It’s hard to believe that 46 years have passed since James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock first started their five-year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations. I was young enough to be a Chekov fan then. Then came Star Trek – Next Generation. Jean-Luc Picard and Will Riker expanded the galaxy even more. Not only that, but Captain Picard reintroduced me to tea, specifically Earl Grey.
Growing up I shared Bigelow Constant Comment and Plantation Mint with my mother. My grandmother drank Lipton. If I was lucky in the summer we found Plantation Mint instant and had iced tea. Once I got to college, however, there were a lot of “all-nighters” studying for nursing exams and writing a 32 page paper for each patient I would be caring for – 4 a week, plus term papers, and the other classes. I needed caffeine. Lots of caffeine. The sorority house where I was a dormie – they didn’t have enough sisters to fill the rooms – always had a coffee pot full. Granted it could be 15 hours old, but it was coffee. And when I began my nursing career, there was coffee in the unit kitchen. And when anesthesia school started and we attended EVERY delivery – that’s when a lot of them occurred in the middle of the night – and took call – well, you grabbed what was there quickly. It was that pot of 15 hour-old coffee. I learned to drink coffee hot or tepid or cold.
But, there was Jean-Luc Picard. Walking up to a wall and saying “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHsgt4NN9GA in case you’ve forgotten. And I became intrigued. Just who was Earl Grey and why did he have a tea named after him? And what did it taste like?
The Earl Grey that the tea is named for was the 2nd Earl and he was a British Prime Minister in the 1830’s. He received a gift of black tea flavored with Bergamot oil, which is from an Italian orange. According to one legend, a grateful Chinese mandarin gave it to him after one of the Earl’s men saved his son from drowning. This is highly unlikely as the Chinese did not know about Bergamot oil. Jacksons of Piccadilly claim to have invented the recipe and have had it in constant production since. The Grey family says the tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Lord Grey, to suit the water of Howick Hall, the ancestral Grey home. The bergamot was to offset the lime in the local water. Lady Grey used the blend to entertain her London guests and it was so popular she asked if it could be sold to others, which is how Twinings came into the picture.
Earl Grey tea is not only good as a drink, but has been used as a flavoring for many types of cakes, chocolate confections and even in savory sauces. Here at the store Inggrie of TehKu Teas has blended Earl Grey and added mallow flowers. Earl Grey de la Crème. My favorite. Of course, now , the doctors say I have to limit caffeine.
So, thank you, Jean-Luc, for reigniting my love of tea and expanding my horizons.