Tealicious History: Earl Grey


I’ve always considered myself to be a tea drinker. With an incredibly British grandmother and a relatively British mother, I don’t think I ever had a choice in the matter. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good coffee, but I see it as something that lights up the nerve endings in my brain in the morning. It enables me to face the day in something other than an incoherent zombie-like state. But tea? To me it is the ultimate comfort drink. It’s an old friend that warms the body and soul and always cures what ails you.

A Shit Day at Work? Tea
Head Cold? Lemon and Honey Tea
Heartbreak? Tea
Upset Stomach? Ginger Tea
Natural Disaster? Tea
Apocalypse? Tea…with a shot of rum.

I once read a story about a woman who was shot in the head in her home. Miraculously, she was hit at such an angle that she was able to make herself a cup of tea whilst waiting for the police. I was always horrified by this prospect.  Not due to the brutality of the crime, but because I knew that this is exactly what the women of my family would do, including me.

Tea fixes everything.

I adore Earl Grey in particular. Nothing makes me happier than writing my blog whilst sipping on that wonderfully scented brew. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of trying it, Earl Grey is an intoxicating blend of black tea infused with the oil of bergamot, an Italian orange. It gives it a lovely zesty aroma and taste that I find enchanting.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares my correct opinion. I have heard my beloved Earl Grey described as tasting like dirty dish water mixed with detergent by the boyfriend some. Well to him those people I quite intelligently retort – Your face tastes like dirty dish water mixed with detergent. Yeah, take that.

The actual Earl Grey. He, unlike the tea, doesn’t look particularly appetising

So, who was Earl Grey and why on earth did he have a tea named after him? True to form, there are conflicting historical tales.

Charles Grey was the 2nd Earl of Grey and British Prime Minister between 1930 and 1834. He is still renowned for being one of the primary architects of the 1832 Reform Act. This act introduced a wide range of beneficial changes to the electoral systems in England and Wales.

The Grey family state that the tea was specially blended by a Chinese Mandarin for the Earl. Legend has it that it was made with bergamot oil to compliment the water on the Earl’s estate, which is said to have had a hint of lime to it.

Some believe that in 1803 one of the Earl’s men saved the aforementioned Mandarin’s son from drowning. He then showed his appreciation by presenting the Earl with the tea as a gift. However, bergamot oil wasn’t present in China at the time, and nor was the Earl. A far more likely story is that the Earl was presented with the tea by an envoy upon returning from a routine trip to China.

The belief in this origin story is universal, unless of you ask Twinings. Their website claims that they themselves developed it and named it after the Earl. Conveniently enough there is no explanation as to why. Every historian knows that it’s those who hold power that decide what version of history will be considered as truth, and this is no different, albeit on quite a small scale.

The tea rose in popularity due to Lady Grey, as she often used it to entertain guests in London. Others wished to purchase the tea and this is where Twinings most definitely became involved. They began mass producing the tea on a large scale and it quickly became a household name. Unfortunately for the Greys, they didn’t have the forethought to register the trademark. Subsequently, neither they nor their ancestors received any royalties from the sales of Earl or Lady Grey tea.

Because I’m sure you don’t know what tea looks like

For those who haven’t heard of Lady Grey, it was developed by Twinings and named after Lady Elizabeth Grey. It is far more delicate and fragrant than her husband’s counterpart. In addition to the bergamot oil, it contains both lemon and orange peel. I find it to have quite a flowery aroma and a very sweet taste.

Earl Grey has remained popular throughout the years and is used quite often in cooking and baking. I’ve personally tried Earl Grey flavoured macaroons and chocolate and they were both delicious.

I’d like to thank the lovely Katie for requesting this topic. As a result, I have decided to not only write about other teas, but to start an entire series on High Tea. I’ll most likely roll this out in September so it will coincide with  one of Habitat for Humanity’s annual events – High Tea for Habitat. It’s a fantastic and delicious way to raise money for a great cause. I urge you all to get a group together and participate. More info can be found at http://www.habitat.org.au/hightea.

