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20090121

Earl Grey's Secrets Revealed

Star Trek fans will remember that starship Captain Jean-Luc Picard - the Frenchman with the strangely British accent - was a devotee of Earl Grey tea. But what is Earl Grey tea and who was Earl Grey?

Traditionally, Earl Grey tea is black tea flavoured with oil of Bergamot. The term "black tea" does not refer to tea made without milk. Black tea is a preparation of tea leaves made by oxidising the leaves (a process called "fermentation"). Black teas are the most common variety although green teas (made by drying tea leaves without fermentation) are gaining in relative popularity.

Oil of Bergamot is made by extracting the natural aromatic oils from the peel of Bergamot Oranges which originate from Italy. Incidentally, the same oils form the basis of Eau de Cologne.

The tea's name comes from its original patron, the 2nd Earl Grey, Prime Minister of Britain from 1830 until 1834. There are fanciful legends surrounding how the Earl was introduced to Bergamot Oil flavoured tea but the truth is lost in history. What is known is that the Earl held the tea in high regard and instructed his tea merchants - Twinings - to come up with a formulation of their own.

Earl Grey tea has been continuously popular from the 19th all the way through to the 23rd Century in tearooms from England to the furthest reaches of outer space.

How to make a great cup of Earl Grey tea
There are two ways to make a cup of Earl Grey tea.
  1. Warm a good old Brown Betty teapot, add one teabag per cup then pour on boiling water and steep for at least three minutes. Make sure the water is really boiling - this means at 100degC - when it comes into contact with the tea. This is the approved method.
  2. Plonk a teabag into a cup of hot water. You will get a hot drink, but the tea god will send a swarm of his screaming demons to fill your world with nightmares. You have been warned.

Add tea to milk, or milk to tea?
Most British people drink their tea with milk. You can either put a little milk in the teacup and then pour in the tea, or you can pour the tea first, then add the milk. Traditionally, the upper classes added the milk last while the commoners put the milk in the cup first. If the milk is added first it dissolves in the tea. If the milk is added to the tea it forms a suspension.

Unashamed advertising

Blightys online tea shop at: www.blightys.com/TeaShop.html is now open. At Blighty's Tuck Store we have 16 feet of shelf space dedicated to imported British teas and every one of them is now available to online shoppers. Stop by today and grab a great cuppa.

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