Earl Grey Choice - Fair Trade

Picture of Earl Grey Choice
Brand:Zhi Tea
Style:Flavored Black Tea
Product page:Earl Grey Choice

This tea's info last updated: Dec. 7, 2018

Commercial Description

The classic breakfast tea with bergamont oil. We created a specific blend of Assam black Indian teas for our Earl Grey Choice. Boasting a deep, rich and lightly brisk flavor with a gorgeously evocative citrus nose from the bergamot.

Ratings & Reviews

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Link Link to This Review
Reviewer pic31 Aroma: 3/10 Flavor: 3/5 Value: 1/5
(1438 reviews) on

This tea pissed me off. It's a mediocre flavored tea, it's mismarketed, and it's grossly overpriced. It doesn't even taste like Earl Grey, it tastes nothing like the commercial description, not the current one listed on the site nor the one listed on my sample bag, nor is there any explanation of the discrepancy on the website. Zhi Tea gets a C- for quality and an F for marketing on this one.

I got a loose-leaf sample of this from a friend of my parents. The commercial description listed on the website reads quite differently from what my sample reads:

"An extremely smooth, well-defined tea boasting subtle notes of bergamot, lavender, and orange."

This is not what I taste. The tea is rather smooth, but not "extremely" smooth, and the notes of lavender and orange are not "subtle". I would prefer if the people who write these descriptions reflect on what "subtle" means and what "notes" means. There's a difference between bold, dominant flavors and "hints" or "notes" or "subtle", and I find it misleading to throw around words suggesting subtlety when the flavors seem "in-your-face" to me.

The quality of lavender and orange in the aroma, which are FAR too strong to describe as "notes", are unexpected, and dominate the tea. If the base tea is high quality, I can't even tell, because it's hidden beneath the flavoring. A traditional Earl Grey typically contains bergamot, and only occasionally has hints of other citrus, usually orange or maybe lemon. Lavender is sometimes blended with Earl Grey or other black teas, but it is NOT an ingredient in a traditional Earl Grey, and as such, I don't expect it in the aroma, and don't necessarily want to encounter it. I think an Earl Grey containing lavender or lavender flavoring really needs to include this in the NAME of the tea, or else I'll dock them serious points in my review, which is what I'm doing here.

And now on to the orange:

The orange flavoring also strikes me as very artificial. The first thought I had when sipping this tea was that it took me back to elementary school and kindergarten classes, when we'd get "scratch and sniff" stickers for doing a good job on our work. And this tea smells like the orange-flavored stickers. It's kind of an interesting experience, to be taken back like that...it brings back a lot of memories and feelings, and as such, this tea is sort of interesting in that regard.

But as a high-quality tea? No way.

And the price tag on this is highway robbery. $24.95 for a 4.3 ounce tin? What are they thinking? And where is this money going? I could buy some top-quality artisan teas in this price range.

I also am puzzling at the gross discrepancy between the website and the packaging. My package says "Ceylon Black Tea: Venture Estate". The website says "a...blend of Assam". Ceylon and Assam are two different regions! Zhi tea prides itself on selling fair trade certified teas, yet to have a complete lack of transparency as to where the tea is actually from, and to change it casually without mention? I don't like that, and it seems to defeat one of the main purposes of fair trade. And the current website description doesn't mention the lavender and orange, which dominated the tea.

Is the tea even the same tea? The name of the tea is the same: "Earl Grey Choice", and I was very careful to check this. If it's a completely different tea, why does it retain the same name? Either the company totally changed the formulation of the tea, without explaining this on the website (and this is a terrible marketing move, disrespectful to customers and potentially irritating or alienating them if they find out they're not getting what they wanted) OR they didn't change the formulation...in which case the tea I'm trying is EVEN WORSE DESCRIBED than the one.

And Zhi Tea claims that this tea is a "Top seller". If this tea really is a top-seller, then why change the formulation with no explanation? It makes no sense to me, and it makes me wonder if I can trust any of the material that Zhi writes on their website. After this experience, I would be very cautious buying anything from them and would not recommend buying from them. This is a loss for them, because my first experience trying a tea from them was much better than this.

To their credit, this tea was at least drinkable, which is why I gave it an okay flavor rating.

I just am scratching my head here. When I think of the people who run tea companies...it's their job to write these descriptions. It's their job to market their tea accurately. This is how and why they get paid, this is the work they do, or in this case, fail to do. And when people come to their website, those people are looking for information about their teas. Why not give them that information? It is natural for someone to have questions like, "Is this the same tea I ordered a year or two ago or the same tea I tried at a friend's house?" It's natural for them to want an accurate depiction of whether or not, and how, a tea is flavored. And people come with expectations based on culturally-defined styles like Earl Grey.

How is it that it can be people's job to do these things, and yet they fail to do these things?

I just don't get this.

Yeah. I'm salty about this one. And I'm salty about the other companies that do this kind of thing too. If you're one of them, maybe take a step back and think about whether or not it makes sense to stay in the tea industry. Maybe step down and let people step up who actually know what they're doing. I've been doing tea reviews for 10 years now. I'm tired of encountering the same problems and sloppy marketing materials I saw back then. I want to see the tea industry rising above this kind of stuff. Either step up your game or step out the game.
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