Tea Trials and Tribulations: Finding My New Addiction

I celebrated a tipping point in my annual acknowledgement of inevitable mortality this week–for those of you who don’t speak thesaurus, I had a birthday–and, as a result, I have decided to adopt an eccentricity commensurate with my age. I shall forthwith be known as The Tea Lady.*

As a follow-up to my last post, I am happy to report my somewhat victorious hunt for a replacement to my Teavana / Earl Grey addiction. While I cannot claim to find the exact same tea elsewhere, I’ve found a tea I like. And I’m here to bore you to death with the details. You’ve been warned.


I made a point of ordering some teas to try to find the good twin to my long-lost love (formerly produced by the evil bastards at Teavana may they rot in a mildewy, milk-tea hell).

This is what I’ve discovered–not all tea companies approach sales the same way.

I went to three online tea purveyors:

The Art of Tea

Adagio Tea


TeaLyra via Amazon

If I graded the companies on their packaging and delivery—the winners would be in this order:

First Place Packaging:

Adagio - Box package
Bonanza Box Extravaganza – They Really Want You As a Customer! Or else.


Adagio (HQ – New Jersey, US) – which sent a nicely crammed box filled with the $2.00– 0.8 oz loose-leaf sample of Earl Grey Moonlight which I asked for–along with several unsolicited samples and blandishments to purchase more. The fact that I ordered the week before my birthday might explain the ‘Birthday’ tea which I’ve yet to try and the ‘Pisces-Zodiac’ tea tin included gratis. I tried the latter. It smelled heavenly, but tasted bitter. I went on line to discover this tea has ‘lavender’ in it—which is a flower that makes me sneeze violently—so perhaps it was a subliminal allergic response as much as taste. For many reasons, this is not the tea for me. It will make a lovely sachet for my underwear drawer though.

Warning: print out your receipt–when I looked later in my emails, the details of the purchase were not included in the confirmation.

I was given a choice of one free sample; I picked the Earl Grey Bravo. If they hadn’t sent it, things might have turned out very differently. **

Second Place Packaging

Art of Tea Package
Not entirely bare bones, Art of Tea, but close.

The Art of Tea (HQ – Beverly Hills, CA) took almost a week to arrive. Going back, I re-reading their disclaimer on the invoice: “Art of Tea’s hand-crafted artisan teas take about 3-5 business days to create before they’re ready to ship.”

They sent their sample of loose-leaf Earl Grey Creme in a tin (5-7 servings for $5.00, plus shipping $5.97) along with two individual tea bag samples—one of the exact same tea, except bagged in an ‘eco pyramid’ filter, and one serving called Tali’s Masala Chai. It is hard to compare pricing, but the fact that the tea was boxed due to the metal container meant the shipping price was actually more expensive than the cost of the product itself. Although it is preferred to keep tea in a tin to preserve the contents, I don’t think it would hurt to send samples at a cheaper rate.

Third Place Packing

TeaLyra Packaging
The prosaic packaging promises–you aren’t paying extra for ‘Freebies’.

TeaLyra (HQ in New York and Canada) Was the fastest tea–I ordered from Amazon.com on March 5 and it arrived March 7. Self-described as the ‘Galaxy of Teas,’ the sample came wrapped in bulk packaging with a slapped-on label to identify the contents and a giant 25% off coupon good through July 30, 2018 for use by anyone.

GO AHEAD, here’s the code if you want to try: “Get-25-USA4”.

TeaLyra sent the biggest sample for the price ($14.99 for 3.5 ounces–which doesn’t sound like a lot but, man, the bag was huge next to the other samples.) There was some confusion though.

On the Amazon website the tea is called ‘Cream Earl Grey – Citrusy with Vannilla (sic) flavor’ but, if you go to the actual TeaLyra.com website, the name is Cream Earl Grey Moonlight. I wondered if Amazon was selling a knock-off, so I contacted TeaLyra. They explained that Amazon wouldn’t allow the full title for the tea so they omitted the word ‘Moonlight.’

Scooby Doo mystery solved, it was time for the battle to commence.

I set up my test kitchen.

Test Kitchen Trial 1
Three Contestants Enter – But Only One Tea Leaves!

I didn’t have three identical cups, and I really wanted to show off my teapot/cup combination. (Proving my tea-geek chic.) Otherwise, I tried to be scientific about it.

I did my best to put the same quantities of tea, sugar and cream into each glass. I’m a sweet, hot tea girl, so three level teaspoons of Demerara sugar and ½ a teaspoon of half-and-half went in.

After a three-minute steep, sugar, then cream, it was time to taste-test.

