Monday, July 26, 2010

Bergamot Summer

Call me crazy, but despite muggy 80 degree weather I still crave a cup of hot tea. Specifically, a cup of Earl Grey. Even more specifically, the Numi Aged Earl Grey I got from Giant Eagle the other day but have yet to try.

This is the problem with summer. You sweat too much; you can't take hot showers; and you can't drink a cup of tea or cocoa without your insides melting and seeping out through your pores. Last summer when I lived in my parent's air conditioning I had an evening cocoa habit, and during the day drank tea in the chilly finished basement.

My apartment--designed like an oven to keep the internal temperature five degrees hotter inside than out--is another story. I've gone without a cup of Earl Grey for too long.

My first encounter with this tea was accidental: a box of Twinings abandoned by a friend in my cupboard. To this day Twinings is still my favorite (I mean, it's not for nothing that it's approved by the Queen), though I also have a fondness for Stash's double-bergamot version--not their regular Earl Grey, which also has lavender.

My cousin--a former Starbucks employee--had never tasted it, so I introduced her to it. She remarked after one sip that it tasted like citrus.

I was taken aback. Her taste buds are more finely tuned than mine. Citrus, to me, meant lemons, limes, grapefruit. I don't know what I thought bergamot was; I wasn't expecting it to be something like an orange. And I still can't think of it as citrus; it's light, yes, but also rich. It's like a dance between sunshine and cool, shaded places.

This is how my obsession has grown, you see. I browse bergamot scented perfumes, lotions, and body washes on Etsy. It smells the way it tastes. I haven't bought any--yet. I think if I used bergamot scented perfume I would never stop smelling my wrists.

Since my first box of Twinings, I've made Earl Grey shortbread, Earl Grey brownies, and one of my life goals is to make Earl Grey ice cream. And then Earl Grey Chocolate ice cream. (I'm of the opinion that Earl Grey + dark chocolate is one of the best combinations in existence. Perfect for watching British television.) And of course there are bergamot curd, bergamot dreams, and Earl Grey cheesecake to try also.

But I have no ice cream maker, and it's too hot to bake, so I did the only thing I could: I made Earl Grey iced tea. It was a spur of the moment experiment, but it turned out pretty well.

Granted, the scent of bergamot is hard to get out of the pitcher--and it will flavor the next tea you make. (I used to make Earl Grey in my thermos, and my coffee had a definite citrus flavor afterward.) As the last four pitchers I've made have been Earl Grey, this isn't a problem for me.

This is my pact with summer. And I suppose there aren't many things more summery than citrus.

How I make Earl Grey Iced Tea:

Pour approximately six cups of boiling water over eight bags of Earl Grey. Steep for about five minutes. Add 1/4-1/3c sugar (maybe even 1/2c, if you like sweet tea). Add 1-2c cool or lukewarm water to moderate the tea's strength.

This makes a strong tea--the kind I like. If you prefer a lighter flavor, try using Twinings Lady Grey instead.

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