Please leave a comment if you have a favourite tea that you would like me to explore the origins of. I absolutely love taking requests. Yes mum, I will definitely write about Russian Caravan for you.

Have a lovely weekend!

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The Last Meals of the Damned: Part One


It seems that the Gods are smiling upon on me, albeit in a rather morbid fashion. Last night, I posted on our Facebook Page that today’s post would involve criminals. As this post title ever so subtly suggests, I’m going to discuss the last meals of some well known criminals.

This morning I was scouring the news headlines and one of the top stories was about Gary Simmons Jr, a recently executed inmate who requested an impressive 29,000 calories worth of food for his final meal. According to MSN news, the meal included “…two Pizza Hut pizzas (one a double portion), almost 6 pounds of cheese, 80 ounces of ranch dressing, a family-sized bag of Doritos, two strawberry milkshakes, 40 ounces of Cherry Coke, a supersized McDonald’s fries and two pints of strawberry ice cream.” Considering that many inmates have had far less extravagant meal requests denied, I found this rather astounding, and admittedly, impressive.

I felt that stumbling across this article was a sign to continue with my morbid post. So let’s dig in.

Have you met Ted?

Ted Bundy:
American serial killer, kidnapper, rapist and necrophile. He confessed to committing thirty murders between 1974 and 1978, but the true total is probably far higher. He is well-known for decapitating his victims and keeping the heads as trophies, as well as performing sexual acts on decomposed corpses.

Charges: Bundy was put on trial three times. During the first he was convicted of two counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, and two counts of burglary. The second and third trials gave him the same conviction – one count of first degree murder. The result? He was handed the death penalty three times.

Interestingly, Bundy shocked the court by marrying a witness for the defense during the proceedings of the third trial. During questioning, the two exchanged vows and, according to Florida law, a verbal promise made under oath is enough to make it legally binding.

Execution: Death by electrocution on January 24 1989

Last Meal: Medium rare steak, eggs over easy, hash browns, toast with jelly (jam for us non-Americans), milk and Juice. This is the standard meal given to inmates if they decline a last meal request.

Military Man turned Terrorist. God bless America.

Timothy McVeigh
Perpetrator of the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 that killed 168 people and injured over 800. He claims that it was a retaliation for the WACO Siege, as well as other government raids and US foreign policy in general.

Charges: Conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction by explosives and eight counts of first-degree murder. The state of Oklahoma didn’t file charges for the additional 160 deaths due to being given the death penalty in his first trial.

Execution: Death by Lethal injection in Indiana, June 11 2001.

Last Meal: Two pints of mint chocolate chip Ben & Jerry’s icecream. I can honestly say that I’m on board with this choice.

No one who speaks German could be an evil man. Parole granted.

Adolf Eichmann
Senior Nazi official as well as one of the key organizers of the Holocaust. His main role was facilitating and managing the logistics of mass deportations of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps. He managed to escape Germany after the fall of the Nazis and had been in hiding until his capture in 1960 in Argentina.

Charges: Crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership of an outlawed organization.

Execution: Death by hanging in Israel, 1962

Last Meal: A bottle of Carmel, which is a dry Israeli wine. I think there was a great deal of wisdom in this choice. I would certainly rather be tanked than sober whilst facing the noose.


This is why I’m scared of clowns

John Wayne Gacy
American serial killer and rapist. He sexually assaulted and murdered at least thirty-three young men and boys between 1972 and 1978. Disturbingly, he became known as the Killer Clown due to his involvement in fundraising events, parades and children’s parties where he would dress up as a clown. Terrifying.

Charges: Thirty-three counts of first degree murder, sexual assault and taking indecent liberties with a child.

Execution: Death by lethal injection in Illinois, May 10 1994.

Last Meal: 12 fried shrimp (prawns), a bucket of original recipe KFC chicken, fries,and one pound of strawberries.

Fun Fact: Gacy managed three KFC restaurants prior to his conviction.

“I’m a happy-go-lucky scamp!”

