During my summer internship in London, I remember walking through the streets of Bath with my flatmates who decided to spend the afternoon wearing semi-period garb (so we looked like Jane Austen characters).We walked along cobblestone streets, found antique shops along the way selling old-yellowed lace, all on our way to a graveyard behind a tiny church where we later stopped for tea at an adjoining cafe. And on that day, my obsession with tea, Jane Austen and graveyards was set in stone.
See photos of my favorite loose teas in Facebook Album: Spot of Tea
Every time I travel to a new country, I buy their tea--whether it is indigenous to the area or a favorite from another another country. Last time in Granada, Spain I bought their version of a local "Turkish Tea" (See photo) with lovely strawberry bits and vanilla undertones. Granada is a wonderful place to buy tea-their Moorish history and exports provide an awesome array to choose from.
That is not to say that all my tea leads came from such exotic places. A friend of mine from Seattle turned me on to my favorite Masala Chai Tea from Tea India (See photo)-which I can find in my hood in Murray Hill (Kalustyan's-123 Lexington Ave).
As for my tea of choice -the tea I drink while watching Masterpiece Theatre, Ang Lee's Sense and Sensibility, and every single BBC period film (Yes, I am this pretentious in real life-although I like to call it romantic) is still Earl Grey Tea. In the Fall of 2008, while the stock market crashed here, I was staying in the Marais in Paris. I savored every last bit of food on that trip (some great shawarma places in that hood-bread-croissant, cheese) before getting back to the States and the chaos. I also found my favorite tea Apothecary-Mariage Freres and their Earl Grey French Blue (see photo).
Earl Grey's distinctive aroma comes from the oil extracted from the rind of bergamot orange (found in Calabria, Italy)-all roads always lead to Italy for me! It is a black tea blend and can come in other variations like Lady Grey-which can be blended with either lavender or Seville oranges. French Earl Grey usually includes rose petals.
How to Drink it: Let your tea steep for 5 minutes. Check out this steeping chart from Mariage Freres. I prefer loose leaves-and while milk is not generally recommended with citrus teas-I do use a hint of cream. The perfect pairing is some nutty shortbread, biscotti or a croissant and of course scones-like the pumpkin scone form Alice's Tea Cup.
Although, as of late, some trendy uses for tea are as infusions for broths, cocktails, ice cream, baked goods, rice, meat and even ricotta!
Some less expensive choices that are wonderful:
Harney & Sons-Earl Grey Imperial-$10.99
Bigelow Earl Grey Tea-$3.99
Black tea is high in antioxidants, creates a thermogenic effect in the body via caffeine which is a slight metabolism booster. Watch the caffeine-- it still has between 50-90 mg per cup-so up your water intake to not get dehydrated. Tannins in all teas bind to calcium so don't count the milk you put in your tea as calcium for the day-the same goes for coffee.