“Tea, Earl Grey, Hot… and whoever this ‘Earl Grey’ fellow is, I’d like a word with him..”
-Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek The Next Generation
This week one of our glorious customers ordered some Garden Grey Black Tea. This is a tea we blend ourselves with organic lavender grown in the wilds of Tibet. What an aroma! While this is not one of our more popular teas, it did get me thinking about Earl Grey in general.
Most tea lovers are familiar with Earl Grey. One whiff of this tea reveals the distinctive aroma on the nose and in the cup. This is a very traditional black tea with the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a very fragrant citrus fruit.
What about the man behind the tea?
Charles Grey (1764-1845) descended from a long established Northumbrian family seated at Howick Hall and was educated at Eton and Trinity College and Cambridge. He became the 2nd Earl of Grey, was a politician in the Whig party (Democrats) and he became Prime Minister at the ripe old age of 22! His first parliamentary address as PM was in 1787 and concerned a recent free trade agreement made with France, to which he was very opposed. He was involved in four years of political reform, the author of the Reform Bill of 1832 (which saw the reform of the House of Commons) and had an enormous impact on the development of democracy in Britain, abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833.
The Whig historian T.B. Macauly wrote in 1841,
‘At an age when most of those who distinguish themselves in life are still contending for prizes and fellowships at college, he had won for himself a conspicuous place in Parliament. No advantage of fortune or connection was wanting that could set off to the height his splendid talents and his unblemished honour.’
Outside of his political achievements Earl Grey enjoyed the life! He was said to be tall, slim and strikingly handsome, had 10 sons and 6 daughters with his wife and fathered at least one illegitimate child! Earl Grey enjoyed gallivanting around the country, breeding dogs, playing cribbage and also found time to have an affair with the Duchess of Devonshire.
There are several tales as to how the tea was named after such a noble and colorful figure! According to the most popular legend a grateful Chinese mandarin whose son was rescued from drowning by one of the Earl’s men, first presented the blend to the Earl in 1803. This legend seems to have little basis as the Earl apparently did not set foot in China and the use of bergamot to scent tea was then unknown in China. Jackson’s of Piccadilly claim they were the originators of the recipe, which was given to them by the Earl himself.
While the truth is not known, like the very popular Earl himself, this tea is one of the most well known flavored teas in the world. Many people who I chat with over the years claim not to care for the very distinct flavor of Earl Grey. I have found by offering samples of Earl Grey, that most people have never experienced a good quality, loose leaf tea and the quality of both the tea and the bergamot is paramount! Any deviation can result in an unpleasant tea with a residual taste on your palate.
When brewing a hot cuppa Earl Grey, we infuse for only 2 minutes or so, and then enjoy multiple infusions from the same leaves. It is the perfect accompaniment to tea sandwiches and cakes (Mmmm!) but just drinking alone is fine too. ‘Gallivant’ with your Earl, and find your favorite way to enjoy.
Along with the Garden Grey, we offer two version of Earl Grey Black tea, one is our premium blend Earl Grey and we also offer an Organic Earl Grey. Our Organic Earl Grey is the tea we offer in the silk tea sachets and can be found served from nearly all of our serving partners.
You may be surprised to find you like the Earl, now that you know a bit about the man behind the tea.
Tea is a wonderful way to show your love, appreciation, respect or that you are thinking about someone. Perhaps the universal gift, as age, gender, geography, time of year, relationship status or any other boundary can be crossed safely, without confusion. While the gift of tea can be personal, the truth is everybody has a tea they like or love, some just don’t know it yet.
