Friday, 19 June 2015

And So The Earl Grey Saga Continues ....

Yesterday I visited London for an appointment. Afterwards, being in the local area, decided to pop into two teashops. One, Twinings, the other Whittards at Covent Garden.

I was quite excited by the prospect of visiting Twinings - I hadn't done so in ages. I found some great tea's. Intensely Tropical one was one fabulous purchase. I also managed to get some of the Earl Grey Classic blend and one or two other ones I liked the look of. All will be reviewed on here in time.

As much as I enjoyed the visit, I felt it lacked the sparkle of previous visits. There was something different in the shop, it had changed. I think it was because there were less of the individual, unique tea's that they used to stock, instead rows and rows of tea that is available in most commercial supermarkets and shops filled the shelves.

In the shop I was chatting to the female sales assistant, who was really friendly and who knew her stuff. Then, I will admit, down to me, I raised the thorny issue of THE Earl Grey.

Readers may not be aware of the Earl Grey issue so I'll give you a run down.

About five (could be more!) years ago, Twinings changed the recipe of their Earl Grey. They changed the recipe, the packaging and the name, it's now called "The Earl Grey". This massive change caused such a do in the tea world. I was just stepping into the tea world around the time the change occurred and I was hugely surprised at the fuss and anger the changes incurred.

The Earl Grey was described by some of the readers of this blog, in emails to me, as 'weak as water', 'tasteless' and 'bland'. So, instead of buying "The" Earl Grey, readers admitted to me that they brought the international range, known as "Classic Earl Grey" (you'll know it, it's in a yellow box) from Twinings website. Yes, it was an expensive way of buying Earl Grey, but, it was tasty and flavoursome, and identical to the previous Earl Grey sold in the UK.

I happen to agree. So, it was with excitement that I headed to Twinings to stock up on the Classic range. But, to my horror (and surprise) it's not longer sold in bags, just in small caddies. Online the tea is only available in a decaff version.

So, it seems, Classic is being restricted, at least in the UK. I'm not sure if it's being phased out totally, or if it's just an availability issue. Either way, I was disappointed.

Upon chatting to the friendly shop assistant about the thorny issue of Earl Grey, I confided in her that I relied upon the Classic version as I didn't enjoy what I could get in the UK. She replied that they had acted in response to consumer feedback. I get that, brands are always asking customers to participate in surveys and market research to help keep them on top of their game. But what has gone terribly wrong?

The issue of Twinings Earl Grey is indeed the issue I receive most emails about. Some offering genuine ways to improve the tea, other's just wanting to rant to a sympathetic ear. So I have to question have they truly listened to their customers or did Twinings simply decide to modernise the recipe and the brand?

I hear again and again of people's lack of interest in Earl Grey. Many, myself included, have found wonderful Earl Grey's else where, quite often in loose form, that are fully flavoured and affordable in price. I have heard stories of  one reader who goes on holiday to America each year and stocks up on the classic range whilst out there.

On the other side of the arguement, of course, is that whatever supermarket I go in, Twinings Earl Grey is always at least half empty, so it does sell. Is it then a case that us tea obsessives (or lovers, if you prefer that term) are just simply too picky?

I don't believe we are. Earl Grey is a blend that is very hard to get right. Too weak it's awful, too high a amount of bergamot and flavours leaves it unpleasantly perfumed. But The Earl Grey is so pale in comparison that I often have to use two bags to get a decent brew.

There is ground though to keep everyone happy.

Please, Twinings, bring back the non-decaff International Classic Earl Grey. At least give us Earl Grey lovers the option of either buying Classic or the new The Earl Grey. If you are limiting the classic range I feel you are making a mistake as so many tea lovers rely on your little yellow box of Earl Grey to keep them happy.

I know times - and trends  - change. However, I feel with Earl Grey it's such a traditional tea that there is room for every kind you can imagine.


  1. Hear, hear! A very well written article, Laura. I absolutely loathe The Earl Grey, it tastes of absolutely nothing. I have relied on the International range and have ordered it monthly on line. But I noticed they stopped the bags, now the caddy is out of stock. All you have is the decaff which I'm not too keen on. Are they stopping that as well? I have since gone onto loose Earl Grey at your suggestion from online sellers and won't go back. Glad to see you blogging again too. Best wishes Mike.

