A Proper Cup of Earl Gray

January 13, 2010

It has been a cold winter in Iowa. Cold as in negative degrees–before wind chill!  I know, I know, everyone north of my humble state is surely rolling their eyes and snickering at my thin-skinned fragility. Yes, It could be a lot worse. I do recognize that  Iowa is considered pretty mild in comparison to, oh say, the Yukon, Siberia or Antarctica.

But still, I don’t think I was bred for this weather, and as a result, coping mechanisms have developed.  Among them: napping for hours at length under a down comforter, wearing long underwear, and drinking ridiculous amounts of tea. Hence today’s post:

A proper cup of Earl Gray.

Now, I must first admit that it wasn’t always a favorite.  Earl Gray was the one tea that seemed to be present at every hotel breakfast, business meeting, or conference I ever attended–right next to the imitation coffee and non-dairy powdered creamers.  Not only that, but it was almost always the last man standing in the tea basket, which is rarely a good sign. As for myself, my personal pleasure was something fruity, herbal, and preferably sweet. Earl Gray did not fit this profile. But being an occasional late-comer to meetings, I often found my beverage options limited to the imitation coffee or Earl Gray, and because I had more reservations regarding the fake than the bitter, Earl Gray it was. I drank it down to the dregs, but every astringent gulp produced an equally bitter grimace. Not exactly an ideal start to one’s day.

Years later, as fate would have it, the once less-than-pleasing Earl Gray, has gained not only my favor, but my devotion.  I attribute this entirely to a small tea shop here in Des Moines, Gong Fu Tea, that taught me how to properly brew most of my teas. And today I pass along to you the proper brewing of Earl Gray. I hope it makes you and your winter feel a little warmer.

A proper cup of Earl Gray:

First, toss out the old twinning tea bags, and go on a hunt for some decent loose-leaf. Don’t know where to look? Check out Gong Fu Tea’s site (linked above), or this one.

Next, be sure you have something that can hold the loose-leaf. This can be a tea bag created for loose-leaf, a loose-leaf teapot, a tea globe, cheese cloth, a coffee filter, or whatever you have that can work in a pinch.

Lastly: use filtered water.  The impurities in your tap water can easily alter the flavor of tea, especially the more delicately flavored varieties.

Heat your water to boiling in your teapot.  Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool to around 208 F, this shouldn’t take much time at all.  Pour the hot water over your tea, whether it be in a pot or cup, and steep for 2 minutes.  This steeping time and temperature should work well for most black teas.  Remove the tea leaves, and then revel in wonder at your glorious cup of tea.

Thats it? Yep, thats it. It isn’t exactly rocket  science, but for those of us who tend to steep our teas into bitter oblivion, this may be a revelation.


One Response to “A Proper Cup of Earl Gray”

  1. Kathy said

    I love your “last man standing in the basket” word picture. This is enlightening. I have never ventured to try another cup of Earl Grey due to the yucky bitter taste I experienced.

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