A classic tea that has been around quite a long time is Earl Grey – simple, flavorful. Black tea (usually Indian or Ceylon) with oil of bergamot (a type of citrus from Italy). It used to be one of my faves. I still go for a cuppa now and then. But recently hubby and I have seen how this classic can go horribly wrong. Bear with us as we tell our tale of Earl Grey tea trauma!
Variations on a Theme
Musicians often talk about variations on a theme. A popular one in classical circles is “Variations on a Theme by Paganini” by Johannes Brahms. Well, teas have those theme variations, too. With Earl Grey it involves one or both of these approaches:
- Alter the tea base from black tea to green tea
- Add more flavorings or things like cornflowers (they give visual appeal only)
Years ago we tried several such themes:
- Earl Grey Citrus from the Boston Tea Company
- Earl Grey White from another vendor specializing in British favorites
- Crazy Earl from Indie Teas that had a bunch of stuff added
- A green tea based Earl Grey
And so on…
Some Recent Try-outs
Sadly, over the years tea vendors keep trying to improve on perfection, usually with little or no success.
Case in point:
- An Earl Grey with a green tea base, oil of bergamot, and lavender flowers – sounds like it would be divine, right? Well…… green tea just doesn’t make the right base for Earl Grey, IMO. And the lavender flowers, while adding a nice floral touch, also steered the overall flavor to the bitter.
- An Earl Grey with a black tea base, oil of bergamot, and lavender flowers – this should be better, right? After all, it has that black tea base. Sadly, no. The floral came across too strong and was even more bitter than the green version.
Finally, a Winner!
As some of you may already know, we recently had the pleasure of trying a new tea in the line-up at JAS-eTea.com – their Truly Citrus Earl Grey (see our comments here). Never was a tea so aptly named! Normally, when I inhale the aroma of Earl Grey from any vendor, including the Twinings brand, the aroma is not at all citrus-like. It’s almost smoky. But one whiff of this one says “Citrus!” very clearly. And in a very good way. No extras. Just a rich black tea and the right amount of that oil of bergamot. What a treat! It could get me back to drinking Earl Grey tea on a more regular basis again.
The Point of All This
Don’t mess with perfection………… unless you can make it more perfect.
© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text