Monday, May 15, 2006

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.

24 comments:

  1. You can purchase online the version of Twinings Earl Grey (or any other Twinings blend) that is sold in the UK. The best prices I've found are at:

    http://www.britishtea.com

    If you order the 100 bag cartons by the case, the total cost comes out to be pretty much the same as what you'd pay in US supermarkets.

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  2. I too didn't like the "new" earl gray by twinings. I wrote the company about it but haven't heard back anything yet. I felt the new packaging also brought a weak earl gray with absolutely NO flavor! Glad to find out it's not just me. Thanks..J

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  3. Many thanks for the heads up on www. britishtea.com.

    I also received an email from another tea expert, who said the Brit version is available at Baltimore Coffee and Tea Company.

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  4. i have not tried the new version having a large stock of the old (costco christmas cans). I note the the bergamot may be artificial as it is in other markets (arab, german). i also note that ehy reduced the number of bags by five wqhile retaining the old pricing. i wonder what is behind this. the old package was fully recyclable. try bigelow.

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  5. I'm glad you made note of the change in quantity without a change in pricing, and the recycling issue. The new packaging may keep it fresh longer (I don't know, but my guess is that is their intent), but I really preferred the old paper packaging.

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  6. direchucko@yahoo.com12:28 PM, August 26, 2006

    dear friends, i actually collect the old paper packaging. i'm going to paint portraits of my wife and kids on them. i don't have nearly enough, though, and with the packaging change, i'm pretty much screwed. i can't find the old ones anywhere, and, though i have contacted twinings, i have not heard tell of any backstock. i'm sure this sounds strange to most, but i am actually very upset that my project has essentially been shelved. i would love any suggestions as to where the old paper packaging can be found.
    many thanks, charles

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  7. Have you compared with other brands of Earl Grey (Whittards, which have also redefined their packaging do several varieties of Earl Grey: there are also green Earl Grey teas)

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  8. Thanks for the heads up. I'm almost out of my supply of Twinings Earl Grey. It was actually the tea that turned me on to tea in the first place - I hated tea for years, despite being the son of an Englishman who would have at least one cup of tea a day. While working on my graduate degree, I thought I'd give the Earl Grey a try, and picked Twinings, since that's one of the brands my parents drink.

    I was not disappointed. But sadly, I'm down to two teabags. I'll have to save them for special occasions.

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  9. I noticed the same thing and i live in Buenos Aires :(
    The new earl grey seems weaker than the old one.

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  10. Hey savetwinings,
    You've said you have Taylors of Harrogate tea in your cabinet. Do you know where I can get that in the United States besides ordering it online? I've heard it's good. Also, do you know where I can get Yorkshire tea (made by that company, I think)? I'm asking about chain stores that will have these across the country.

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  11. Hi Anonymous,

    My wife and I live in NYC, and we tend to get our tea from one of the many specialty groceries within walking distance of our home and workplaces. So I don't have recommendations other than to look online.

    I can recommend, however, an online community that is a handy resource for such questions: http://www.teamail.net.

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  12. Dear Savetwinings,
    I am from Georgia, and was raised on sweet tea like yourself. I have been a tea drinker for several years, and Earl Grey has always been one of my favorites, and Twinings my brand of choice. I too noticed that the new Earl Grey is weak and bland compared to the tea in the old packaging. I wrote Twinings an email expressing my feelings, titled "Earl Grey should contain bergamot not three month old licorice." I hope that consumer pressure will urge them to undo whatever they have done. Until then, I would reccomend the Yogi Earl Grey blend. It is much stronger than most Earl Grey, which may or may not be your "cup of tea" but either way, I would give it a try. Have you noticed a change in any of the other Twinings teas since the change in packaging? This is a great blog with a worthy cause. Thanks for speaking out.

    Best,
    Spencer Musick

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  13. Yes! I have acute taste buds and the new tea is weak and bland. Where is the petition? You should draft it and everyone will sign it!

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  14. Hi,

    I live in Canada and have the same problem - Twinings Earl Grey (which was *the only* Earl Grey for me) is not Twinings Earl Grey anymore. I googled "twinings earl grey reviews" precisely for the reason this blog exist and I'm glad I found you - I am also very upset with the new taste and packaging!!! Has anyone noticed the ingredient list? I don't have any of the old tin boxes anymore, but I seem to remember that the ingredients list read: "tea, bergamot flowers". I believe they had the actual flowers of bergamot in there. I'm talking about the loose leaf packaging. Now it says: "tea, bergamot flavouring". So they could have added artificial bergamot flavour to reduce the cost, thinking that no one would notice. Keep posting comments, people, and keep writing to Twinings, and they might go back to the real stuff!!!

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  15. Thank you... Yes, I find today's earl grey by twinning almost undrinkable, probably due to artificial flavouring, whereas it used to be my standard tea. Will switch to another brand. Bye bye twinnings!

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  16. And here I thought I was just imagining things! I've noticed the taste difference ever since they changed the packaging.

    I'm a big tea drinker, always preferred Twinings over any other brand.

