Bask in swinging bergamot in all its glory. If the Earl of Grey only knew how fabulous white tea could be.
Pale yellow green.
Luxury white tea, Natural flavors.
Many of us, indeed most of us, tea lovers are familiar with Earl Grey the beverage. (It is arguably the most popular blended tea in the world after all.) In all its variations, Earl Grey is a flavorful concoction of tea and bergamot oil that is as distinctive on the nose as it is in the cup. One whiff as it passes your table in a restaurant, or breezing out through a kitchen door, and you know immediately that someone is about to enjoy a few moments of refined pleasure. As the tea rolls over the tongue, pointed touches of citrus come to the fore blending gently with the astringency of the base tea letting you know that yes in fact, this is Earl Grey. The tea we know about. But what about the man? Don’t you agree that at least a cursory knowledge of Earl Grey seems important when discussing his signature brew? We do, so we thought we’d pass on our knowledge.
First, the textbook stuff: Earl Grey’s political affiliation was to the Whig party, (the Democrats of old England.) His first parliamentary address as Prime Minister took place on the 21st of February 1787. The topic was a recent free trade agreement made with France to which he was vehemently opposed. In all he oversaw four years of political reform that had enormous impact on the development of democracy in Britain.
Ok, now the more interesting stuff: Earl Grey’s interests included gallivanting about the countryside like a proper British dandy, breeding dogs and the occasional game of cribbage. In appearance he was said to be "tall, slim and strikingly handsome". (Not surprising given the fact that he is known to have fathered at least one illegitimate child!) Unfortunately for the Earl and his love life, in his later years he went bald and was made to wear spectacles.
Ok, now we have a basic understanding of the man behind the world’s most popular tea. We did forget one thing though. He died on July 17th, 1845 - about 150 years before the creation of British Earl White tea. Too bad because we’re sure he would have loved this version of his famous blend. The cup is full bodied with a heady Earl Grey flavor and touch of fresh cream leading to a profound jammy finish. (Jammy is a term frequently used to describe the fullish character of Pai mu tan, the Chinese white tea used for the blend.) Brew a pot and raise a cup to the old Earl. Cheers.
FOR HOT TEA:
This tea can be used repeatedly (à la chinoise) - about 3 times. The secret is to use water that is about 180°F or 90°C. Place 1 tsp of leaves per cup in your teapot and steep for 3 minutes. Then begin enjoying a cup of enchantment - do not remove the leaves from the pot. Once the water level is low - add more water, and so on - until the tea flavor is exhausted. Alternatively for 1 time use, add boiling water and steep for 3-5 minutes according to taste. Milk or sugar will mask the delicate characters of this tea and are not recommended. Look at the pattern of the leaves - they foretell life.
FOR COLD TEA:
Place 6 teaspoons of tea into a teapot or heat resistant pitcher. Pour 1 1/4 cups of freshly boiled water over the tea. Steep for 5 minutes. Quarter fill a serving pitcher with cold water. Pour the tea into your serving pitcher straining the leaves. Add ice and top up the pitcher with cold water. Garnish and sweeten to taste. [A rule of thumb when preparing fresh brewed iced tea is to double the strength of hot tea since it will be poured over ice and diluted with cold water.]