I sipped from left to right and it was a bit like the three bears, except that none of the three was ‘just right’ in terms of matching my memory of the Teavana profile.

How The Competition Measured Up…After a Slight Hiccup

Art of Tea – had strong floral notes wafting from the tin. It was self-described as ‘full body, citrus, silky’ and I would agree with the full and the silky part. I could not taste anything but vanilla in this particular tea.

In fact, the vanilla was so overpowering that I had to stop and look up “How To Cleanse Your Palate” and found this delightful site:

The Cup of Life

I did not have the recommended plain crackers but I decided white bread is pretty close and I sucked on pinches between sips in order to ‘zero’ my taste buds.

I also learned I had been drinking my tea all wrong.

The key to tea tasting is the etiquette-aghast SLURP method. To quote the Cup of Life doyenne: “While that may seem impolite, slurping is necessary to experience the full flavour of the tea on all parts of your palette.”

I slurped my way through the three choices. I made some observations which I will share with you:

Notes Copy
Absolutely riveting reading, really. If I ever write a book on tea judging, be sure to avoid it.

Art of Tea

Earl Grey Crème Ingredients: organic black teas, organic cornflower, natural flavors, bergamot oil.

Even after a palate cleanse and a slurp-tasting, I still couldn’t get past the vanilla in the Art of Tea – Earl Grey Creme. That said, the tea was the smoothest cup I tried. You could barely taste the bergamot and it had none of the bitterness usually associated with strong black teas. Slurping lowered the initial strength of the vanilla flavor but it hit the back of the throat after swallowing and filled the nose with the perfume.***

Conclusion: too sweet and flowery for my tastes but probably a really fine dessert tea for a vanilla lover.

Plain Tea
Left-to-right: Art of Tea, Adagio, and TeaLyra before sugar/cream.


Up next, the musically bold companion tea.


Earl Grey Bravo Ingredients: black tea, orange peels, natural earl grey flavor.

Opening the bag, your nose gets a much more complex series of notes: bergamot, vanilla and what smells like a hot summer in Valencia Spain in the form of dried orange peels. I had my doubts initially; I tend to avoid orange flavoring as it can dominate. I am happy to admit, I was wrong.

This cup had the most pleasing color as a brewed tea, but then, it was in the cup with the widest diameter and that may have affected the light hitting it. It was also the tea that had the sweetest taste. I swear, I put the same amount of sugar in each cup, but, again, the dimensions of this cup may have played havoc with the scientific method.

One odd thing I noticed was the description of the tea’s label. The company did not describe the contents as ‘Bergamot Oil’ as did the competitors. Made me wonder what exactly they considered ‘natural earl grey’ to taste like?

Last, but not least, came the economically priced Amazon brew:


Earl Grey Crème ‘Moonlight’ Ingredients: organic black loose-leaf tea, cornflower, oil of bergamot, natural flavors.

TeaLyra had the lightest scent in dry form. There were hints of vanilla and bergamot. The odor reminded me of pressed flowers—a light, but ghostly, lingering scent.

The tea was also the most neutral flavor of the three. No one scent overpowered the other either in dry or brewed form. Admittedly, I drank this tea third of each round and it is entirely possible the first two samples killed any nuance detection. The flavor was not as ‘bright’ as the other teas. Overall, it was a more down-to-earth cup.

TeaLyra’s sample reminded me of a good English breakfast tea more than an Earl Grey Crème—with or without moonlight. It was a mellow, medium strength cup at 3 minutes. I think a longer steep might bring out the ‘hairy knuckles’ in the flavor. And of the three teas, it came closest in a visual comparison to the admittedly powdery dregs I have left of the original Teavana brand Earl Grey Crème sample. See for yourself:

Teavana Sample



PROS: Quality and luxury hand-crafted teas. Smooth, round and silky brew.

CONS: Expensive. Excessive Vanilla may be to mask bitterness of higher prices and slower products.


PROS: If you want a quick delivery that will make you feel pampered at a mid-ranged price, I recommend Adagio.

CONS: Demerits for the overly complicated discounts offered. The company promises future discounts after purchase but it requires you share a $5.00 gift certificate on social media.

Adagio also emailed to tell me of their ‘points’ system encouraging you to buy a lot of tea to earn any more freebies:

Your purchase has earned you 4 points in our “frequent cups” program. With 100 points or more, you’ll be saving $10+ on future orders.

Like most drugs, the first sample is free. The rest is going to cost you.


PROS: A likeable, affordable breakfast tea without an overly strong Bergamot or vanilla presence. If you like to be able to taste your tea, this is the companion for you. Plus, you know you aren’t paying higher prices for marketing or for frou-frou bells and whistles.