Saddam Hussein
I think we all know who Saddam was, so I’ll keep the mini bio simple. He was the fifth president of Iraq and a well-known dicktator. Yes, I did spell that correctly.

Charges: Crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

Execution: Death by hanging in Iraq, December 26 2006.

Last Meal: A rather bland serving of chicken, rice and hot water with lemon.

So there you have it, a small taste of the final meals of some of the world’s most notorious murderers. As the title suggests, it’s only the first in a series of grisly posts, so stay tuned for part two. I’ll also be writing a sister series on the last meals of celebrities and important figures from history.

See you all next time.

Cocktail Party: Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary


Greetings!

We’re up the the final drink of the cocktail party! Are you excited? No?

Well, that’s embarrassing for me.

As discussed yesterday, it’s morning and many a party goer have wandered out into the harsh light of day to forage for a tasty grease-ridden breakfast. Surely they can indulge in a final cocktail without being considered ‘rampant alcoholics’? Oh come on, they haven’t slept yet, so technically it’s still night-time, right? Some are feeling the beginnings of particularly gruesome hangovers, and what better cure is there than water sleep stomach pumps a little hair of the dog?

A round of vodka soaked Bloody Marys will certainly do the trick.

Once again, I have a variety of histories to present to you, all riddled with contention and speculation. But that’s what makes this fun, right?

This isn’t the Bloody Mary you were expecting?

Our first tale attributes Fernand Petiot with first concocting the drink. He was a bartender at ‘ Harry’s New York Bar’ in Paris and legend has it that he created it in 1921 by mixing equal parts tomato juice and vodka. If this story is true, it only describes the fledgling beginnings of the cocktail, as it didn’t contain any salt, pepper or tabasco sauce.

As a side note, Harry’s was popular with a broad clientele of high-profile expatriates such as Ernest Hemingway, Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart.

Another story claims that comedic actor George Jessel concocted the drink around 1939. He claims to be the true inventor of the Bloody Mary due to adding key ingredients such as the Worcestershire and celery stick. There is also a claim that Fernand Petiot moved to America and reinvented the Bloody Mary as the ‘Red Snapper’ at the ‘St. Regis Hotel’ in 1934. This was supposedly due to public objection over the “vulgarity” of the original name.

So the big question is – who was Mary?

Many assume that it was named for Queen Mary, half-sister of Elizabeth I. She was nicknamed Bloody Mary due to the amount of Protestants she had killed throughout her reign. However, this supposed namesake is unlikely to be true.

A widely believed rumour is that a patron of Harry’s suggested the name after noting that the drink reminded him of the ‘Bucket of Blood Club’ in Chicago, and a girl there named Mary. However, another popular candidate is 1920s silent film icon Mary Pickford who had another cocktail named after her that consisted of rum, grenadine and a Maraschino cherry.

This leads me to wonder why no one has named a cocktail after me. This is being added to my Life Goals List, alongside owning a llama, getting arrested and being thrown out of a classy establishment. I’m genuinely surprised that the latter hasn’t occurred yet.

Time for a recipe!

Ingredients

45ml Vodka
90ml Tomato Juice
15ml Lemon Juice
Tabasco Sauce, dash
Worcestershire Sauce, dash
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Method

Add dashes of Worcestershire, Tabasco, salt and pepper into highball glass. Shake the vodka, tomato juice and lemon juice before straining into the glass. Add ice cubes. Stir gently. Garnish with a celery stalk and lemon wedge

So that’s it, the end of the Cocktail Party. The hardcore attendees have finally wandered home to pass out, and I’m being reminded of all the embarrassing stuff I did by my housemate. Whilst on the bathroom floor. Cradling the toilet.

Next time – something less liquidy. And less alcoholic…maybe.

Cocktail Party: Irish Coffee


So we’re onto our last cocktail of the night, and everybody who is still conscious has agreed that it will be much easier to just stay up. Besides, it’s only three hours until they can go and get pancakes for breakfast! Everyone’s getting sleepy though, so it’s time for some caffeine. Alcoholic caffeine.

