Earl Grey

Beer. Earl Grey. Cold

Before I moved to my current location, I resided in a quaint little ‘burb on the outskirts of Beaverton, OR. All the houses dated back to the late 1940s, and were small familial dwellings. I didn’t associate much with the neighbors. They only saw me on the rare times when I walked my brother’s dog or came out to get mail in my pajamas. Yep, I was “that guy”.

However, one particularly social neighbor – the one that gifted me with some Ethiopian tea a few months later – put it upon himself to host regular neighborhood parties. My favorites? The monthly beer-themed bro-parties. Each month had a theme, and the attendants were tasked with bringing beers matching that theme for the rest of the class. The result? Well, naturally, some drunkenness.

The exception to the thematic rule was homebrewers. If you were awesome enough to brew your own beer and share it, you could bring whatever the heck you wanted. A friend of my neighbor’s was one such guy. Since I’m not sure how publicly he wants his name known, I’ll simply refer to him as JK. (Those were his initials, honest.)

I don’t recall what beer theme it was the day JK showed up, only that he brought a few of his homemade wares. The first of which he introduced rather bashfully as, “It’s a weird one. I used Earl Grey tea.”

That mention made me sit up instantly.

For the next hour or so, as he was passing the bottles around, I picked his brain on the process he used. It was a beer he called “The Kaiser of Earl”, which consisted of Pilsner extract, East Kent Hops, and Crystal Malt. In short, a pale ale recipe, but with the added benefit of 2oz. of Earl Grey tea leaves. More leaves were also added to a secondary fermentation process.

What can I say? The beer was gorgeous to look at. The liquor color wasn’t just amber, but crimson. The aroma was crisp and citrusy, the head was foamy and thick, and it poured beautifully. On taste, it was…well…criminy, it was an Earl Grey beer! I’d tried two or three different Earl-infused ales before. None of them ever retained the bergamot – not a one. This had the sour citrus rind throughout the palate. It was like drinking a pale ale infused with Earl Grey concentrate.

For what it’s worth, I resisted for a good four hours before I played the “beer blogger card”, and asked if I could do a feature on it. JK was happy to oblige me by saying he’d provide bottles for sampling the next time we met. Such an opportunity wouldn’t come about, though, for a few months.

In the interim, I’d forgotten all about the offer he made and continued my tea-beer quest as best I could. It seemed no matter how hard I tried, I was always one week off from seasonal tea-beer availability. Pyramid had a Chai wheat…but I was too late. Stone Brewing had two different sencha seasonals, but I found ‘em nowhere near my berg. The only available tea-beers were ones I already tried.

In the Spring, JK showed up to another party. Again, I forget what the theme was. (Stupid beer brain.) He gifted me with three bottles of the Earled brew. I caressed them lovingly, and stuck ‘em in the back of the fridge, waiting for a special time to break ‘em in.

I guess the special occasion I settled on was “Shitty Tuesday at Work”, and I broke open the 22oz. bottle with zeal. It tasted just as good as I remembered, if not more full-bodied. Not sure why; just more citrusy somehow.

In true me-like fashion, I delayed doing a write-up on the Kaiser of Earl. Weeks turned to a month. A month turned to…several months. Before I knew it, the summer was almost over. Even after all that time, though, I still remember that beer rather fondly. Like stupefied – but approving – Picard.

Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 Beverage Blog 4 Comments

F**k Flavored Matcha

First, let me go on record by saying: “I am not against flavored tea!”

As a well-versed/rehearsed Earl Grey drinker, I can’t say I’m above a little dash of something extra. Some of the best teas I’ve tried have fallen under the “flavor”-ful moniker. Granted, I’m more prone to traditional(-ish?) approaches to scenting teas rather than the addition of gobs of extract. (And if it’s aged in an alcohol barrel, I’m all over that shit.) However, there is one recent abomination that I have to draw the line on.

Flavored matcha.

I noticed the trend back in the fervor of my reviewing days. It seemed like something that would be a passing gimmick. The first I ever ran across was a strawberry-flavored matcha. It was…vaguely strawberry-ish, and even possessed strawberry seeds in the powder. Did I prefer it to regular matcha…oh heck, no. The second one I tried was a blueberry matcha, and it had no flavor at all.

But it got worse.

In the ensuing year, other flavors began cropping up. Caramel, banana, lavender, cheesecake (!!!), chocolate, vanilla derp-dee-derp and…maple syrup?! That was the final straw. Maple syrup-flavored anything is a gateway drug – one that leads to bacon. Yes, folks, you heard this prediction here first. We are a mere flavor agent away from having a bacon matcha!!!

Granted, to some of you, that doesn’t seem like a bad thing…but ask yourself this: Do you really want green tea with your bacon?

That is my limit. I can’t take it anymore. Matcha is a ceremonial beverage, one that induces a feeling of calm when it’s prepared. It doesn’t necessarily have to be prepared correctly – just to the drinker’s liking. As long as it is still matcha, then I have no qualm. But I’m putting my snobby foot down at flavoring the damn thing.

Tea leaves are universally known for being able to pick up flavor from either (a) the surrounding environment or (b) surrounding ingredients. Rose-scenting, jasmine-scenting, osthmanthus-scenting, masala-ladening – these are all very common and ancient practices. But have you heard someone say, “Do you know what this powdered green tea needs? Cheese. It needs cheese.” The closest thing we have to natural dairy tea is milk oolong, and it should bloody well stay that way!

I’m willing to give a pass on the existence of matcha blends, though. Case in point: Green tea powder blended with goji berry or acai. Those fruits can best be had in powdered form, anyway. Even better? Matcha blended with actual useful herbs like Gymnema sylvestre (the “sugar-destroyer” herb) or lemongrass. Those work! I’ve had ‘em.

In the end, I guess I just want one thing that’s left untouched. One thing that is still sacred and sucrose-less. If I have to, I’ll horde the good stuff to make sure that it remains pure. Because some powders are worth saving.

Fuck flavored matcha.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, October 15th, 2012 Steep Stories 1 Comment

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011 Steep Stories 3 Comments

I work for tea money.


March 2018
« Nov