Tealicious History: Earl Grey

I’ve always considered myself to be a tea drinker. With an incredibly British grandmother and a relatively British mother, I don’t think I ever had a choice in the matter. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good coffee, but I see it as something that lights up the nerve endings in my brain in the morning. It enables me to face the day in something other than an incoherent zombie-like state. But tea? To me it is the ultimate comfort drink. It’s an old friend that warms the body and soul and always cures what ails you.

A Shit Day at Work? Tea
Head Cold? Lemon and Honey Tea
Heartbreak? Tea
Upset Stomach? Ginger Tea
Natural Disaster? Tea
Apocalypse? Tea…with a shot of rum.

I once read a story about a woman who was shot in the head in her home. Miraculously, she was hit at such an angle that she was able to make herself a cup of tea whilst waiting for the police. I was always horrified by this prospect.  Not due to the brutality of the crime, but because I knew that this is exactly what the women of my family would do, including me.

Tea fixes everything.

I adore Earl Grey in particular. Nothing makes me happier than writing my blog whilst sipping on that wonderfully scented brew. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of trying it, Earl Grey is an intoxicating blend of black tea infused with the oil of bergamot, an Italian orange. It gives it a lovely zesty aroma and taste that I find enchanting.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares my correct opinion. I have heard my beloved Earl Grey described as tasting like dirty dish water mixed with detergent by the boyfriend some. Well to him those people I quite intelligently retort – Your face tastes like dirty dish water mixed with detergent. Yeah, take that.

The actual Earl Grey. He, unlike the tea, doesn’t look particularly appetising

So, who was Earl Grey and why on earth did he have a tea named after him? True to form, there are conflicting historical tales.

Charles Grey was the 2nd Earl of Grey and British Prime Minister between 1930 and 1834. He is still renowned for being one of the primary architects of the 1832 Reform Act. This act introduced a wide range of beneficial changes to the electoral systems in England and Wales.

The Grey family state that the tea was specially blended by a Chinese Mandarin for the Earl. Legend has it that it was made with bergamot oil to compliment the water on the Earl’s estate, which is said to have had a hint of lime to it.

Some believe that in 1803 one of the Earl’s men saved the aforementioned Mandarin’s son from drowning. He then showed his appreciation by presenting the Earl with the tea as a gift. However, bergamot oil wasn’t present in China at the time, and nor was the Earl. A far more likely story is that the Earl was presented with the tea by an envoy upon returning from a routine trip to China.

The belief in this origin story is universal, unless of you ask Twinings. Their website claims that they themselves developed it and named it after the Earl. Conveniently enough there is no explanation as to why. Every historian knows that it’s those who hold power that decide what version of history will be considered as truth, and this is no different, albeit on quite a small scale.

The tea rose in popularity due to Lady Grey, as she often used it to entertain guests in London. Others wished to purchase the tea and this is where Twinings most definitely became involved. They began mass producing the tea on a large scale and it quickly became a household name. Unfortunately for the Greys, they didn’t have the forethought to register the trademark. Subsequently, neither they nor their ancestors received any royalties from the sales of Earl or Lady Grey tea.

Because I’m sure you don’t know what tea looks like

For those who haven’t heard of Lady Grey, it was developed by Twinings and named after Lady Elizabeth Grey. It is far more delicate and fragrant than her husband’s counterpart. In addition to the bergamot oil, it contains both lemon and orange peel. I find it to have quite a flowery aroma and a very sweet taste.

Earl Grey has remained popular throughout the years and is used quite often in cooking and baking. I’ve personally tried Earl Grey flavoured macaroons and chocolate and they were both delicious.

I’d like to thank the lovely Katie for requesting this topic. As a result, I have decided to not only write about other teas, but to start an entire series on High Tea. I’ll most likely roll this out in September so it will coincide with  one of Habitat for Humanity’s annual events – High Tea for Habitat. It’s a fantastic and delicious way to raise money for a great cause. I urge you all to get a group together and participate. More info can be found at http://www.habitat.org.au/hightea.