Fact: Anything can be improved by adding copious amounts of alcohol and cream. For example – steak, pain medication, tax time.

Between 1939 and 1945 many Americans flew to Ireland in a Pan Am Flying Boat. This extraordinary sounding aircraft was actually just a seaplane that contained a hull. Why not make a few extra bucks by storing passengers there?

The planes would land in Foynes, Limerick after what I imagine would be a gruelling eighteen hour flight. After landing, the passengers would be shuttled by boat to the terminal. On cold days, the passengers would often be chilled and miserable after the ride. As such, they greatly appreciated a cup of hot coffee or tea upon arrival at the terminal.

The Irish have taken whiskey in their tea for many centuries and this gave the chef at the airport restaurant an idea. He thought he would provide the freezing passengers with a little Irish hospitality with an American twist. He knew of their partiality to coffee with cream, so he added some whisky to the cups. One of the pleasantly surprised passengers asked “Is this Brazilian coffee?”, “No” replied the chef, “That’s Irish coffee.” And thus the original Irish Coffee recipe, as well as another excuse to drink, was born.

Ten years later, the owner of a San Franciscan restaurant decided to recreate the alcohol laced coffee that a friend had tasted in Ireland.They thought it would be a simple process, but after many experiments using a variety of whiskey they weren’t satisfied. It didn’t taste the same and the cream always sank to the bottom.

Being persistent, the pair travelled to the Limerick to sample the original. When they returned, it was decided that only high quality Irish whiskey could provide the proper taste. Furthermore, the cream had to be slightly aged and lightly whipped. Voilà, Irish Coffee crosses the Atlantic and began to grow in popularity throughout the United States and the world.

Now, in case you have the uncontrollable urge to get boozed up over your morning/afternoon/evening coffee, here’s a recipe!

Ingredients:

40ml Irish Whiskey
80ml Hot Coffee
30ml Cream, whipped
1 tsp Brown Sugar

Method

Heat the coffee, whiskey and sugar on a medium heat. Do not boil. Pour into a glass and top with cream. Serve hot.

Now, I realise that I began this post by saying that this was the last cocktail of the night. However, I never said that we wouldn’t be indulging in one in the morning. I wonder what it will be?

Check back tomorrow to find out what delightful concoction we’ll be finishing our cocktail party with!

Cocktail Party: The Mint Julep


Hello, hello? Is this thing on?

Greetings! Welcome back to Delicious History. After a few minor technical setbacks I’m here to give you all the historical goss on the lovely and refreshing Mint Julep.

So, we’re onto cocktail number five. At this point of the evening the heavy weights are attempting to chat up a hottie/anyone in the corner so they don’t have to take the train home. Meanwhile, the light weights are lying outside on the grass crying down the phone to their mums, apologising for all the horrible things they have done in their lives. This is something I have seriously done – just replace ‘grass’ with ‘driveway’ and ‘phone’ with ‘parents standing on the front porch hanging their heads in shame’.

Tegan’s Tip – Never let a seventeen year work colleague serve you ten wines in an hour at a Christmas party. On a Monday night. In February.

I need these glasses in my life

The mint julep is predominantly famous for being the signature cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. The popularity of the drink at the racetrack began in 1938 when it became the official cocktail of the Derby. Back in those days, the drink set the fans back a cool 75c. Today, a mint julep in a collectors glass starts at $1000.

Seventy five of these commemorative glasses were made earlier this year to mark the 75th anniversary of the Derby. Sixty Five were made from pewter and were hand engraved with a racing scene. They also came with a sterling silver drinking straw. You think that sounds impressive? Oh no, those were only the thousand dollar plebeian glasses that had been fashioned for the peasants.

Ten of the glasses were made entirely from sterling silver, plated in 24 karat gold and featured a diamond horseshoe with 43 diamonds totaling approximately one carat. Furthermore, a jeweler selected and set each diamond by hand.

Just, damn.