We recently added a Tea of the Month program, either 3 months or 6 months. That got us thinking about “gifting” tea. Here are a few thoughts to consider when giving the gift of tea…
1. Caffeine or Herbal (caffeine-free)
Caffeine is an important consideration, especially sensitive as we are here in Florida. Caffeinated teas are a great way to begin the day or a superb lift in the late afternoon, but to the novice or the beginning tea drinker, caffeine can create problems. A wonderfully flavored black tea like our Organic Strawbango might not be the best tea to drink after dinner. I always ask the server for their home number, when ordering herbal or caffeine free beverages, so if I am awake at 2:30 in the morning, I know who to call. When in doubt, go with an herbal, rooibos or fruit tea. You can’t go wrong with our Organic Peppermint, Selby Select Rooibos or Siesta Tea (fruit tea)
2. Loose leaf tea or teabags
We are quite partial to loose leaf tea at Local Tea Co, tea lovers and experienced tea drinkers tend to prefer a loose leaf tea. The tea typically will be of a better quality, fresher and a much better value. It cost money for the convenience of bagging tea! Loose leaf teas also provides more flexibility in how much tea you might want to brew; tea for two or three or a big pot for your sewing circle. That said, teabags especially biodegradable ones we offer, SOILON sachets, are very convenient for anyone traveling or those interested in trying a new tea. Check out the many options of our tea samplers available in loose leaf or in sachets. If they don’t love the tea, it can always be served to guests when they come over for a cuppa.
3. Flavored tea or and pure blends
Would you rather a gift of Organic Sarasotan Breakfast blend (an unflavored pure blended tea) or our Organic Earl Grey (flavored with the oil of Bergamot), this may be the easiest comparison. Though there are so many spectacular blended teas from our Goji Green or Jasmine green tea with flowers to our Cochin Masala Chai or our many rooibos blends. What is better than a strong cup of pinhead gunpowder green tea or a pure Organic Sencha. Maybe a pot of our ruby Organic Red Berries that you can share with the kids or enjoy as an iced tea later in the day. Tough one, but that is why you are an expert gift giver, and you really can’t go too wrong!!
Is the gift for a serious tea drinker, someone loaded with tea accessories? Do they really need another tea ball with an elf Fob? Go with an expensive porcelain mug with painted flowers. Our cat mugs sold incredibly well at our Selby Gardens Tea Shop, and they still sell floral mugs in the Garden Shop. Or for a more modern gift, one of the newer steep-in-one traveling mugs. There are lots of options for tea lovers, and for the newbie just starting their tea journey, a box of tea bags or a few mesh balls of different sizes or tea spoons will spark a conversation. Or get them an inspired gift, maybe a bamboo tea basket and challenge them to figure it out! And there is also the whole category of things that can be added to tea that make for a wonderful gifts, honey or jams are always welcome.
Most important is not to overthink your gift. The person you are gifting is going to appreciate the gesture you are making, and the thought behind this gift. They will love it as much they love you. Find a clever and creative tea, we recommend our Mable’s Rose Rooibos or the tropical fruity Mote Beach Tea. Find a tea that has some meaning, or to be realistic, something that can easily be ‘Regifted’.
In Florida we never really experience the depth of winter weather that the rest of the US must endure. Consequently we continue drinking iced tea all year round. According to USA Tea Council, 85% of Americans choose to drink their tea iced so there is still a lot of iced tea drunk this time of year. And as Hot Tea month comes to an end, I want to share a great way to make iced tea that it works really well for us at Local Tea Company. We think you will love it too.
Cold brewing loose leaf tea is simple and yields consistent results with little effort involved. This method of brewing is for true teas, it may work for some herbals but in our experience is not a suitable method for making iced Rooibos as this requires hot water to release flavor.
Do not limit yourself to a particular tea. We cold brew black, oolong, green and white tea with equally good results. You may be surprised at an Earl Grey and even our Lapsang Souchong is excellent cold brewed.
Let’s get started.
- Good water always makes a difference. If your local water is heavily contaminated with chlorine this will affect the final taste. Choose filtered water for best results.
- Quality loose leaf tea will give you the best taste but this is also a good way to use tea bags you have had in your pantry for too long. Life is too short to drink lousy tea, so mix and match and use it!
- Next you will need some T Sacs. Put your tea in the T SAC, but don’t pack it too full to allow room for infusion and flavor to release. Use a second T SAC rather than overpacking. A tea maker such as the Timolina or Magic Filter works exceptionally well.
- The quantity of tea will depend on your personal preference but as a guide we use 30gm or around 1 oz of tea per gallon. This works out to a teaspoon for 8-10oz of water in case you are making a smaller quantity. We suggest you try different measurements and times to achieve the taste you like the best.
- Fill a sealed container with cold water and place the T sac with the tea in cold water and then straight into the refrigerator for a period of 10-18 hours or longer. The tea will be deeper in color and flavor if infused for a longer time. Take the tea out of the water after 24 hours as we have found leaving the tea in the container will cause the tea to spoil faster.
