What is it?
Bergamot is a citrus fruit grown in small family groves in Reggio Calabria, Italy. The fruit is the color of a lime and the size of a large orange. Bergamot is picked when ripe in early winter, and the thick peel is removed and pressed like an olive to extract its essential oils. The distinctive flavor and aroma has nuances of lavender, lemon and spice, and brings a beautiful floral element when combined with black tea.
We choose to source our bergamot from Italy as we find that there is more of a nuance and a variety of aromatics compared to other sources of bergamot. We have been working with the same farmer since about 2000 when Steve visited Italy. There, the bergamot is picked and peeled, with the peels put into an olive oil press to create an oil. The oil has a floral nose to it, and during the oxidation process gets a smokiness and turns brown.
We receive samples of bergamot oil just after the harvest season in January. Bergamot can have a green or lemon flavor; we look for a more grapefruit-type citrus component that is rounder and softer. Through smelling, diluting in water and tasting, and sampling on our tea blend, we determine the batch to use. Many bergamot oils contain preservatives to keep the oil from breaking down. We sacrifice a shorter shelf life to maintain a preservative-free blend.
The tea that put bergamot on the map. Earl Grey is the number one flavored tea in the world, with origins dating back about 300 years. Originally, tea producers may have cut a bergamot fruit in half, spooned out the inside, filled the peels with tea leaves, and wrapped the tea-filled peels back into a ball in order to flavor the tea. Earl Grey is the black tie or tuxedo-like tea of the tea industry. It is the gentlemen's refined cultured drink of tea. As with most tea blends, not every Earl Grey is created equal and can often be very different or blended with other ingredients, such as lavender.
We created Lord Bergamot to be classic and traditional with a clean, bright bergamot flavor. Many think more bergamot is better in an Earl Grey. We do not subscribe to that philosophy - we want the tea to sing as well - and when you have great tea, you don't need a heavy hand with bergamot scenting.
The tea base itself is also often overlooked with Earl Grey tea. Not with us. We use a blend of Ceylon Uva, Ceylon Dimbula, and Assam black teas. Ceylon Uva adds pungency and a sharp bite, which plays into that citrus hand. Assam gives it body and astringency to help balance the Ceylon teas with the bergamot oil.
Shop Lord Bergamot at SmithTea.com. For a non-traditional bergamot experience, we recommend trying our Rose City Genmaicha, our twist on a traditional Japanese genmaicha (genmai or toasted rice) tea with sencha, mao feng green tea from China, rose petals and a touch of bergamot oil.