Meet the Earl and his many shades of grey

Would you believe that the Queen of England, the fictional character, Jean-Luc Picard and I have something in common? Yes, indeed! We all proclaim our preference for Earl Grey tea!

Earl Grey tea has a very distinctive flavor. In fact, the more I talk tea with people the more I hear from them about their likes and dislikes in the realm of tea. The conclusion, you either love Earl Grey or you don't! But I continue to test this theory and offer tea tastings of my favorite blend.

If you've never tried this particular tea blend, let me take a moment to describe it to you. Earl Grey tea is a blend of black tea, usually an Assam with bergamot.  This is a type of citrus that originated in Italy and is believed to be a cross between a lime and a sour orange. The rind of bergamot contains a large amount of essential oil. This is then infused with the Assam tea, giving the tea a pungent distinctive flavor.

In the past, Earl Grey tea, named after Charles Grey, Second Earl Grey, British Parliamentarian, Reformer, and Abolitionist was a stand alone blend. Now, tea blenders are bringing this tea to new heights by adding flavors and colors! These new shades of Earl Grey widen the palate of the blend and can turn those nay-sayers into sippers.

When looking at these new shades you may find  a Lady Grey blend typically has less bergamot and adds a touch of lemon to the tea. 

Lady Lavender Grey, adds a touch of lavender to the tea, rounding out the bergamot with the lavender. 
Dowager Countess Grey lightens the tea blend with a fruity note of raspberry. 
The Earl's Finest is an Earl Grey lover's tea, with an extra punch of bergamot!

All these different shades of Earl Grey tea blends have something in common, they are best sipped without the addition of milk. Sugar may be added, but in most cases, you'll find it isn't necessary.

Experiment with the steeping time as you enjoy your tea, note the subtlety of the citrus flavor changes and the presence of the black tea comes to the forefront as the steeping time increases. I prefer my steeping time at 3.5 minutes, but then I do not like to drink a bitter cup of tea! 

For those of you who just adore this fine tea blend, you can rejoice in the fact that it is widely used to bake with! Yes, the tea can be added to give zing to shortbread, The infused tea leaves can also be ground into a fine powder and be added to chocolates, salad dressings and more!

Are you an Earl Grey fan? Have you tried it in your recipes?