Metolius Tea is obsessed with Earl Grey. Since the beginning, we’ve worked to outdo our own recipes with better sources and finer tuned proportions. We are so excited to release the next level.
Here’s how it started: in the last year or so, we befriended some lovely people from Yunnan, China and we tasted a lot of artisan crafted black teas from small, high end farms. In pursuit of our dream earl grey, we paired these teas, singly and in combinations, with bergamot and vanilla bean. Finally, we selected three farms who produce incredible teas, filled with depth, body, maltyness with no bitterness, and just a little taste of wild. Glinting with large gold buds, this class of tea yields a simultaneous feeling of calm and wakefulness: truly an artisanal experience.
In addition to our new black teas, we use farm-direct organic bergamot oil. While many tea companies use synthetic (artificial or natural) flavoring instead of the proper and far more expensive true bergamot, we use the real deal. We decipher Italian invoices and convert Euros on price quotes. The bergamot comes in large steel cylinders padded with Italian newspapers. It’s fun working with so many different cultures around the world! Real bergamot oil, extracted from the rind of a fruit similar to a grapefruit, is naturally both citrusy and slightly bitter. Bergamot calms the nervous system and stimulates the digestive system.
We balance the true bergamot with equally true vanilla. Instead of using vanilla flavoring or extract, or no vanilla at all, we go straight for the good stuff: the orchid fruit, pure Madagascar vanilla bean.
Finally, we decorate with bachelor’s buttons. A lot of people think the bergamot flavor comes from the blue flowers, but the bachelor’s buttons are only “bling,” jewelry for tea. Victorian women used to wear bachelor’s buttons on their dresses as a sign of availability. Now bachelor’s buttons decorate earl grey to seduce tea drinkers with their beauty.
Earl Grey does have a bit of a racy history. Dishonest tea merchants once “adulterated” their black teas with bergamot to imitate the flavors of high end Chinese teas. As history goes, what was once held up in a court of law as a serious aberration has made its way to the ranks of standard, boring tea. Unfortunately, there’s an over-abundance of bad earl grey for sale. Most companies smother cheap leaves in flavoring to hide the quality of the leaves. Few companies who have their hearts in quality tea pay any attention to earl grey. That’s where we come in. Our approach is not to hide anything, but to accent and enrich each ingredient by the presence of the others.
Tea geeks cannot agree on who first designed Earl Grey and how it was named after the Prime Minister Charles Grey, but you may be happy to learn that Lord Grey’s acts in Parliament led to the abolition of slavery in England and to women’s suffrage.
Earl Grey has taken a life of its own in history, transformed from adulterant to old-hat to absolute art. We are obsessed and we hope you can see and taste why.
Next week I (Amy, head tea maker), will be in Yunnan, China visiting these farms. I look forward to telling you all about it! Thank you for being a part of our journey in life and tea. We appreciate you immeasurably.