CONS: Weaker kissing-cousin to Teavana’s Earl Grey Crème. If you want to try a smaller sample, go directly to TeaLyra.com, Amazon only offers the larger 3.5 ounce packaging.

In the end, I am surprised to say I preferred Adagio’s Earl Grey Bravo best. It wasn’t the closest match to my beloved Teavana, I suspect the TeaLyra would make a fair substitute if it had a hint more vanilla in it…


With this in mind, I dump the overpowering vanilla of Art of Tea into the TeaLyra batch and discover I like the resultant concoction very much.

Whether anyone else would agree is for them to decide. Perhaps there is something of the Dr. Frankenstein in all of us—we can only love the monster we’ve created?

Memory is a funny thing. It is a place in which the pleasures of something increase exponentially for each day lost to the sands of time.

I had my heart set on finding my beloved Teavana twin only to end up falling for the fast and bold Adagio Bravo instead.

It has taken me over half-a-century, but I can finally say I’ve found my inner, fickle-hearted, fancy-free, femme fatale. And it didn’t take me fifty shades of Earl Grey to find her.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Note to self: get appropriately massive, flowery hat….or adopt a faux British accent.

**Insert appropriate “duh duh DUH!” sound effect for dramatic emphasis…or just mumble it to yourself.

***There were no instructions on how to clear a nose palate—and no, I did not stick bread up there to see if that would work


You’ve read this fricken far bonus:

There was supposed to be a fourth ‘Cream Earl Grey’ sample from Beantown Tea & Spices. Despite the name, the company must be shipping its product by a slow-boat from China. I ordered it March 5th–the same day as the TeaLyra product.

At last check, delivery is expected March 13th.

Addendum: Beantown sample arrived Sunday, March 12, and was delicious. I would have tested it against the other three for a truly detailed comparison, but I have used up all my tea sachets and have to order more. Sigh.


19 thoughts on “Tea Trials and Tribulations: Finding My New Addiction

  1. When I was a boy my sister had a wired addiction to earl grey. When we went to somebodies house, something that happened most weeks because of church, we would be offered a drink. My sister would pipe up “Yes pease, tea but from one of these tea bags.” She would then reach into her hand bag and produce a small Tupperware container with earl grey tea bags. I would die of embarrassment.

    Mind you I can’t talk nowadays I only drink coffee made from grinding two types of beans I get from my local cheese shop. At least I don’t carry them around with me, I just politely refuse when offered coffee and ask for water or gin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is your sister no longer an Earl Grey addict, or has she become more circumspect about toting it around with her? (Shall I admit now, I have been known to bring my preferred tea to someone’s house as an adult. The palate wants what the palate wants!)


  2. You are a woman after my own heart. Love the Earl! I have a drawer full of the organic by STASH, which I don’t even like, but forgot and ordered it from the coop. BUT, there is a really nice one in there too, called Inland Grey, made by winterwoodsteacompany.com, out of Colbert, WA. I can’t do the tea sommelier description thing like you, but I really enjoy this tea with sugar and half/half.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The name is intriguing. ‘Inland Grey’ sounds exotic–as if you should be drinking it on a foggy moor somewhere in Scotland. Probably accompanied by wistful bagpipes playing Danny Boy. There might be lonesome sheep baaing softly as well. And heather wafting in the air. Don’t forget the heather.

      Ahh, reverie aside, I’ll have to look that up…once I’ve used up the gallons of tea I just purchased. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Reminds me of one of my favorite movie lines: Fill my arms with heather, Heathcliff! All that they can hold.–a line I use constantly with the old man, every time he mentions heather, which is surprisingly often. From the old Wuthering Heights with Sir Laurence Olivier. Great flick.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s okay. I do have to put enough sugar in to kill the bitter tannin taste. (I’m not even sure if that is the right word.) Whatever makes tea bitter means I add sugar. I would probably be kicked out of Japan for trying to add sugar to matcha! Some faux pas are just not done! Thanks for reading through to the bitter end!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was likely the best tea-tasting review I’ve read, certainly the most honest! 😊
    I’m lucky in that I like Twinings Earl Grey and can pretty much find that anywhere. But about 6 months ago someone got me hooked on Harney & Son’s Paris tea, so I’ve been cheating on my faithful Twinings. (Please, don’t tell)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If I weren’t so tired, I’d tell you where to stuff your stinky cheeses. But you’d probably like it anyway, so I won’t bother. Roquefort, beyond being hard to spell, is just one stink too far for me. Blue cheese, I can do. But there’s just something really rotten about Roquefort. I’ll leave it for you.

      Liked by 1 person

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