When my quaint little tea shop closed, I had a decent supply of loose Earl Grey to last me for a few months. Me, not being a business person, had every confidence in the world that when my quaint little tea shop closed, that it would just spring to life at its new location in no time, just like opening a brand new umbrella.
Time ticked by, and before I knew it, my supply of Earl Grey dwindled down to dust at the bottom of my tea-tin.
Although I had every confidence my quaint little tea shop would re-open, I am also a former Brownie and Guide, so drew on those skills and developed a Plan B. I’m sure Lord Baden-Powell would be proud of me, and I would have earned a Plan B badge if they had one.
Plan B was to write to a variety of tea companies and see what they offer in the way of Earl Grey so I would not go without my afternoon cuppa. I wrote with the hopes they would slip in a single tea bag of their Earl Grey in a return envelope to allow me an opportunity to try it before I invested in full-size boxes and bags of tea to try to find my Plan B Earl Grey replacement.
Dear readers, I wrote to:
Beanbag Coffee Roasters (BC)
Bewley’s (Dublin, Ireland)
Blue Quill Enterprises (BC)
David’s Tea (Quebec)
Fortnum & Mason (UK)
Mighty Leaf Tea Company (Quebec)
The Tea Haus (Ontario)
Tea Lux (Quebec)
Stash’s Tea (USA)
These tea providers were selected very scientifically: A Google search. After that, I sifted through the pages of hits for tea that would be available on line, or at my local grocery store.
Michael made one specific contribution – Bewley’s – by a shout from the other room to “DON’T FORGET ABOUT BEWLEY’S!!!!”. Bewley’s is located in Dublin, Ireland, and Michael remembers getting a nice cuppa from Grafton street last time he visited. I love all things Irish so added them to the list. I wasn’t too sure what the Irish might think of Earl Grey, with Earl Grey being a British Prime Minister and all, but by the quality and taste of their Earl Grey tea, clearly there are no hard feelings.
With the addition of Bewley’s my Plan B had gone global, so for the heck of it, I sent requests to Harrods and Fortnum & Mason pic in London. The people at Harrods were clearly too busy helping a wealthy client from the United Arab Emerites buy a male and female polar bear, complete with ocean, ice flows, fish stock and mood lighting – just because they could.
Fortnum & Mason pic sent me a very polite rejection letter. Although it was sent electronic, in my head I will remember my rejection letter as being written in fancy calligraphy on thick linen A4 paper and neatly folded in an envelope with a blob of red wax and a fancy F & M seal.
But let’s not concentrate on the rejection. Let’s look at the success. The overwhelming success!
My expectations were no more than an envelope containing a single Earl Grey tea bag sample. Instead, I got things like three regular retail sized boxes of tea from Bewley’s, large, generous samples from Murchies, Tea Lux, David’s Tea, Blue Quill, Stash’s and Beanbag Coffee Roasters.
Mighty Leaf went so far to not only send samples, but a handy thermal reusable mug.
The Tea Haus introduced me to varieties of Earl Grey that I’ve never heard of, like Duke of Earl, French Earl Grey, and Orange Earl Grey.
Tetley sent me coupons for FREE tea, and Twinings sent me a generous number of samples and coupons too.
I did purchase one box of Marks & Spencer’s Earl Grey during our last visit to Victoria. It was sitting in an English sweet shop on the “cheap” shelf as it was past its sell-buy date. I’m not proud. I’ll drink old tea.
Now that I had all this tea…. the question was how do I go about sampling all these? Do I make it a scientific process? Do I don a lab coat and pretend I’m an official tea taster and make many cups of tea and sniff and swirl and slurp and spit?
I started to document my tea tasting by giving a star rating. As I progressed through my samples, I saw that I was consistently giving each one four or five stars. This couldn’t be right, thought I. So I would throw in an extra star. Then I would have to adjust the other stars, because I thought I was being unfair to the other teas. Then I’d single underline a favourite, these would change to a double underline, then a box would be drawn around a tea name with stars AND underlines, and it became very confusing. Eventually my list became utterly unreliable. The lesson I learned was to avoid ever working in a science lab where notes would have to be meticulous. I would be fired, lose my lab coat, and weekend use of the Bunsen burner to roast marshmallows.
So I did this instead: Put the kettle on. Picked a tea. Brewed the tea. Drank the tea.
It is hard to pick a favourite, because I was so happy and pleased to receive so many samples. How could I say anything critical? I can’t!! And the truth is this, some Earl Grey’s are very different from others, many are almost exactly the same. But all in all, each sample was delicious, made for a relaxing afternoon tea break, and gave me new appreciation for the variety of Earl Grey available.
My quaint little tea shop, Cally’s Teas, has since reopened, and for that I am happy, as my preference will always be to support local, independent business first.
To all the businesses, big and small, that supported me through my Plan B endeavour, I thank you, and will always remember your generosity.
Cathy of Walsh Cooks