Rain on a winter day makes my choice of tea quite simple.
It was a rainy day when I was first introduced to English teas. During one Christmas as a child, my family was able to spend our winter holiday in London. Two main points stand out in my memory from that trip – the first was getting lost and separated from my parents in the giant department store of Harrods, the second was drinking my first proper cup of tea.
On Christmas Day, no shops were open and the rain made the city outside entirely unwalkable and miserable. We were silly tourists who didn’t realize that everything closes down on Christmas in London. Eventually we gave up trying to find something to do, resigning to stay inside for the day. Before any of our moods turned sour - particularly mine - we cozied up, ordered room service, and spent our Christmas together in a tiny hotel room.
That room service welcomed me into the world of tea. At the time, I considered the green teas my parents drank as “hot leaf water” and nothing more. Until then, I’d never drank tea with cream and sugar. But there in front of me was a warm, sweet, deep-bodied drink. My little seven-year-old self was convinced; I definitely enjoyed tea.
I think my drink of choice on a bleak day is still a black English tea, especially Earl Grey. Lovely to have a drink for an indoor day, since it’s been raining a lot these past few weeks.
The name “Earl Grey” has little to do with the type of leaf used in the tea, but in the flavoring of the tea. Earl Grey is flavored with oils that come from bergamot rinds, a citrus fruit grown in Calabria, Italy and in some regions of France. A cross between orange and lemon, with flavors of lime and grapefruit, bergamot is truly a hybrid fruit that lends itself magically to create the distinct Earl Grey.
The tea was popularized by the royal family, Earl and Lady Grey, who served the tea among Britain’s elite and at diplomatic events. However, it is worth noting that many of the black teas used in Earl Grey are sourced from Indian, Chinese, or African blends. Specifically, the bergamot and black tea combination came from experimentation with teas in China to create blends that would appeal to trade with the West. Earl Grey, as classically British as it is, is also a result of many facets of globalization coming together to bring the tea to England in the 17th century.
This little one wanted to be on camera, too :-)
Earl Grey is no exception to the health benefits of teas. It contains antioxidants that help with heart health and detoxifying the body of pollutants, anti-inflammatory properties that aid with digestion, fluoride to protect teeth, and a decent amount of caffeine to buoy energy levels just slightly.
Since converting to tea back on that rainy London holiday, I still love a good cup of Earl Grey. I was often experimenting with different combinations of Earl Grey with other teas while working at Coffee Lab, since all our blends are loose leaf. I would put a bit of Peppermint or Chamomile to add some extra coziness to my drink. Sometimes, though, classic is simply the way to go.
The key for me with Earl Grey is to get as much flavor from the tea as I can - I probably steep it for too long, honestly. I squeeze out all the tea that can be extracted, then add enough cream for a beautifully light milky color. I want all the flavors - the fruitiness of the bergamot, sweetness of the cream, and enough strength from the black tea to carry it all. A wonderful parcel for a rainy day when my feet are cold, and my soul feels a bit dampened.
A warm cup of milky tea certainly helps welcome in the winter rain without too much fuss or gloom. We can sip away as cold settles into the air and keep our bellies and our spirits warm. And especially when times are heavy, we all deserve a cup of tea.
About our Tea Writer
Alumnus at Northwestern University
Writer at Ignitus Digital Evanston
Blogger for Coffee Lab Evanston
hobbies: drinking tea, wiggling to music, naming plants after food