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.


  1. I wrote to Twinings and got this response:

    I can confirm for you that Twinings Earl Grey has not been changed. The
    ingredients and blending process is the same.

    If you have any other queries that we may be able to help you with -
    do not hesitate to contact us.

    Kind Regards

    Hannah Morrison
    Customer Services
    R Twining & Co Ltd

  2. Hi Pat--thanks for sharing. Can you elaborate on how you contacted Twinings? Did you call, or email, or write? How long did it take to receive this response? If you wrote or emailed, would you mind sharing the text? I know others who have emailed Twinings without receiving any response.

    Ever the sceptic, I'll continue my experimentation. No offense to Hannah Morrison, but I wouldn't expect Twinings' PR policy to be: "Yes, you are correct, our product is no longer as good as it once was."

  3. I sent them an email this morning, asking if it was true that the Twinings Earl Grey blend had changed, and gave them a link to your blog. I had a response by this afternoon.

  4. Hmmm, interesting. Perhaps others didn't mention the blog. You are the first person I know of to have gotten a response.

  5. I'm quite outraged by the "stealth" price increase that Twining has made. They are now selling boxes with 20 bags, rather than 25 bags, charging the same, and making the "new" boxes look like you're getting something more: the boxes are slightly bigger, and they've added the word "Classic." It's a rip off.