My favourite cuppa since I can’t remember when is Earl Grey. It’s the tea I start the day with and the tea, up to now, I’ve invariably enjoyed. But recently I’ve bought two packets that have really let me down - one from a company called Miles, the other from the ubiquitous Twinings. Both smelt like Earl Grey but tasted like black tea of the dullest kind.
Fortunately help was at hand in the form of a neighbour, Kate Gover of Lahloo Tea (right at Lido in Bristol) who predictably pointed out I’d get a better result if I used a leaf tea. (Advice, of course, I'm aware of but choose to ignore first thing in the morning.) Most Earl Greys, she told me, are made from pretty low grade teas sprayed with artificial bergamot flavouring - not even real bergamot oil. (Bergamot is a type of orange btw.) Hers is made from second flush Darjeeling, ‘a little bit’ of Assam and ‘the best cold-pressed Bergamot oil I could find'. It certainly smelt heavenly in the tin.
She went through the ritual of heating the pot and steeping the leaves (2 teaspoons for the two of us) for 3-3 1/2 minutes then removed the infuser and poured the tea which she drank without milk and I drank with a splash.
It was very different from the Earl Grey I’m used to - much more delicate and subtle and to be honest I was slightly disappointed at first sip (she says many EG aficionados initially feel the same - I suspect because our palates have been denatured by the artifical flavouring). But it grew on me, especially with an elegant Earl Grey chocolate on which Kate has collaborated with London chocolatier Damian Allsop. And it had a much longer finish and was much more refreshing and invigorating than my usual brew. The problem is that it’s a meditative kind of tea rather than a restorative quick fix which is what you - or rather I - want at 7am.
So I’m still looking. The best teabags I’ve found so far are from Sainsbury’s and a Fair Trade Earl Grey in grey packaging whose name I can’t recall but will post when I next spot it. And Taylor’s of Harrogate, which I’m currently drinking, isn’t bad though even that has ‘natural Bergamot flavour’ which usually means a natural flavouring that tastes of Bergamot rather than one that is derived from it.
Any fellow Earl Grey fans out there? Which brand do you drink or can anyone else recommend another early morning cuppa? And do you use teabags (be honest!)