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