“Simple pleasures…are the last refuge of the complex.” ~Oscar Wilde
Over the years I have come to enjoy many different brews of tea. I tend to prefer a strong black tea at breakfast, but often choose a milder-flavored, scented tea in the afternoon. A perfumed variety is perfect with dessert.
I don’t often have macaroons, but my son brought back a box of the “real deal” French macarons from Paris that tasted marvelous and were pretty as a picture. I had the same trouble deciding which one to try first as I do when I open a box of chocolates.
(Check out the “true story of the Laduree macaron“ and the list of shops around the world. Unfortunately there’s only one shop in the US — 864 Madison Avenue, New York City. I wholeheartedly agree with Laduree’s philosophy: “We firmly believe that a weakness for sweets is a noble approach to everyday living.”)
The first “exotic” tea I ever drank (exotic meaning anything other than English or Irish Breakfast, Lipton’s orange pekoe, and the fruit and spice Constant Comment) was Twinings Earl Grey. What was that flowery scent?
The authentic flavoring comes from the oil of the bergamot, a type of orange tree from Calabria, Italy. The best Earl Grey teas are loose leaf and flavored with this oil. Organic black tea leaves from the Yunnan Dian Hong province in China are hand blended with bergamot essence in small batches to maintain the flavor that is often lost in larger, mechanical processes.
Black teas from China vary significantly depending on geography, climate, plant variety, and the technique of processing. (Check out Rishi Tea’s Earl Grey Supreme made from the Yunnan Dian Hong province leaves and the first-pressed natural oil of the bergamot fruit. Rishi’s teas are organic and fair trade certified. The Tao of Tea also offers an organic Earl Grey with the natural bergamot essence.)
Once I discovered bergamot I planted the herb variety (orange/bergamot mint) in my garden. A few leaves added to hot or iced tea provide a hint of the citrus flavor. The leaves fresh or dried are also good in fruit salads or to add flavor to chicken or pork dishes. Bergamot grows well in a pot and will spread easily when planted in the garden. It is also perennial and comes back more robust every spring.
I developed the British tradition of afternoon tea years ago when I worked for an international organization where few people took morning coffee breaks, but almost everyone took an afternoon break for tea. This is still one of my favorite times of day, though I rarely have tea with crumpets or macarons. Chocolates will do in a pinch. Or chocolate chip cookies. Or croissants. Or…