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Tea, Earl Grey, Cold

28 July 2016 11:19 AM (tea)

It's summer time. As I prefer not to use my air conditioning, I don't find myself wanting to sit around drinking piping hot beverages. So, I drink ice cold beverages. There's a lot to choose from, most green teas do very well iced. (White peony works well iced, too. Silver needle doesn't: the flavor is too delicate to really stand up to the cold.) The oolongs I've tried so far did not ice well.

Neither did Earl Grey. It wasn't foul or undrinkable or anything, but it was lackluster. So I decided to try coming up with something that would work in the spirit of Earl Grey.

First, I started with golden Yunnan. This is a black tea from China whose spicy flavor, when chilled, is rounded and folded inward repeatedly so it stacks up. Its mild tannic character gives it a gentle weight in the mouth.

Then I added some Lapsang Souchong. This tea is usefully described as being like drinking a campfire, in the nicest possible way. Straight, it does not ice well, but in smaller quantities it provides a nice counter to sweeter aromas. I use maybe a sixth as much as the Yunnan.

I tried a few experiments here. I tried throwing in some lavender blossoms but didn't care for the result. I ended up adding a little bit of rose congou (a black tea with roses). You could probably use culinary rose petals if you happen to have any. I tried a drop of rose water, but I think steeping the rose component makes a real difference. When I tried rose water it either ended up not making a difference or too pronounced. Rose congou gave a definite effect, but it was softer and better diffused and more bass and low mid-range.

Everything needs a treble, however. Mine was orange blossom water. I won't say the flavor if unrelated to citrus, because it's not. it's not as sharp and pointed as, say, orange zest. It's sweeter, being more reminiscent of orange push-up ice cream treats from the Ice Cream Man than of actual oranges. You might not even recognize it as orange if someone didn't tell you. If you get it on your fingers you'll want to smell your hand over and over all day.

Believe me, I know.

So. Brew up your three teas to double strength then dilute by half. Alton Brown recommends this method and I follow it because my teapot is one quart and my pitcher is a half gallon. Put it in the fridge and, once it's cold, add a dribble of orange blossom water. (A dribble is of the same kind as a drop, but of greater consequence and dignity.) Give a good stir or, if you can, cover the pitcher and give it a good shake, then drink.

It doesn't taste like Earl Grey, but it serves the same function of being a subtly perfumed tea where the flavor of the tea clearly dominates but is complemented by the other fragrances.

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