All the Tea in China

My lovely tea mug and tea, a gift from Joel and Alicia.

One of my Christmas lists this year included Earl Grey Tea. On a recent trip to Spain in one of the flats we rented there was a box of Twinings Earl Grey in the kitchen cupboard and we helped ourselves. It had been a long time since I had it but with the first sip I remembered how much I liked it. My first discovery of EG was a mistake (grabbing an individually wrapped tea bag without checking the label) and I was surprised at the citrus flavor ..... wasn't sure if I was even going to finish the cup! But it grew on me and now I think it is delightful (makes me feel British!) As a result of my wish list I found a tea infusion cup and Lavender Cream Earl Grey from the Tea Brewery under the tree. I just had my first cup and it was deeeeelish!

As I enjoyed this aromatic treat I began thinking about who this Earl Grey guy was (assuming he was a Brit likely involved in the tea business in someway). In my research I discovered that there are several theories about the Earl, who was the PM in the 1830's. One is that he received this special blend of tea as a gift from a grateful Chinese Mandarin as a thank you for saving his son from drowning. Another was that the tea was brewed with the addition of Bergamot oil (from Bergamot oranges) to offset the presence and taste of lime in the water at the home of the earl. It was also mentioned that the addition of Bergamot oil was added to lesser quality black tea in order to improve the flavor. In any case .... this delicious beverage became popular and, for whatever reason, know as Earl Grey tea.

A demonstration at a "traditional tea ceremony" in China (Paul and Ross on the right).

Tea has a long and interesting history that would take the rest of my days to research. But in a nut shell, it began in China around the third century BC after a Chinese Emperor had insisted that all his subjects must boil their water before drinking it. As the legend goes, a few leaves blew into his bowl of hot water changing the colour and taste. As he drank it he was impressed by the restorative qualities and flavor that he experienced and I guess the rest is history. In the photo, above I attended a "traditional tea ceremony" in China in which we discovered that it is polite (in fact expected) to slurp loudly!

My research also pointed out that the British were responsible for introducing tea to India.  Tea first came to Britain when Charles the second married a Portuguese princess who brought it to court where it was a big hit. The Brits began growing it in India in order to break the monopoly that China had on the tea trade. When I was living in Bangladesh (a country that used to be part of India) tea was a staple. On our travels to Sri Lanka, home to the famous Ceylon Tea, we learned that the British had originally tried to grow coffee there. However, after a crop failure, they tried tea and and have been growing it ever since!

Well, we could go on about tea forever, but I think I'll stop, click "publish" and bubble up the kettle for another "cuppa"!


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