question about earl grey tea and afternoon tea
When I was in London my host took me to have afternoon tea there, which I highly enjoyed, and I've been trying to discover what was exactly the tea I was served.
I had thought it was earl grey, but since it was so long ago, I can't really be sure - is there a traditional type of tea for afternoon tea in England? Or can it be anything?
Anyways I went ahead and got Twining looseleaf earl grey, the kind from UK in tin. The tea smelled great, but I was a little disappointed in the quality. It just doesn't have the depth and the taste of a top quality tea.
So the question is - is there a tea type/blend better for the afternoon tea? the kind you'd serve with scones and such?
Second, if so, is there a specific source you're partial to?
I like the Earl Grey from Stash.com, and from Adagio.com. You might also want to try the Twining's Lady Grey, and a blend called Buckingham Palace Garden Party (a little hard to find - I get mine from the EnglishTeaStore.com) -- which is Earl Grey and Jasmine. While I don't know much about tea customs in England, the Garden Party blend is what friends and family from England have brought me as a gift when they know I am a serious tea drinker.
For an afternoon tea, I'd probably serve the Yunnan Gold from Adagio, maybe blended with a spoonful of their Earl Grey. Either that, or the garden party blend.
One of my favorites is Earl Greyer from the Republic of Tea. It's sold as loose tea and in tea bags. It's the bergamot oil that gives it a distinctive taste and aroma. I can't say whether it's a traditional English tea, but it's very pleasant.
Maybe what's missing is the Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry jam.
Various kinds of teas are served at Afternoon Tea. Darjeeling is popular as is Jasmine and Earl Grey. From my somewhat limited experience in London, I think Darjeeling is probably served most often, or at least chosen most often. Normally, places serving an Afternoon Tea will offer a selection. They're normally brewed to be fairly strong as most take both milk and sugar in their afternoon tea.
Loose leaf is almost always going to give you a better cup than a bag, though that's not a certain thing, just a rule of thumb.
I'm a fan of teas that you can order online from tealuxe.com particularly their Puttabong Estate Darjeeling. They have a wide array and you can buy them in pretty small quantities so you don't have to invest a lot to try several different varieties. My best suggestion is to order up their smallest size in a bunch of different teas and see what you like best.
I would agree that Darjeeling may be it, if it wasn't Earl Grey and wasn't jasmine. I pretty much only like four kinds of tea and that's those three and random Chinese black tea. Darjeeling's very mellow, not terribly tart. So if you didn't notice a (what some call soapy) fragrant bergamot note, and you didn't get a jasmine note, it could well be Darjeeling.
I was in various locations in England for several months, and generally the tea for afternoon tea is some type of black tea, but it can be whatever you want. The offerings traditionally include Earl Grey and Darjeeling.
I am no loose leaf tea expert, but you might try Taylors of Harrogate, which is readily available and supposed to be good.
I'm sure I got served a lot ot Tetley when I was over there.