    1. Thanks Mike! I was just really disappointed to find that I had to buy yet another caddy just to get a nice cup of tea. The bags have long gone, and I got the impression they had been stopped, too. I couldn't get any of the floral's either, Rose Garden or Lavender. I know it's out with the old, in with the new, I get that, but honestly, Earl Grey is such a staple.

      Thanks for thinking of me and for your emails. It's been a bit of a month or two but I'm feeling a lot better!

      Laura xx

  2. This post was a good read but made me LOL. We are never happy with what we have.
    I come from the US and vacationed in London two years ago and had some Twinings TEG in our bedroom at the hotel. I loved it and stocked up on massive amounts of it when I visited the store in London. I now pay a lot of money to purchase TEG through a British Goods store close to my home. I prefer it to the EG we have in our stores.
    Laura would you be interested in a EG swap?

    Thank you

    1. It's the old adage though, Bethany. If it 'aint broke, don't fix it! Twinings have the range and ability to do whatever combinations they can regards tea, but why fiddle with a staple? They forget now there are hundreds of tea companies online who can sell at a cheaper price per gram, and there are some great EG's out there nowadays. They have mucked up with Earl Grey. Just I hope (and I'm sure Laura will agree) they don't fiddle with Lady Grey.


  3. Hi Bethany - it's nice to finally meet one of the followers of my blog!

    It was certainly interesting what you had to say regarding Earl Grey. I love to hear other people's perspectives! Please email on my blog address: I would certainly be interested in a tea swap. I see you get the classic, non-decaff EG in the states.

    I think it's all down to a matter of taste. There are some who prefer CEG or TEG. I just like my tea, as I drink it black, to have lots of oomph about it and TEG just lacks that bit of something special!

    Thank you for reading and commenting. More reviews coming soon! (Hopefully one tonight!)

    Laura xx

  4. I just recently started drinking Earl Grey. Love the aroma but I don't find it strong enough. I tried letting it steep longer but it doesn't seem to work. I guess I thought tea would have a strong taste like coffee.

  5. Hi Lynn

    I'm sorry you haven't enjoyed your Earl Grey drinking. the thing with EG is if it were as strong as coffee it would be quite undrinkable. The cheaper Earl Greys are very strong as they rely on strong flavouring as opposed to better quality tea. The stronger the EG the more like perfume it resembles!

    If you are looking for a really strong, coffee like tea I would suggest a plain, black unflavoured tea. Try Assam, Yunnan, Russian Caravan and Extra Strong Englush Breakfast.

    If you like smoky flavoured things try Lapsang Souchong!

    Hope this helps!


  6. I agree with Laura. Earl Grey is not the best tea for strength. It's meant to be delicate and is ideal for afternoon tea. Lynn not sure what country you are in but try and find Twinings Prince of Wales tea. Thats a nice blend. Not sure if Laura has tried that. A good solid blend.

  7. TEG was a boon for me, thanks to a dear friend, who suggested it to soothe my chronic headache. It was MAGIC, the aroma and then the taste just annihilated my headache. It has been 5 years since it has been my 'go to' for relaxation. Unfortunately, recently since almost a year I have noticed the formula or something is changed which lacks the aroma or the taste. No matter how I try to make it , it's NOT the same anymore. I have tried purchasing from different vendors, Dubai & India. No luck! I don't know why but it doesn't relax me any more. What has happened? Is there any chance of getting the good old TEG? Missing you :(

  8. Hi Fayyaz

    It's such a shame that you are not enjoying TEG as much as you used to. Sadly, it's typical of Twinings to play around with their blends - even those ones which are considered customer favourites. It's just something they do. Oddly though, you are not the only reader who has contacted me saying that it's changed a lot and is a weaker blend

    I'm not sure where you are in the world but here in the UK we have some fantastic tea companies that produce tasty and satisfying Earl Greys. For a starter check out Northern Tea Merchants who make a very good Earl Grey. Also CHASH tea and Whittards. Most of these companies also offer variations on the EG theme - maybe you should try CHASH tea's Lavender Earl Grey. It's hugely relaxing, comforting and perfect to unwind to. Also. Bluebird Tea (based in Brighton) offer a soothing variation on the EG theme called Earl Grey Creme which is very gentle.

