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.