This slow, gentle process results in a much smoother, naturally clear, clean and sweet tasting tea that will last for 3 days. Do not be tempted to keep your tea too long and risk the possibility of spoilage. We are confident this is unlikely to happen as you will love the taste so much you will want to drink more!
Make up a gallon right now and enjoy it tomorrow.
“What is the best tea for me to drink?” and then, “What is your favorite tea?”
These are two questions I am asked often when sampling tea at market or Selby Gardens. I find it extremely fascinating to explore and chat about the different taste and enjoyment experience people have when drinking a cuppa. Some thoughts to share on this often complex pastime of drinking tea.
My usual answer to the first question, “What is the best tea for me to drink?” is quite simple, the tea that you like the best!
For me, Green Tea is simply the best tea because of the powerful health benefits associated with drinking green tea. The truth of the matter is that if you really don’t like green tea, the chances are that you will not drink sufficient quantity of green tea to achieve the promised healthy enhancements.
If you prefer a Rooibos tea, then you should drink it because you are certain to drink much more of it. And you will benefit from the high anti-oxidant levels and the unique combination of vitamins and minerals found in Aspalathus linearis. You may prefer a combination of botanical tea and herbals or indeed all herbals. Each tea offers unique health benefits as well as unique flavors, and only you can decide the one you like the best.
Now the second question, my favorite tea, has become quite complicated. I have many favorites and drink different teas at different times of the day.
I describe myself as an Orthodox tea lover and almost exclusively drink loose leaf tea. I just love the taste of Camellia sinensis in all its wonderful forms and natural flavors. I do not need the addition of fruits, flowers or added flavors in order to make tea more palatable or enjoyable because, to me, they mask the true flavor. And I want to taste the true flavor of loose leaf tea. Why only loose leaf tea? See Think Out of the Bag.
That does not mean that I will not drink or appreciate a finely blended tea with quality ingredients such as our Goji Green or Earl Grey (thanks for snapping the fab pix, Alexis Z) which are both perfect for afternoon tea. Also, see my post on Early Grey, Are you Spellbound?
I am now much more sensitive to caffeine and find I must stop drinking true tea around 5.30pm otherwise find myself enjoying my tea all night long!
This has meant a shift to herbals for that time frame. Like Rooibos, Naturally caffeine free Organic Honeybush fits that niche perfectly for me because of soothing and calming qualities.
Since I have been sampling tea to so many tea lovers each week I have come to realize that no two people are alike, regarding their taste in tea. Selby Select is by far our best selling tea and people absolutely love it. Though some people do not care for the flavor of this amazing Rooibos, no matter how high the praise.
MY POINT IS? There is a favorite tea out there for everybody. There is no good excuse for not drinking tea. As I have said before, find what you like and drink lots of it.
The Tea Team
You may have noticed our new mantra, “THINK OUT OF THE BAG”. We have tried it on for a few weeks and think it may be time to provide some details about what we are trying to do at Local Tea Company.
During the course of a typical week we sample teas to many visitors at Selby Gardens and the Downtown Farmer’s Market here in Sarasota. We talk tea, and find many tea drinkers thrilled to engage us with their favorite tea tales. Yes, we love our job.
It comes as no surprise that many people use tea bags. But shocking is how many people have never tasted loose leaf tea. Sad to think so many people are missing out on the wonderfully unique experience of loose leaf tea.
And so, “THINK OUT OF THE BAG” our campaign to encourage people to choose loose leaf tea in place of tea in tired old bags. The sub heading is, “Loose leaf tea is fresher, hipper and just darn better for you”. Our intent is to convert tea bag users to loose leaf tea drinkers through tasting, educating and advocating loose leaf tea one sip at a time.
There are several reasons to choose loose leaf over tea bag tea, and we offer them here. If you, our fellow tea lovers have other reasons we failed to mention, please share…
There is absolutely no comparison. Most bag tea is the lowest grade of tea (dust or fannings) that comes out of the production area. There are of course some exceptions but generally the tea is very small particles and holds little flavor. Every step in the processing of loose leaf tea is designed to enhance the flavor and taste.
