The Most British Earl Grey. Ever.

The Tregothnan Tea Estate has been home to the Boscowen family since 1335. John de Boscowen Ros married Johan de Tregothnan and moved his estate from Penzance to Cornwall, and – to this day – their descendants still reside there. The estate is famous for its botanical garden, first described in relative detail in 1695; it is the largest such garden in the Cornwall area. In the early 1800s, Camellia plants were introduced to the estate. It was noted later on that they flourished in the Cornish climate. In 2001, the lead gardener wondered if the Camellia sinensis (the tea plant) could succeed there as well. By 2005, the first single estate Tregothnan tea went on sale.

I first caught wind of a British tea estate roughly five years ago – a time before I was even remotely interested in black tea as a beverage. My palate still stuck to the lighter side of safe. White teas were my cup o’ choice. As my tea interests darkened, so did my further digging for unique sources. I sought out teas from interesting parts of India, Nepal, Bolivia, Guatamala, and even the U.S. In this nerdy pursuit, the British-grown teas came back into view.

Image mooched from the Tregothnan site. 🙂

The Tregothnan estate was considered ideal for tea growth because of Cornwall’s similar climate to Darjeeling, India. Since the inception of the Tregothnan brand (the only British-grown brand), several of their wares have entered the market. The expensive all-Brit-grown single estate tea was rare to find, but blended options still existed. The one that really caught my eye was the Tregothnan Earl Grey. In the blend, Cornish-grown black tea was combined with Indian Assam, then scented with Tregothnan estate-grown bergamot oil. By description alone, this was the most British Earl Grey in existence.

In January, I finally found a local distributor of the blend – a tea shop in Plymouth, MA. called All Things Tea. At first, I was leery of making the purchase, having never heard of the shop before. A look up of different reviews quelled my unease. By the end of the month, I bought 2 ounces of the stuff; an ounce for me and an ounce for my mother as a birthday present (she being the one who got me into Earl Grey).

The package arrived today at around noon while I was playing with our behemoth of a dog. I left the Saint Bernard to his own devices as I went inside to sniff the package. It smelled like citrusy heaven – nary a sour track record to speak of, like with some older or poorly-blended Earl Greys. The leaves themselves were jet black, with some browner tips in the mix. The blend didn’t contain any additional garnishes like cornflowers or anything. It was straight tea, which was fine by me.

Brewing instructions were included on the Tregothnan page, and their recommendations were surprisingly light. The most they advised was a steep of two-to-three minutes; water temperature, freshly-boiled. No specifics on amounts, though. I went with 1 heaping teaspoon in 8oz of boiled water.

The liquor brewed to a burly chestnut color with a crisp transparency – in short, it looked gorgeous. The aromatic steam emanating from the mouthpiece smelled of citrus, malt, and only possessed a faint sourness. The taste? Well, I’ve had my fair share of Earl Greys in the last few months, more bad ones than I care to mention. This was a perfect Earl Grey. It was the end-all/say-all. It was balanced between the robust black tea base and the bergamot rind’s loud kick. No battle for flavor supremacy. I did a full-bodied “Yum” and fist-pump. Yes, I get that excited at a perfect cup of tea, don’t judge me.  My only regret is that I wish I had much more of it, and that it was easily accessible.

A second steep yielded an equally robust cup. Not too surprising, considering I didn’t adhere to a stringent brew time. As a matter of fact, I think I left it out for about seven or eight minutes. The result? No bitterness or astringency. The bergamot presence was more diluted, though.

I now have a mission to visit Cornwall and tour this treasured estate. Maybe someday they’ll make a single estate Earl Grey without the blended Assam. For the moment, though, this blend is a perfect substitute.

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Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 Steep Stories

2 Comments to The Most British Earl Grey. Ever.

  1. Sounds great! I can’t wait to try some.

  2. Josh Hawley on February 3rd, 2011
  3. I’ll bring it on the next whatever. 🙂

  4. Geoffrey F. Norman on February 3rd, 2011

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