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May 1, 2013 / ldejong4

A Love Affair with Earl Grey

We Irish love our tea. We really really do! Usually a strong cuppa with a drop of milk will do the trick. There are some who diverge a bit. They have a sweet tooth and prefer it with a spoon or two of sugar. Then there are those who like it extra milky. They were probably raised on mugs of warm milk before bedtime to help them sleep. Finally we have the internationals, who enjoy our traditional black tea but squirm at the thought of adding milk. They dunk the tea bag in briefly and are satisfied. Personally, I take mine moderately strong with two drops of milk. My secret is to scald the mug first so the last few sips stay warm, and I pour the water in before adding the bag so as not to burn the leaves. I’ve convinced myself it’s better for bringing out the flavour similar to not boiling soup. The mug is also important. I’ll write an essay on that another time.

Then there are tea brands. Usually Lyons or ehhh what’s that other one called again? Oh yeah…Barrys. Each with similar blends but every Irish person entitled to their preference. We identify with the tea brand and commit to that relationship. “Are you Lyons or Barrys?” “Oh well actually I’m a Lyons Gold Blend guy” they’d utter. We have a cup at the same times every day and we even stash a handful of tea bags in a plastic sandwich bag when travelling abroad. What’s with that Lipton tea anyway?!

Because the tea we drink is black and usually strong, an acquired taste has to be developed from a young age. Most of us recall where we learned to drink it. I learned how to drink a proper cup of tea at my grandfather’s house. He’s still alive enjoying tea God bless him, but I’ll forever think of him and his house as the starting point of my loyal relationship with Lyons tea. His house was a stone’s throw from our primary school and my mother used to walk my brother, sister and I over for a cuppa after school before homework time. I remember watching her scald the teapot before anything and my grandfather insisting she add a teabag per person present. We’d also have a snack of brown soda bread with jam. Something now branded as “granda’s brown bread” in our household. I’m not a coffee drinker so my daily caffeine intake revolves around tea – the café beside my bus stop, the café in college, the office I used to work in, my own living room, my parents’ house, my friends’ houses (yes all of them), the airport café, the cinema, the tennis club, I can go on.

One summer’s day two years ago I was having a crap day. I had a relationship end, most of my friends moved abroad, I was unsure in my job and it was most likely raining. It was late at night and I was sad…boohoo. Too late to go home and be mothered, I called a good friend close by. She invited me over and I jumped in a taxi. We chatted, giggled, looked up fashion blogs, watched mindless rubbish on TV and she made me tea. I watched her take a beautiful black and pink tea tin from the cupboard above the kettle. She took a tea sieve and grabbed loose leaves with it to make my cup. “Sorry I ran out of normal tea” she said placing the mug in front of me. I gazed into my mug. The tea was black. No milk. It had a floral scent. It was different. I was curious. “It’s Earl Grey” she said in response to my blank expression. That cup hit a different spot and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was instantly uplifted. I drank another two cups.

I haven’t looked back since that one night stand with Earl Grey. It smells like roses, and tastes like comfort, love and happiness. It doesn’t need milk and stays hot longer. It’s like a new and exciting relationship and I love it! It doesn’t spoil my appetite before a meal so I can drink copious amounts. Every café has a new brand to taste and I’ve no problem finding it abroad. It never denies my needs to be cheered up. Until now, only my closest friends are aware of this secret relationship I’m leading but my time has come to announce it to the world.

I went home to be mothered last weekend but she was out. I reached for a mug anyway and asked my father if he’d join me for some tea. “Earl Grey?” I asked reaching for the cupboard. He glared at me and hesitated. “No. Lady Grey” he answered and grinned, pointing at the small blue pot sunning on the windowsill above the kitchen sink.

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4 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Jennifer Geraghty Burner / May 1 2013 10:06 pm

    I love reading your posts Lisa, you’re a naturally talented writer 🙂 Even if I’m a dedicated and loyal member of team Barrys!

  2. raphaele42 / May 1 2013 10:20 pm

    I am on team Barry’s too. I used to be a Lyon’s Gold Blend type of person but recently found out that Barry’s was the only one with a green Love Irish Food label. Regarding Earl grey i had to stop buying it because I would drink it all day long and of course wouldn’t sleep 🙂 But this is what I drink when I go back to France and my sandwich bag runs empty.

  3. JG / May 2 2013 6:45 am

    Lisa, due to your borderline irrational enthusiasm for the stuff, Earl Grey will always remind me of your excitable self 🙂 Also, did you know it’s the tea of choice of the illustrious Jean-Luc Picard? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2IJdfxWtPM

    • ldejong4 / May 2 2013 9:37 am

      Ha nice! I’d no idea. Not a fan. Makes me feel less girly now 😉

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