Earl Grey: tea that's a tonic for body and soul

Date:02-04-2014 07:58:18 read:0

Earl Grey: tea that's a tonic for body and soul

Not everyone's cup of tea, but a royal favourite - and now revealed to have health-giving properties

Top-drawer tea: a matter of fine taste for Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bouquet  Photo: Rex Features

"Tea. Earl Grey. Hot." Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the educated and sophisticated Starfleet Captain, knows a thing or two about perfect inter-galactic refreshment. Not only does the hero of Star Trek: The Next Generation prefer to drink this most delicately flavoured thirst-quencher in any galaxy. But now it emerges – with apologies to Picard’s old friends the Vulcans – that this bergamot infusion enables one to ''live long [and prosper]’’.

The tea, served in Buckingham Palace, Downton Abbey, and even Nigella Lawson’s home (where it pops up in tea cakes), could also lower cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease, says new Italian research. Findings from the University of Calabria indicate that nutrients called HMGF (hydroxy methyl glutaryl flavonoids) present in bergamot worked as well on the proteins that cause heart disease and ''bad’’ cholesterol as statins.

Yet there are certain tea-lovers who – excuse me, while I recover from a quick shudder with a restorative sip of the scented nectar – think Earl Grey is ''Not All That’’. In fact, some people make disparaging remarks about this simple black tea, brewed from traditional Camellia sinensis leaves laced with oil of bergamot oranges. Criticisms range from, 'That muck?’ to the view that Earl Grey is a kind of gateway drug to dreams of a more interesting life. The naysayers claim it is the compound de choix when you are 18 wanting to be 28; or Hyacinth Bouquet, but dream of being the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Or they snigger it is something favoured by the most effete of metrosexual men or, confusingly, lesbian plumbers.

Pish posh, I say. Put the kettle on, and we can all be reasonable over its heavenly aroma – and for me – a dash of skimmed milk (added after pouring) to leaven the tannins. For Earl Grey fans are not pretentious. We are sensitive souls with the tastebuds of poets.

Just don’t confuse us with the wilting violets who favour Lady Grey (invented for Norwegians whose delicate noses found the Earl’s blend too pungent), which is unforgiveably spliced with lemon and orange peel, and even dangerously subverted with – ye gods – lavender.

So, tamper with our brew at your peril – as Twining’s found out in 2012 when it decided to tweak the flavour. For my dear Earl Grey – not only are you delicious, you are also efficacious. And I don’t need a spoonful of sugar to help this medicine go down.

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013