Smoky Earl Grey - Fortnum & Mason

Smoky Earl Grey - Fortnum & Mason

Postby NYC_Correspondent-tm » Wed Feb 11, 2015 8:13 pm

By simple virtue (or vice) of being a yank, my tea credentials are admittedly limited. That being said, I have enjoyed the beverage and the ritual surrounding since I was young - my world-traveling father would bring home teas from all over, and we kept a nice collection in the house. Then I was rotted with Lipton and Tetley for awhile. Horrifying stuff even when I did not know much. But as I aged (and stopped drinking booze), I found myself revisiting various teas, both for flavor and as a caffeine alternative. I had this ex-junkie girlfriend for a hot minute who collected teas, and worked in some lovely tea shop in the San Francisco area before I met her. (Her rituals had been transferred from cooking dope, and I was mesmerized watching her prepare the concoction.) She turned me on to flowering balls, complex varieties of greens, ones that tasted slightly metallic under the tongue, ones that stored packets of spice that filtered through my sinuses over time.

Regardless of my sentimental experiences, though, I still maintain just an amateurish palate. It is with this limited palate and sensibility that I entered legendary Fortnum and Mason in London a few years ago. Upon delving in, I melted down into a childish Disneyland innocence when first noting the wooden containers and the glass cases containing rare teas, in muted tones at extraordinary prices. I wandered through, sniffing and snortling, ditzy from the combination of regal opulence, the similarly self-serious store attendees, both juxtaposed with the endless array of fragrant dried plant earthiness. Having a narrow budget, I sought something that would be representative, simple, and serviceable for daily use. That's when I came across the house Smoky Earl Grey. I picked up a tin and read the label. The script blew praise on itself for its combination of Bergamot, Lapsang, and Gunpowder Green, and historically noting that it was, for a time, the only Earl Grey that the store offered. I was intrigued, having been won over in past years by the tarry campfire tones of Lapsang, and at that point, was a daily Earl Grey drinker (my previous Earl Grey love was a lavender one made by Pete's coffee in the San Francisco area (a store that has in its legacy the spin-off Starbucks)). So I bought it. I was not disappointed.

I am sipping a cup right now, staring out onto the disgustingly dirtied ice and snow glistening ever so slightly in the heat-absent winter sun (ice and snow, it turns out, are excellent packages for capturing during freezing, the tantalizing mixture of water and filth that forms the basic constructs of New York streets). The setting is a good one for this tea in particular. The smokiness is not as strong as I would have maybe liked. (I actually constructed my own blend at one point back after running out of the F&M, mixing an overload of Lapsang.) But it tempers what I find to be sometimes cloying about overstated bergamot in other blends. There is a depth too to this, a richness that works because of the additional Gunpowder merging with the Lapsang. As a result no single flavor is overpowering. Rather, it is a truly decent blend, with the still existing top notes of citrusy bergamot singing rapid fire in flute-like timbres over the fuller, but not bottom heavy Lapsang and Gunpowder. It is not perfect, but it is my favorite daily. (and more than once it has sufficed for a non-alcoholic aphrodisiac.) When I run out, I beg my friends and travelers in London to bring me back a tin, having habituated my tastes and body to the afternoon textures and warmth.

I'll refrain for now from my opinions of the floor workers at F&M, other than saying that they miss the point, substituting uptight snobbery for refinement, unlike the teas they carry.
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Re: Smoky Earl Grey - Fortnum & Mason

Postby CAP » Thu Feb 12, 2015 6:15 am

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Re: Smoky Earl Grey - Fortnum & Mason

Postby Dave Death » Fri Feb 13, 2015 1:01 pm

I wonder what you would think of their 'Russian Caravan': ... n-tea.aspx

I bought a pouch of it by another manufacturer and it wasn't a taste I could acquire, reminding me not pleasantly of bonfire smoke and burnt bacon.
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