The origin of the Julep goes back much further than the Derby though. In fact, it doesn’t even begin in the USA. Centuries ago, there was an Arabic drink called julab,  which was made with water and rose petals. The beverage had a delicate and refreshing scent that people thought would instantly enhance their quality of life. When the julab was introduced to the Mediterranean region, the native population replaced the rose petals with mint, a plant indigenous to the area.

The mint julep, as it was now called, grew in popularity throughout Europe, particularly in agriculture regions. This also happened when it was introduced to the USA. Americans also enjoyed juleps made with genever, an aged gin, during the nineteenth century. However bourbon-based juleps have decisively eclipsed gin-based ones in recent years.

The julep was originally a morning drink – a spirited equivalent to coffee. Apparently,  one sip enabled farmers and workmen alike to face the day. I must say that I adore how many of cocktails have been used for medicinal purposes or as an excuse to drink in the morning. It would be great to walk into work and buy a $4 cocktail off my coffee guy. “Hmm one Julep and a croissant thanks, Emilio. No, I’ll definitely go the large. It’s feeling like a double shot day.”

With that steady slide into alcoholism, let’s get to the recipe!

Ingredients

90ml Bourbon Whisky
4 – 6 sprigs Mint Leaves
Granulated Sugar, to taste

Method

Place mint, sugar, and a small amount of bourbon into the bottom of a mixing glass. Gently muddle and then let it stand for a couple of minutes to allow the mint flavour to be released. Strain and pour into a julep cup (A glass with a pewter base. Or silver if you’re a rich bastard), rotating to coat the sides. Fill with ice and then add the remaining whisky. Garnish with a small mint sprig.

Fun Fact – Mint juleps are traditionally served in pewter based glasses and held by the handle or rim in order to maintain optimum frost.

Tomorrow – A Dessert Cocktail!

Cocktail Party: The Mojito


Hello all, welcome back!

We’re up to cocktail number four, albeit a day late. I offer my most sincerest apologies, I was feeling rather under the weather yesterday and needed a little disco nap before getting back on the party bus.

So, at this point of the night those of you who can hold their drink are ordering straight shots and those who are more like me are trying to prove that they’re “not that drunk” by attempting to correctly pronounce words such as onomatopoeia. That is something I seriously do.

Today we’re taking a hop across the water from Mexico to Cuba to taste the rum sodden and utterly delicious Mojito. Once again, the origins of this fruity delight are shrouded in many a controversy, so I’m going to tell just two of the most fascinating tales.

Apparently Ernest Hemmingway loved Mojitos. I think that whoever first spread that story confused the word ‘Mojito’ with ‘Booze’

Our first story claims that the Mojito was created by African slaves working in the sugar cane fields of Cuba in the late 19th Century. Supposedly, the drink’s name comes from the African word “mojo,” which mean “to place a spell.” This tale is however widely contested. Many historians believe that this story seems to be related to, or confused with the origin of the daiquiri, another popular Cuban cocktail made with rum, lime juice, and sugar.

A much more accepted story is that Sir Francis Drake was involved in the creation of the Mojito as far back as the 16th century. Drake was a celebrated naval captain and navigator during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. However, if you were a Spaniard at the time, Drake was an infamous pirate and slave trader who was responsible for the sacking of many ports and towns during the Spanish Armada. These acts persuaded Phillip II of Spain to not only place a bounty on his head, but to also plan an invasion of England.

If I may interject for just one moment – these dual perspectives of Drake are exactly why I adore history. There is almost always conflicting accounts and different ways of looking at situations and people. Some may call this lack of definitiveness frustrating. I call it fascinating.

Legend has it that Sir Richard Drake (an underling of Francis who was of no relation) prepared the first version of the drink using aguardiente, a primitive version of rum, which he mixed with sugar, lime and mint. According to the story, the drink was originally called “El Draque” which was Spanish for The Dragon, which was a homage to Sir Francis. Personally, I think this was just a clever ruse to secretly name it after himself.