    I think you may need to broaden those tea horizons. Honestly, there are EG blends out there that leave Twinings in the shade. Not that Twinings are bad but they do tend to fiddle with blends and not always for the better.

    Hope this helps!

  9. This week I had Earl Grey tea for the first time. I found some bags of it in the break room at work that was set out to share. Four cups in two days and I was addicted. Bought some at the supermarket and it was very different. Not the same zing to it, and the ingredients list on the box does not say bergamot like the Twinings web site does. The bags I used must have been the older version. They did not say "The" or "Classic." I'm so disappointed and wondering what happened. I'm in the US.

    1. Twinning changed the receipt of their Earl Grey many moons ago. In the UK it is now sold as THE Earl Grey as you stated. However, if you go on their UK website and look under international blends, you'll see a yellow Earl Grey caddy which, to my knowledge, is the recipe of the original Earl Grey we all loved and lost. It's loose tea so you'd need to either purchase empty teabags or buy a infusion but you can get it still!

  10. Now 6 years since Twinings changed their recipe have given up on EG. Have tried every brand; are any of them using Bergamot at all? has something gone wrong with the Bergamot crop? Pukka After Dinner with fennel and cardamon is now my favourite closely followed by Twinings Spicy Ginger.
    Welsh Pixie

    1. Hi Welsh Pixie

      Thanks for your comment! I have to say the taste of Earl Grey has changed quite a lot since I became a regular tea drinker. I must say that Sainsburys Taste The Difference Earl Grey has REALLY impressed me lately and it's far more affordable to some of the better known blends - you currently can get it in a caddy of 50 bags for just £3 in bigger stores. Maybe it is worth trying online sellers and trying their blends. CHASH Tea is awesome and I can say their Earl Grey is fabulous, especially the lavender blend.

      I'm glad you are enjoying Spicy Ginger. I find that very good for settling a noisy tummy!

  11. Late to the conversaton, but found this blog whilst searching for answers. Here in AU, after 'THE' debacle over Earl Grey hit our shores; over the last few years I've noticed pretty much ALL the Twinnings flavours have lost strength, IMHO. Darjeeling and Russian Caravan were my go-to's, and we can't even GET Yunnan in the supermarkets for many years now. The flavours have diminished in strength and fullness. It's like the companies are watering down the flavour, or blending the leaf with a tasteless 'extender' ... it all comes down to the bottom line I guess, their beloved dollar signs, over quality or taste, or customer satisfaction. I've just bought Russian Caravan after passing on Twinnings for the longest time.... I've tried using two tea bags, and STILL can't get the flavour I've known years gone by. Totally dissappointed.

  12. Hi Catherine

    Thank you for the post!

    Firstly I will say that I am with you on the Yunnan. I was totally gutted when they stopped producing this blend, it was really delicious and of a very high quality for a tea that could be purchased in a supermarket. I have mourned the loss of Yunnan for some time!

    A lot of people have become very disappointed with Twinings - I've seen the quality of their goods change so much that I don't even or barely even recognise what they produce anymore. I agree with everything you say. I also loved their Russian Caravan. I think why are branching out into inventing now flavours and styles which I agree with but not to the point they they either lose their classic blends or change them to the point where you cannot even recognise them.

    Can I offer you a suggestion? Have you tried Whittard tea? They are very good quality and their orange pekoe is really good and they offer a wide range of flavours, types and traditional tea. Don't mourn the loss of Twinings as there are very good alternatives out there!

  13. I have always loved Twining's Earl Grey tea, In the US recently I have noticed that on recently purchased boxes of tea bags, the ingredients are listed as: black tea, natural citrus flavours, with other natural flavours. The last box I had said: Black Tea, Bergamot Flavouring. Clearly a change in labeling to cover up that it may not even be real bergamot anymore. I also noticed that a few months later I was seeing the ingredients listed as: Black Tea, Bergamot Flavouring with Other Natural Flavours, but I had only so far seen this on the tins of loose tea. The current tea bags seem to have more of a taste of lemon than bergamot. I believe they are cutting the bergamot with lemon to cut costs and not telling us.