    Amusingly enough, I first decided to try Earl Grey because of my long-time love of Star Trek: TNG. I wanted to know just what this tea was that Captain Picard loved so much. As I'm fond of teas with strong, sometimes slightly bitter flavors, it instantly became my favorite! I usually drink it black to fully appreciate the flavor, so the flavor change is a big deal to me.

    I've been trying other brands but still haven't found one I'm satisfied with. Most American teas are terribly weak and their Earl Grey just tastes like slightly citrusy generic black tea. Stash is alright but not great. I'll be trying Bigelow after I finish off this Stash since I've heard good things about that, but I do miss the old Twinings.

    This may be helpful to LA county, California residents: there's a British gifts/imports shop on Ventura Blvd. in Tarzana called Oh Fancy That. I've yet to check to see if they have imported British Twinings teas but I know from past visits they have a lot of imported food (crisps, candy bars, etc.) and their stock changes a lot so it's worth a look. Hopefully I'll have a chance to stop by there soon myself.
    http://local.yahoo.com/details?id=20669020

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  17. I have just found your blog, because here in the UK, I think Twinings Earl Grey has also changed to the nasty blend you are talking about. It also coincides with new box designs.

    I depend on this stuff to keep me going. Literally. I discovered it when I was a student, hated the first cup (like most do) and somehow enjoyed it in retrospect. Since then I have virtually never had anything else. It earned me the nickname 'earlgreyjunior'.

    It is definitely not the same. The tea tastes like an inferior Fairtrade variety - sometimes I think this works by buying low grade tea at inflated prices. I also believe that the flavouring may be artificial and indeed have started to suffer some food sensitivities in recent months (I cannot be sure there is any connection of course).

    This is very upsetting for me; I think Twinings Earl Grey used to be one of the greatest things in the known universe. From now on, I will buy other brands, like Taylors, until I find something that at least tastes like (a) tea and (b) bergamot.

    I just found an 'old' box at work and it definitely is different. 100% sure.

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  18. As a Georgian who has been a Twinings fan (lost count of the different kinds I've had) for over 20 years (used to catch hell for drinking hot tea before the recent resurgence...still like my sweet iced tea), I am not sure about some of the comments made here about the earl grey. I don't ever remember "bergamot flowers" as the essense is supposed to be from the rind. As I type this, I am drinking a cup of EG made from loose leaf 200g tin (UK import, not Greensboro, N.C. packed)in the familiar "butter yellow" format not the black packaging. I have an older 100 count catering tin from N.C. and it reads pretty much the same (except for the absence of the other languages). It seems to me, the new leaf tastes the same as it always had. I purchased this particular tin last night from a store that brings in imports. It may be "old stock". If the formula has indeed changed with the new, black box, they have plenty on hand right now. As an aside, Something I miss is the Lemon flavoured black tea. They had changed the formula from "lemon flavoured" (good) to "lemon scented" (weak) before dropping it altogether and making infusions. Another gripe is that I also used to be able to order direct from Twinings, UK but they have restricted the US to only get the US offerings which is smaller than in years past (Rose Pouchong is long since dropped from US). I dislike the fatter style boxes (20 count).

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  19. Though I haven't had it in a long time, Twinings Earl Grey was the first real tea I ever drank and was the one that started off my 40 year love of tea. I like to say "I've been having an affair with the Earl for years!"

    Another favorite I want to tell everyone about is MURCHIE'S EARL GREY. Murchie's teas from British Columbia, Canada have been around since 1894 and they Earl Grey is supreme. I used to drive from Canada to Seattle just to get their tea. Their website is www.murchies.com.

    Thanks for creating this forum!

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  20. For those living in Western US and requiring natural bergamot flavor, not the fake stuff as in Twinnings, try Trader Joe's Earl grey. It's very good (at least tastes natural!)and cheap too!

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  21. I am VERY surprised that a tea lover with a passion equal to yours would still be interested in bagged tea. Earl Grey has always been my favorite as well.
    About a year ago, I stumbled across a 100g tin of Twinings Earl Grey loose tea and picked it up. It's a little more work but considering the difference in taste I am happy to admit that I am a loose tea snob. All of Twinings loose tea is shipped in the original packaging from the UK.
    I encourage you to pick up a tin.... Since you are in NYC (my hometown) you should be able to locate one at "The Food Emporium" I just found some available for pick-up on their website.
    Let me know what you think when (not if) you decide to check it out.
    -Vinny

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  22. Hi Vinny,

    I appreciate your comment and completely agree. I do in fact drink the loose leaf as well. I recommend to anyone who hasn't used loose leaf to try it - it's really a different experience altogether.

    That said, sometimes I'm lazy or in a hurry. And once upon a time, the Twinings Earl Grey teabag was quite good - excellent by the standards of a bag, and solid compared even to good loose leaf. That is no longer the case and I find that frustrating and saddening. Perplexing too.

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  23. I would agree with another commenter that the LOOSE TEA IS BETTER THAN THE BAG and that goes for Twinings earl grey as well as other teas. I heard somewhere that when they grade teas, they put them in a wind tunnel and the dust that they sweep up at the end goes into tea bags.

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  24. Now Bigelow Eart Grey seems to be reformulated, it has lost much of its flavor & scent.

    What is going on?

    Earl Grey was always my favorite tea. Oh well....

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