From the high seas, the drink supposedly made its way to Cuba when these explorers, or pirates, landed to conduct treasure hunting expeditions throughout The Caribbean and Latin America. Interestingly enough, the fruity concoction was originally consumed for medicinal purposes. I think that sounds a great deal more appetising than the cherry flavoured cough syrup of my childhood. I’ll have to question my mum about why she didn’t just throw hard liquor my way.

Eventually, rum replaced the aguardiente and the Mojito, as we know it today, was born.

Recipe time!

Ingredients

40ml White Rum
30ml Lime Juice
3 Mint Leaves
2 tsp Sugar
Soda Water

Method

This is a really simple one.

Muddle the mint sprigs with the sugar and lime juice in a highball glass. Add the rum and top up with soda water. Garnish with sprig of mint leaves. Consume!

Mmm, refreshing.

I’ll try my best to knock out our next two cocktails over the weekend as promised. Unfortunately, I’m still not feeling 100%. Either way, I’ll make sure they’re served up to you as soon as possible.

Have a great weekend!

Cocktail Party: Wasting Away Again in Margaritaville…


…searching for my lost shaker of salt.

Greetings, lovelies!

How are you feeling after your first two drinks? Ready for some more? I certainly hope so because we’re heading into Tequila Territory, and there’s just no coming back from that. We’re at that point of the party where you know you shouldn’t do it, but you’re just sauced enough to throw caution to the wind and to let your Future Self deal with the stomach churning consequences. Then, when you’re paying homage to the Porcelain God the following afternoon, you curse your Past Self and swear to never touch tequila again, because it is truly Not of the Lord. But it’s never true.

Never. True.

I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to learn that the Margarita is yet another cocktail with an elusive history. That doesn’t mean we can’t take a peek at the possibilities though! There are of course numerous accounts of ‘this bartender here’ and ‘this bartender there’ being attributed with its invention, but I want to keep things interesting. As such, here are a few short tales describing the birth of this tasty and dangerous beverage. I’ll leave it up to you to choose which reality to believe.

It looks so pretty despite being a demon liquor from hell.

Our first story hails from Acapulco in 1948. A Dallas socialite had a holiday home in the Mexican city that she would visit with her family during the holidays. She was well-known for indulging in a game where she would duck behind the bar and mix up weird and wonderful concoctions for her guests. I know I’ve said it before, but I would rather enjoy partying with this dame.

During a Christmas gathering she decided to mix tequila, Cointreau and lime juice for her guests, and did so with great success and praise. They were so enamoured with the drink that they took it home to the States where it spread like wildfire. They thought that it was only fitting to name th drink after their socialite friend, Margarita.

Our next story is yet another shout out to the ladies. We’re in Mexico, circa 1938 and following a showgirl by the name of Majorie King. Unfortunately, our damsel suffered from a truly tragic ailment – she was allergic to all alcohol, with the exception of tequila.

King was visiting Rancho Relaxo Del Gloria Bar in Rosarita Beach, Mexico and, like a champion, wasn’t going to let her allergies get in the way of a good time. She explained her predicament to the bartender and he proceeded to pour tequila over shaved iced and then added some lemon and Triple Sec. Once again, the drink was a hit and he decided to name the concoction after the Spanish equivalent of Majorie – Margarita.

Our final story comes from Juarez, Mexico. A gentleman named Pancho Morales was working as a bartender  in 1942 when a patron ordered a drink called a Magnolia. Alas, Morales couldn’t remember what was in the cocktail, except Cointreau. Instead of explaining this, he decided to roll the dice and fake it. I’m sure you can all guess what happened next. He decided to name the his new invention after his favourite flower, the daisy. For those of you who are well aquainted with the language will already know that daisy translates to Margarita in Spanish.

And now – recipe time!

Ingredients

35ml Tequila
20ml Triple Sec
15ml Lime Juice
Salt

Method

Rub the rim of the glass with lime slice to make the salt stick to it. Shake the ingredients with ice, then strain into the glass.Garnish with a lime or lemon wedge and serve over ice.

So there you have it, three drinks down and four to go. I do hope you can all manage to stay standing for tomorrow’s exciting brew.

See you then.