Year of the Earl: on slacking off

Perceptive followers of the blog will notice that I haven’t posted in um, a little while. I have still been drinking Earl Grey – a lot – but… yeh. The blogging has fallen off as other things have distracted me, and as I’ve mostly-subconsciously rebelled against my self-imposed weekly expectation of tea reviews. Now many of those were written in advance, but nonetheless… it’s got to be an imposition lately, and so I’ve just… not done it.

Oops.

I have been drinking Elmstock Earl Grey at work. It’s pretty close to becoming one of my gold standards for Earl Grey. It’s clearly bergamot-y, but it’s not overwhelming; there’s no oiliness or other unpleasant taste. The leaves are quite small, which does somehow seem to affect the delicateness of the taste… but maybe I’m imagining that and it’s more about the way the bergamot has been used. At any rate, this is an excellent one and I’m very pleased to be drinking it.

I’ve also been drinking Byron Bay Earl Grey, which was sent to me to sample. It’s another in the classic line of Earl Grey: no flowers, nothing but bergamot and leaves. The taste is pretty standard – that is, full-enough flavoured for the Earl Grey lover, not a punch in the face for those unsure.

I have… a few Earl Greys that I still haven’t even tasted, let alone reviewed. So I’ll be trying to get back on that over the next while.

Seven Culinary Wonders of the World

Unknown.jpegThis book was sent to me by the publisher, Murdoch Books, at no cost. It’s out on 1 November; RRP $35.

I was intrigued by the idea of looking at culinary traditions and histories through seven key ingredients, and those chosen here seem quite appropriate. Not comprehensive, since you could argue for others (like corn, or potato, were my first thoughts) but nonetheless widely used in a variety of cultures over the world and with interesting histories attached. Linford’s chosen seven ‘wonders’ are: rice; salt; honey; pork; tomato; chilli; and cacao.

In each chapter, Linford talks a little about the chemistry or something scientific of each ingredient, but that’s not the focus. There’s more about the history, although it’s still very much an introduction – how something like the tomato moved from the Americas to the rest of the world (I love that tomatoes are, relatively speaking, new to Italy), as well as the development and cultivation over time of different types (the ambition to create inedibly hot chilli is completely foreign to me). There’s a fairly wide-ranging look at how different cultures use different ingredients; because this is a relatively short book (about 230 ish pages), this is by no means exhaustive, which may annoy some people if she hasn’t chosen a particular culture. Still, she does talk about the use of chilli, for instance, in Mexican and Indian and Thai and Malaysian and Korean and Chinese and Portuguese and Italian and American (esp Texan) and Hungarian and Spanish cookery. And finally, there are recipes. Again, these are not comprehensive, but there’s no way it could have been. For pork, she has everything from Chinese pork potstickers (dumplings) and char siu to sautéed chorizo with red wine  to glazed ham; for honey, it’s baclava to honey-glazed shallots and grilled goat’s cheese with honey. The recipes are set out nicely on the page, and each one only takes up a page (possibly a requirement in choosing?)

My one reservation with this book is that sometimes the language got repetitive. It’s as though Linford, or her editor, assumed that people would mostly not be reading this straight through (I did), and so they thought that repeating certain key phrases would be both a good and not noticed. I noticed. And while it wasn’t enormous clumps of text that were repeated, it was obvious enough that I got a bit impatient.

Overall this is a nicely-presented book: I love a good hardcover, although I love a cookbook with a ribbon even more! Each chapter has its own colour for the page numbers and the recipe text and the illustrations (there are some nice illustrations throughout – not photos), which is a nice touch. This is a nice book for someone like me who likes the background to ingredients as well as a variety of recipes.

Elmstock Smoky Earl Grey

Another sample from Elmstock. I told you they were generous.

I went into this basically expecting not to like it, which should surprise no one given how I felt about the last smokey Earl Grey. This tea is black tea blended with Lapsang Souchang, and bergamot. When dry, I could smell bergamot along with the bergamot.

4 min steeping as suggested, and no sugar as also suggested in the information about the tea. Once steeped, the smoke was much more obvious than bergamot. In fact, it was so smokey that I could not drink it… and tipped it down the sink. I’m sure that someone who likes Russian Caravan or similar would really like this, but that person is not me.

 

Kappy’s Ceylon Earl Grey

Kappy sent me a few samples, which was super generous. One of those was their Ceylon Earl Grey.

This has a very rich bergamot scent when dry – it’s very pleasant! 3 min steeping and 1/2tsp sugar, it’s not quite as strong when steeped.

It’s a nice tea, although it’s not going to be one of my favourites. It’s a bit more on the savoury side than I had expected from the scent.

Dammann Frères: Earl Grey Kerala

Another gift from Gill! Although this one is not from Fortnum and Mason, but from Dammann Freres, in Paris. SO very fancy. She had many options and went with the Kerala. The website calls it “Bergamot and neroli mingled with a Kerala tea : a highly original combination.” Dry, it smells nice enough, although not very strong.

At first I went with 3 min steeping, but didn’t think it was especially flavourful. So I tried it again at 4 min steeping, which was better. (1/2 tsp sugar both times.)

I don’t know what neroli is meant to taste like; I couldn’t taste anything especially different or interesting along with the bergamot. It’s ok as a tea, but not especially exciting as an earl grey. It’s not overly savoury, nor spicy, and certainly not floral.

Endeavour Earl Grey

I don’t remember where I got hold of this; it might have been at the tea festival some time ago. I like the packaging a lot – Impala and Peacock use similar cardboard tubes and I really like them. So, go Endeavour for that.

4 min steeping as recommended, 1/2tsp sugar. This is one of those earl greys with cornflowers so if that offends, definitely avoid it. Which would be a shame, because this is quite a nice tea. I found the 4 min steeping was a little bitter for me, so I made another cup and brewed it for 3 min, which was much 03-earl-grey-2_1024x1024.jpgmore to my tastes. When brewed that bit shorter, this became a tea that’s high up my list. Very nice indeed.

Fortnum and Mason Countess Grey

I had a feeling that where the Smokey and the Green were not my thing, this would be more up my alley, and I was exactly right. This is a variation on Lady Grey, which I have always loved.

It’s a lovely-looking tea, with flecks of colour. It smells wonderfully orange, with maybe a touch of lemon in there too (except not, according to the F&M notes).

3 min steeping, 1/2 tsp sugar. Smells as good when steeped as it does when dry. The citrus notes are strong but not overwhelming. In all this is truly a splendid tea and if I had easy access to it I would be buying more! I could easily drink this most days.