confirmed. The new tea just isn't as good.

So I ask for your help. Can you imagine a world in which New Coke successfully replaced the classic flavor of Coca-Cola? No. It is no more conceivable that Americans must be subject to a watered-down version of the classic Earl Grey. Consumers unite, and help me save Twinings Earl Grey Tea!


First, go pick up any of the original Earl Grey Tea that you can find on the grocery store shelves, because it is no longer available in most places. I can't find the original in my New York City groceries. You can distinguish between the new Earl Grey blend and the old Earl Grey blend based on the redesigned packaging.

Original Packaging:

Image Hosted by

New Packaging:

Image Hosted by

Also, use the COMMENTS function to publish your laments here. CALL, WRITE, or EMAIL Twinings. Let them know that you want the REAL Earl Grey to return to American shelves, or you will look elsewhere for a satisfactory Earl Grey. Here is their contact info:

Twinings North America, Inc.
Consumer Service
777 Passaic Avenue, Suite 230
Clifton, NJ 07012

Thanks for your help!

About Me

I grew up on southern sweet tea. Combine a half dozen lipton tea bags, several cups of sugar, and a gallon of water, and steep it in the sun or boil it on the stove. I swear it had more sugar than tea, but boy was it good.

My eyes were opened, however, when I married into a family of tea drinkers. A military family, they spent a number of years in England, where they learned how tea is really done. They returned to the U.S. as tea snobs, which at first was a little off-putting, but at some point they converted me to their ways. At least enough for me to sit here and establish this blog.

I like lots of teas. In our cabinet right now, we have Taylors of Harrogate loose leaf - Earl Grey, Pure Ceylon, and English Breakfast. We have some organic decaffeinated Earl Grey, and an organic chai. A number of Celestial Seasonings Blends - honey vanilla camomile, plain chamomile, peppermint, bengal spice, almond sunset. We love Yogi tea, and currently have cocoa spice and vanilla hazelnut. We usually have a Yogi rooibos as well. We have a straight black loose leaf by Highland Tea Company. We also have a lovely Mango Ceylon loose leaf provided by FreshDirect. Finally, my wife has a couple of interesting blends I have not tried - a loose leaf "pregnancy tea," Mother's Milk tea by traditional Medicinals, and a homemade loose leaf herbal blend that is supposed to help with breast feeding.

But nothing -- NOTHING -- works for me like a mug of good old fashioned Twinings Earl Grey. No other Earl Grey comes close. What a perfect blend of black teas and bergamot oil. Never bitter, faintly fruity. Yummm. This appalls my wife, but I even like it iced. I take it with sugar, occasionally with milk.

Unfortunately, Twinings Earl Grey no longer compares to Twinings Earl Grey. The reformulated blend is weak, literally. I suppose the change is designed to appeal more broadly to the American market--my guess is the original is still offered in Europe. Thank goodness my mother-in-law found a stash of the original on the shelves of a grocery store in Pennsylvania. We have enough stock to last a couple of weeks. I have a 50 bag box of the new blend, but it is going nowhere fast. Once the original runs out, I'm high and dry. So I welcome recommendations for other sources--either of the original Twinings, or of another good Earl Grey. I also welcome shipments of the original blend!

If you support my plea, please comment here, contact Twinings, and spread the news to your friends. Maybe it is not too late. Consumer pressure brought back Coke Classic, and it can succeed here as well.