Please leave a comment if you have a favourite tea that you would like me to explore the origins of. I absolutely love taking requests. Yes mum, I will definitely write about Russian Caravan for you.

Have a lovely weekend!

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The Last Meals of the Damned: Part One

It seems that the Gods are smiling upon on me, albeit in a rather morbid fashion. Last night, I posted on our Facebook Page that today’s post would involve criminals. As this post title ever so subtly suggests, I’m going to discuss the last meals of some well known criminals.

This morning I was scouring the news headlines and one of the top stories was about Gary Simmons Jr, a recently executed inmate who requested an impressive 29,000 calories worth of food for his final meal. According to MSN news, the meal included “…two Pizza Hut pizzas (one a double portion), almost 6 pounds of cheese, 80 ounces of ranch dressing, a family-sized bag of Doritos, two strawberry milkshakes, 40 ounces of Cherry Coke, a supersized McDonald’s fries and two pints of strawberry ice cream.” Considering that many inmates have had far less extravagant meal requests denied, I found this rather astounding, and admittedly, impressive.

I felt that stumbling across this article was a sign to continue with my morbid post. So let’s dig in.

Have you met Ted?

Ted Bundy:
American serial killer, kidnapper, rapist and necrophile. He confessed to committing thirty murders between 1974 and 1978, but the true total is probably far higher. He is well-known for decapitating his victims and keeping the heads as trophies, as well as performing sexual acts on decomposed corpses.

Charges: Bundy was put on trial three times. During the first he was convicted of two counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and two counts of burglary. The second and third trials gave him the same conviction – one count of first degree murder. The result? He was handed the death penalty three times.

Interestingly, Bundy shocked the court by marrying a witness for the defense during the proceedings of the third trial. During questioning, the two exchanged vows and, according to Florida law, a verbal promise made under oath is enough to make it legally binding.

Execution: Death by electrocution on January 24 1989

Last Meal: Medium rare steak, eggs over easy, hash browns, toast with jelly (jam for us non-Americans), milk and Juice. This is the standard meal given to inmates if they decline a last meal request.

Military Man turned Terrorist. God bless America.

Timothy McVeigh
Perpetrator of the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 that killed 168 people and injured over 800. He claims that it was a retaliation for the WACO Siege, as well as other government raids and US foreign policy in general.

Charges: Conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction by explosives and eight counts of first-degree murder. The state of Oklahoma didn’t file charges for the additional 160 deaths due to being given the death penalty in his first trial.

Execution: Death by Lethal injection in Indiana, June 11 2001.

Last Meal: Two pints of mint chocolate chip Ben & Jerry’s icecream. I can honestly say that I’m on board with this choice.

No one who speaks German could be an evil man. Parole granted.

Adolf Eichmann
Senior Nazi official as well as one of the key organizers of the Holocaust. His main role was facilitating and managing the logistics of mass deportations of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps. He managed to escape Germany after the fall of the Nazis and had been in hiding until his capture in 1960 in Argentina.

Charges: Crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership of an outlawed organization.

Execution: Death by hanging in Israel, 1962

Last Meal: A bottle of Carmel, which is a dry Israeli wine. I think there was a great deal of wisdom in this choice. I would certainly rather be tanked than sober whilst facing the noose.


This is why I’m scared of clowns

John Wayne Gacy
American serial killer and rapist. He sexually assaulted and murdered at least thirty-three young men and boys between 1972 and 1978. Disturbingly, he became known as the Killer Clown due to his involvement in fundraising events, parades and children’s parties where he would dress up as a clown. Terrifying.

Charges: Thirty-three counts of first degree murder, sexual assault and taking indecent liberties with a child.

Execution: Death by lethal injection in Illinois, May 10 1994.

Last Meal: 12 fried shrimp (prawns), a bucket of original recipe KFC chicken, fries,and one pound of strawberries.

