Legend has it that Lord Charles Grey, an Earl who saved the life of a Chinese boy in the 1830s and was rewarded with a tea blend, is the namesake of Earl Grey Tea. Because Lord Grey was also known for his foul odor, the tea was nicknamed “Old Stinky” and is still known by that name. The accuracy of this legend is doubtful for numerous reasons: because the Chinese are known more for their green tea than black tea blends, because there is no record that Lord Grey was ever in China, and because China did not produce bergamot (an ingredient in Earl Grey Tea) at the time of the legend. Like most legends, this one is probably not true, but it is a nice story. [image via flickr]
Modern Earl Grey Tea is a tea blend especially made with the oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange. While the other ingredients may differ, this is the key ingredient that gives Earl Grey its unique flavor. Earl Grey Tea is one of the most popular blends, and is used not only for a steeped beverage, but also as a flavoring in sauces, cakes, and other confections.
The benefits of tea, not only Earl Grey, are numerous. Not least of which is the relaxing feeling one gets from enjoying a cup. Herbal teas tend to be more relaxing, perhaps due to their low caffeine content.
Chamomile tea is believed to help indigestion, insomnia, and nausea. A hot cup before bed is thought to help bring on a deeper and refreshing night’s sleep. Lavender, which adds a slight flowery taste to a tea, is thought to help with anxiety, indigestion, nerves, and headaches. Ginsing is often blended with other ingredients because of its bitter taste. It is believed to relieve insomnia, nerves, and stress. Jasmine is usually mixed with a black tea to add a sweet flavor and aroma. It is the traditional welcoming tea in China.
Perhaps a good part of the relaxing quality of tea is the process of making and enjoying a cup. Waiting for the water to heat up, then adding just the right amount of tea and waiting the perfect amount of time for it to steep. Lastly, sitting down and enjoying a quiet moment: breathing in the soothing fragrance of the tea while slowly sipping it. Making the perfect cup of tea is a practiced art and requires the right timing and measuring. Different blends of tea require adjusted steeping times to fully appreciate their flavors and benefits. When steeping tea, there should be a cover on the pot to prevent the essential oils from escaping.