Saturday Selections: Smoky Earl Grey

No, it’s not the title of a cheesy romance novel (although I can totally picture the cover, can’t you?). Instead, it’s one of my discoveries I made on my U.K. sojourn: Fortnum & Mason’s Smoky Earl Grey Tea.

I know, kind of a weird choice for Saturday Selections where I normally focus on movies, books, and even radio programs, but I can’t get enough of this tasty tea.

A Little About Fortnum & Mason

I could say Fortnum & Mason is a store in London, but that does nothing to describe the other world quality this shop has. It’s like you’ve wandered into a movie or stepped back in time or suddenly achieved a whole new social ranking by just walking in.

fortnum & mason, london, uk

Even the staircase is classy!

Fortnum’s (as the locals dub it) started out as a grocery store in the 1700s and then expanded to a department store as time went on. Known for quality goods (beyond most mortals’ budgets), it attracts clients like the royal family (no, I did not see any of them perusing the shelves or waiting at the returns desk).

Inside the shop, everything is laid out to perfection – this is not the place you want to bring an out-of-control toddler – and the clerks wear coattails as they whisk around making you feel like you actually belong in this wonderland. I’m not into shopping, but it was a delight just wandering around looking (very carefully) at all the lovely displays.

And Then There’s The Tea

When you walk in through the Piccadilly Street entrance, the first thing you see in Fortnum’s are walls filled with shelves of containers that look large enough to hold the heads of two people (yes, that’s my mad scientist speaking). Inside these containers is tea. Lots of tea. It’s England, after all.

fortnum & mason, london, uk

Making my way from the chocolate counter to the tea shelves….

If you know nothing about tea, they’ll advise you and there are even small pots of tea for you to savor the aroma of a tea you’re interested in. As it was crazy crowded, I just went to the floor shelves that held prepackaged boxes of tea. To my surprise, many of the teas were quite affordable….and sounded delicious.

Smoky Earl Grey?

I’m a caffeine fiend, but quickly get tired of coffee so I turn more often to tea. My go-to tea is always Earl Grey for its strange citrus-y taste (made possible by bergamot oil). So when I saw Smoky Earl Grey on the shelf at Fortnum’s I had to get a box.

fortnum & mason, smoky earl grey, london, tea

My big purchase at Fortnum & Mason’s

I resisted temptation and waited until I got home to sample my new found flavor of tea. A few days after our return, I brewed my first cup. Now, according to the box, the tea was created as a special request from the royal family (not sure what year) and used to be the only Earl Grey tea Fortnum’s carried, so I was expecting something extraordinarily yummy.

With much anticipation, I took my first taste.

I hated it.

Okay, maybe not HATE, but it was weird. It reminded me of drinking a BBQ. I slumped back in my chair thinking I wasted about $5 on 25 bags of icky tea.

But, not to be wasteful, I continued through my cup of liquid BBQ. Slowly, I realized, I didn’t mind the taste. Reluctant sipping turned to actual drinking. By the bottom of the cup I was ready to brew some more. Now, I’m hooked and will be carefully rationing out the 21  bags that still remain in the box.

I just hope I can order this stuff online.

What’s your caffeine delivery system of choice? Tea, coffee, IV transfusion?

DSCN2889Fiona enjoying a cuppa with a chocolate tort from Fortnum’s. Who’s Fiona? Find out at her blog Fiona’s Journeys.

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9 thoughts on “Saturday Selections: Smoky Earl Grey

  1. Contortum Designs says:

    I LOVE TEA! I’ve never been a fan of earl grey, I think it is a touch too floral for me. I worked at a loose leaf tea shop for almost two years, I know they have them in Oregon, are you familiar with Teavana? They have teas to die for my friend! Hot, iced, caffeinated or no caffeine, from fruity to chocolatey to very traditional. They have samples and you can smell any tea before you buy it, most stores provide beverage service too. If you’ve never tried loose leaf tea versus bagged, you are missing out! They have tea called maté that is as caffeinated as coffee but it has the tea benefits (no crash and burn like with coffee or energy drinks) and is super yummy. Can you tell I like tea?! Well anyway, if you’ve never been to a Teavana you must see if there is one nearby!

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    • painterwrite says:

      I think it’s time to cut you off! I have had loose tea before, usually get it in bulk at the store, but I tend to go over board and make it way too strong….extra caffeine dose! I know there are some (overpriced) tea shops in Portland, But I guess it would be cheaper to visit them than to head back to London.

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      • rawlenyanzi says:

        I guess so. All the teas I’ve tasted have been a bit…substandard. I don’t even remember what types they were.

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      • rawlenyanzi says:

        I’ve tried coffee a few times, and I just didn’t like it. The first time was Starbucks, while the next time was something else.

        I heard, though, that it tastes better if you prepare it properly.

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