Fun Fact: Gacy managed three KFC restaurants prior to his conviction.

“I’m a happy-go-lucky scamp!”

Saddam Hussein
I think we all know who Saddam was, so I’ll keep the mini bio simple. He was the fifth president of Iraq and a well-known dicktator. Yes, I did spell that correctly.

Charges: Crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Execution: Death by hanging in Iraq, December 26 2006.

Last Meal: A rather bland serving of chicken, rice and hot water with lemon.

So there you have it, a small taste of the final meals of some of the world’s most notorious murderers. As the title suggests, it’s only the first in a series of grisly posts, so stay tuned for part two. I’ll also be writing a sister series on the last meals of celebrities and important figures from history.

See you all next time.

Cocktail Party: Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary

Greetings!

We’re up the the final drink of the cocktail party! Are you excited? No?

Well, that’s embarrassing for me.

As discussed yesterday, it’s morning and many a party goer have wandered out into the harsh light of day to forage for a tasty grease-ridden breakfast. Surely they can indulge in a final cocktail without being considered ‘rampant alcoholics’? Oh come on, they haven’t slept yet, so technically it’s still night-time, right? Some are feeling the beginnings of particularly gruesome hangovers, and what better cure is there than water sleep stomach pumps a little hair of the dog?

A round of vodka soaked Bloody Marys will certainly do the trick.

Once again, I have a variety of histories to present to you, all riddled with contention and speculation. But that’s what makes this fun, right?

This isn’t the Bloody Mary you were expecting?

Our first tale attributes Fernand Petiot with first concocting the drink. He was a bartender at ‘ Harry’s New York Bar’ in Paris and legend has it that he created it in 1921 by mixing equal parts tomato juice and vodka. If this story is true, it only describes the fledgling beginnings of the cocktail, as it didn’t contain any salt, pepper or tabasco sauce.

As a side note, Harry’s was popular with a broad clientele of high-profile expatriates such as Ernest Hemingway, Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart.

Another story claims that comedic actor George Jessel concocted the drink around 1939. He claims to be the true inventor of the Bloody Mary due to adding key ingredients such as the Worcestershire and celery stick. There is also a claim that Fernand Petiot moved to America and reinvented the Bloody Mary as the ‘Red Snapper’ at the ‘St. Regis Hotel’ in 1934. This was supposedly due to public objection over the “vulgarity” of the original name.

So the big question is – who was Mary?

Many assume that it was named for Queen Mary, half-sister of Elizabeth I. She was nicknamed Bloody Mary due to the amount of Protestants she had killed throughout her reign. However, this supposed namesake is unlikely to be true.

A widely believed rumour is that a patron of Harry’s suggested the name after noting that the drink reminded him of the ‘Bucket of Blood Club’ in Chicago, and a girl there named Mary. However, another popular candidate is 1920s silent film icon Mary Pickford who had another cocktail named after her that consisted of rum, grenadine and a Maraschino cherry.

This leads me to wonder why no one has named a cocktail after me. This is being added to my Life Goals List, alongside owning a llama, getting arrested and being thrown out of a classy establishment. I’m genuinely surprised that the latter hasn’t occurred yet.

Time for a recipe!

Ingredients

45ml Vodka
90ml Tomato Juice
15ml Lemon Juice
Tabasco Sauce, dash
Worcestershire Sauce, dash
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Method

Add dashes of Worcestershire, Tabasco, salt and pepper into highball glass. Shake the vodka, tomato juice and lemon juice before straining into the glass. Add ice cubes. Stir gently. Garnish with a celery stalk and lemon wedge

So that’s it, the end of the Cocktail Party. The hardcore attendees have finally wandered home to pass out, and I’m being reminded of all the embarrassing stuff I did by my housemate. Whilst on the bathroom floor. Cradling the toilet.

Next time – something less liquidy. And less alcoholic…maybe.