I am not a morning person. I have tried very hard to be. Every January 1st, my new year’s resolution list begins with the phrase: get up early! Nature, however, will have her way. I am a night owl. I love the solitude of the night, the tranquility that enfolds the land as mortals prepare to sleep; the sky erupting in pin-points of poetry! The stars, the moon, are all there, parading about in all their majesty for the few eyes that may pause and partake of their wondrous feast. I get giddy at twilight. The sun sinks below the tree line and mist creeps over the grass. Suddenly, just as the lamps are switched on in every home up and down the street, so too my creativity begins to crackle and hum with an electric energy I cannot explain nor control. I am alive at night! No interruptions means my creative juices are free to flow without constraint, without pause. I enjoy the sun; but there’s something deeply comforting about the night.
Alas, however, duty calls. Duty and convention. The world runs by modern time-clocks, not natural body rhythms. Up with the sun, lunch at noon, bedtime soon after dark. I, at least at this time, am no exception. I’ve had to adapt as we all have, to find my own little ways to make life work. I’ve had to discover the little tricks and quirks that my particular dilemma requires. And no greater assistant to getting me going in the morning have I found than a steaming cup of Earl Grey.
What is it about this regally named, oddly flavored tea that captures my imagination and stimulates my brain cells in a way that not even a cup of espresso can compete? To be honest, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s the romance of the name and the feeling I am dining with royalty that peeks my interest and allows me to open up to the day at hand. Maybe it’s the smell, a rich, deep fragrance of black tea and bergamot, a mysterious fragrance, almost overpowering, but intriguing. It draws me in, begs me to sip, and words it’s magic on my sense. I have discovered that it is not as well loved as the more sweet and fruity teas. In fact, it is quite bitter and not at all mild. It shakes you awake, calling you to attention. It is never rough. If am early morning wake up call with a good bit of British grit is what you need, pick up the Earl. If not, try the more meditative Zen of a green.
Black tea is meant to be steeped about three to five minutes long. After that, it can take on a bitter flavor. But I have found that to fully enjoy the flavor of the Earl, to fully grasp all his nuances, all his peculiarities, to fully wake up and get rolling, I put no timer on my bag in hot water. I leave it there, let it infuse the water until it’s hard to tell where the bag ends and the water begins.
It is a dark tea, amber colored in the daylight, but black as coffee at night. The smell is pungent but, given the chance, will draw you in until you can say no. It goes well with milk or cream and, surprisingly, with a dash of lavender. I’ve had it with sugar and without, with honey and without, with lemon and without. Every additive adds a little more depth to it’s richness, rounding out it’s subtleties, never overpowering, always twisting the flavor just out of the reach of description, confounding and frustration but always, always delighting.
There is almost nothing a day can throw at me that I cannot face with a hot cup of Earl Grey at my side. If a day proves to be exceptionally long, I brew two cups. And I have found the fragrance alone to be a wonderful agent of relaxation at the end of a long, arduous day. Though I turn to the Earl for morning encouragement, I’ve also discovered he is well suited to those late nights spent writing, when all the world is asleep and it is just me and the computer, blue screen humming, fingers clacking across letters, across worlds. Even then, in the silence, I turn to the Earl, savoring the flavor, and thankful knowing he will get me through another night, and still be there come the first rays of dawn to command my sense to attention for another day.