There are also some exceptions and just because you buy loose leaf tea does not mean it will be excellent quality. We, and all of our fellow tea enthusiasts search for teas with exceptional freshness, quality and taste, and you should to. We call this our “tea journey”. Loose leaf tea allows you to examine, smell, listen and sample for maximum quality.
Despite what you may assume when first exploring the loose versus tea bag conundrum, loose is more economical. Tea bags are created for one time use! Nearly all varieties of loose leaf tea should be steeped at least twice and some loose leaf teas can be steeped many more times. Work out the math and you will be surprised how little loose leaf costs you per cup.
Loose leaf tea is perfect for brewing a pot of tea to share with others, the starting point for a meaningful conversation. Offering a cup of properly steeped loose leaf tea is a wonderfully kind gesture, hard for anyone to refuse.
Just think how much packaging and bits of string you would save!
Whilst you may still gain some health benefits from tea bags you will gain many more from loose leaf tea. My theory is that you will like the taste better and will WANT to DRINK MORE therefore giving yourself the gift of good health.
Lastly, and for us one of the most important reasons to drink loose leaf tea is the sheer enjoyment it brings into your life. Brewing a pot of tea for one is relaxing and contemplative, watching such majesty. Sharing a pot of tea with a friend is a nod to a more civilised era. The leaves gracefully dance in your pot and tantalize your taste buds with their fresh and fragrant bouquet.
Make time in your life for loose leaf tea and join Local Tea Company in helping all tea lovers to “THINK OUT OF THE BAG”
the tea lady
The past month in the tasting room at Selby Gardens we have had many European visitors, especially British. When they hear me speak we inevitably talk about where we are from and the type of tea we drink.
The choices being PG Tips, Typhoo, Yorkshire, Twinning’s etc. basically all the well known tea bags available. There was also a gentleman who mentioned Brooke Bond which was a real blast from the past! He was married to an American, and lives in Sarasota. His wife sourced the tea for him and he was very pleased.
Anyway, the name Brooke Bond took me on a journey back to the small village in the Yorkshire Dales where I was born and raised. Our little grocery shop, run by Mrs. Gosney had a large metal sign displayed outside in black and red advertising Brooke Bond! Mum sent me to buy tea and I remember Mrs. Gosney using an old fashioned scale with real weights and putting the weighed tea in a brown bag. When I got home mum would transfer the tea to our caddy (which I think was a tin that had once stored candy, probably Liquorices’ Allsorts) I can remember inhaling the most wonderful smell of fresh tea in the caddy. I was touched thinking about how we continue such practices, as I use such a caddy even now!
So where did the name caddy come from? During the early British trading days in Asia, a language called “pidgin English” was created to facilitate commerce. Composed of English, Portuguese and Indian words pronounced in Chinese, “Pidgin” is actually the word which was used for “do business”. The term “caddy” is from the Chinese word for one pound, which was the standard size for a tea container.
We meet such nice people when talk tea. Great stories and legends are exchanged, and memories evoked when we talk about this amazing drink called TEA.
While sampling our iced Earl Grey, a customer told me she had read that Bergamot was bad for you.
How can the most popular flavored tea in the world possibly have an ingredient that is bad for you, I thought? Wanting to prove that theory very wrong I found some interesting facts. Though I’ll tell you about our iced Earl Grey later.
Bergamot is a small, pear shaped citrus native to southeast Asia but now commercially grown in Calabria, Italy. The fruit thrives in the calabrian coast and is the symbol of the region. Like most citrus, I am sure it makes an excellent marmalade, though my Key Lime marmalade would be hard to top, but I digress.
Used in half of women’s perfumes and in aromatherapy to treat depression and aid digestion, I couldn’t find much negative press. Extract from the bergamot plant was used in sunscreens but was banned in 1995, this did not make sense to me, then I found comments that bergamot blocked absorption of potassium in intestines. Why would it be used as a digestive aid then?
I found that various North American plants of the mint family are also called bergamot due to their fragrance. One was used to make a beverage by the American Indian Oswego tribe and was adopted by the 18th century colonists during their boycott of British teas! We won’t get into that now though!
The worst info I found was that Bergamot has been used in Witchcraft. Maybe it cast a spell on all those people who think it is the best tasting tea ever! Are you spellbound?
The Tea Lady