Hello lovely people – today I’m going to talk to you about tea. First, I have a confession to make: for most of my life I did not know how to make a good cup of tea. Correction: I did not know how to make a cup of tea…period. To be fair, I come from a family where tea drinking means filling a mug with sottish water, and taking a generic teabag, and dunking it in – maybe one, two, three seconds max – if you’re feeling crazy – and then, you stick an ice cube in it, because you can’t wait for it to actually cool down slowly…We’re American – we want to drink our NOW!
Maybe…maybe I should cut them some slack, because I do come from a family that hails from the peasant mountains of southern Italy, where there’s not a lot of tea drinking going on. Irony of ironies though, is that I’m married into a British family where you can’t start the day without a cup of tea. Aaa cup of ..? Sorry…MANY cups of tea. So I’ve learned some things along the way.
Black tea flavored
But before I share these tips and tricks on how to make the perfect cup of tea, I want to talk about what’s in my mug right now. Earl Grey…Okay, so Earl Grey is one of the world’s most popular flavored teas, and it’s also one of my favorites. And as I was researching Earl Grey, I came upon so many fascinating personal connections I have to this tea. So, what is Earl Grey? Earl Grey is black cup of tee, or a blend of black tea flavored with bergamot oil. Bergamot is a citrus in the sour or bitter orange family, and it has a really fragrant essential oil that comes from its rind,which is used in fragrances, and soaps, and things like that.
But it’s also fundamental to foods like Earl Grey. Now here’s the crazy part, guys: 80 to 90% of bergamot is grown in Calabria, which is southern Italy – the very toe of the boot – the part that just about kisses the coast of Sicily, right on the strait of Messina. This is exactly where my family is from. I still have family that live today in the epicenter of this region, which is Reggio, and I have been there – I have been to this coastline, and this is where most of the bergamot grows! In fact there is a family story that I have,where my grandmother lived on the edge of a citrus grove, and I’m dying to know if in that citrus grove was bergamot.
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I’ll never know – she’s no longer with us but I kind of like to think that that’s you know why I love this so much -that maybe that bergamot actually kind of flows in my veins…Okay so who was Earl Grey? Was there an Earl Grey? The answer is yes – there was. He was the second Earl Grey. His name was Charles Grey, and he was an English prime minister.
In fact, he is most notable for his government abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire, and there’s lots of stories and myths about why this tea is named after him, but the most plausible is that a diplomat, perhaps a Chinese diplomat presented him with a special blend of tea that was scented with bergamot, and he loved it so much that he would…he and his wife would serve it to guests, and it just sort of snowballed from there. English merchants started making it, and named it after him, and here we are todayin 2017 – it’s more popular than ever.
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Thanks, Earl Grey! So like I said, the essential thing to Earl Grey is that it’s tea blended with bergamot oil, and everybody does it a little bit differently. My favorite is Harney & Sons, which is what is in my cup right now, and I discovered Harney & Sons when I was living in New York, newly married. My husband and I went into a specialty food shop, and we found a tin of their tea and loved it. It was so good that we just assumed it was British – but they’re American! They’re an American tea company, but they make full-bodied strong lovely teas. Trending Stories
So when I wanted to make a tea article, they were the first people that I thought of to partner with. They actually make a variety of Earl Greys – ones that are more citrusy, ones with rose petals, one made with white tea…and that’s on top of the dozens and dozens of other teas they make beyond Earl Grey. Okay, so how do you make the perfect cup of tea? Let’s go to the kitchen and get brewing.
Okay, so today I’m going to focus on making tea from teabags – because let’s be honest, most of us make tea from teabags (even the British…)I do love a pot of loose-leaf tea, and I do luxuriate in one on the weekends, but for today we are going to focus on teabags.
And really all these rules kind of apply to a tea pot as well. So first thing you want to do is to warm your vessel, which simply means your mug or your teapot, whatever you’re using. Because think about it – when you want to start brewing, put the hot water on the tea, you don’t want the mug to absorb all of that heat away.
You want the vessel to be warm to start so let’s get some water. Just a little bit – swirl it around – see that steam? We want heat. Okay, I’m gonna set it aside while it warms up, and we’ll talk about the tee bags. So most of the tea bags that you can get from the grocery store looks something like this. Right? That is tea dust, not really tea leaves.
There’s just no space for whole leaves anymore, but a lot of quality tea comes in larger sachets that can hold loose leaf tee, so that you can brew it with better flavor and aroma. See that? so if you can get a hold of something like this, it really makes a difference. We’re going to dump this water out, because we don’t want it anymore – it’s not a boiling point – and we’re going to talk about why that’s important.
Okay, that’s nice and hot I’m ready for us. But first we have to talk about something that’s absolutely essential: boiling water. To get a strong full bodied cup of tea, you need boiling water. Notice I didn’t say boiled, boiled 30seconds ago, boiled a minute ago – boiling, actively boiling, bubbling, steaming water has to hit that tee to unlock all the flavor in those dried tee leaves. I use an electric kettle, and you just stand by and wait for that click. Give it a little stir, and then here’s the part that tests your patience – you wait and you let it brew.
Now the brewing time is often indicated on the packaging so this particular Earl Grey says to steep for five minutes. Guys, five minutes is going to feel like a very long time but it’s worth it. Go by the recommendation – that is going to bring out all of the flavor. You know, I read a great George Orwell piece on making the perfect cup of tea, and he wrote this in the 1940s during World War II, and he said that even in a time of rationing, it is better to drink one strong cup of tee than 20 weak ones – he was talking about steeping.
Okay, time to take the teabag out. This is a pivotal time, because a lot of people think to make a strong cup of tea they just leave the teabag in there as long as possible, but what happens is that it over steeps, and instead of eking out flavor, you’re going to get bitterness, because tea has tannins, just like when you eat grapes, that grape skin sort of dry mouth feel – those are tannins, and tea has them, and that’s where the bitterness comes from. So rather than just brew your tea forever and ever, put two tea bags in, brew it at the five, four, three minute recommended brewing time,and then take them both out.
Okay, so now we enter a really controversial territory here. How do you…ooh…did you see that…? make a mess…Tea purists are going to depart with me on this, and we can all duke it out in the comments below, but I like my Earl Grey with milk and sugar, and if you do too, then you should know that the milk goes in after the tea is brewed – not before the tea is brewed. Because you don’t want to add cold milk to your mug before adding the hot liquid -that’s just silly.
The other advantage of putting in your milk at the end, is that you can see the color of the tea – you don’t have to guess how much milk to put in first, and ruin a perfectly good cup of tea that way. Now if you are like me and you drink milk in your tea, just do yourself a favor, don’t use skimmed milk,use semi skimmed milk, or use whole milk like I do – you need a full bodied milk to stand up to the flavor of the tea.
Yes don’t forget to put crushed ginger. The moment we’ve all been waiting for – time to have a cup of tea! I have to say it’s a pretty outstanding cup of tea. So if you’d like to try my favorite tea or any of the other ones that Harney & Sons makes, I have an exclusive discount link in the description below, and leave me a comment while you’re at it – how do you like to make your tea? What’s your favorite tea? Do you like a Earl Grey as much as me? So get the kettle on, hit that subscribe button, and watch some more True Food article!