Saturday 4 April 2015


Last Sunday, the Bob party of Bob's mother's party arrived at the old lady's 95th birthday celebs before everyone else and elected to have a hot beverage while waiting for everyone else to come. Inevitably, someone ordered Earl Grey and a ding-dong 'discussion' ensued about Earl Grey, Lady Grey and bergamot.  When I was affecting to be a tea-buff at the age of 17 (mixing a pinch of lapsang souchong or keemun to give the pot a bit of a lift), there was no such thing as Lady Grey, so that must be a madey-uppy beverage invented round the Twinings board-room table by Marketing and Food-engineering overseen sternly by Accounts and Corporate Governance.  I gather that it is Earl Grey for girls - less bergamot and more orange.

But the bergamot discussion?  One party stoutly maintained that the additive in Earl Grey was from Citrus bergamia while the other party asserted that bergamot was a herb Monarda didyma aka beebalm or Oswego tea; a native of North America from the same family that gives us many of the good things in cooking: basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, thyme, lavender for starters. Both parties were correct but Citrus bergamia is definitely the source of the oil which is used to flavor the tea. It is an infusion made from the peel.That is why I have illustrated it here [L] and not the mint. Although the herb is pretty spectacular as well. They say that the herb is named after the orange because there are hints of the smell of the latter from the former.

At the pre-birthday party, there was some shouting from the wings to establish whether we should be talking about BergamoT or Bergamoh.  Clearly there was a deal too much education awash in the room, but the consensus was that the final T should be pronounced. That's interesting, because the namer of bee-balm is, in turn named , through bergamotta, for Bergamo the town in Lombardy between Milan and the Alps.  Confusions about the naming of parts in the natural world should have been sorted out 300 years ago by Linnaeus, but people are far too indisciplined to obey rules and insist on using their own coinage: “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

A few years ago, two of the aromatic ingredients in oil of bergamot called Brutieridin and Melitidin were shown to inhibit the deposition of cholesterol like statins, the multi-billion drug family.  So you might be tempted to down liters of Earl Grey if you are a tad on the obese side.  Then again, another item on oil of B's table of contents appears to be a potassium-channel blocker which has been shown to cause muscle-cramps in one who had drunk liters of Earl Grey.  Me, a man of the people, I'll stick to black Builder's Tea, Camellia sinensis, weak, with a dash of milk and half a small spoon of sugar if available.

1 comment:

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