E is for Earl Grey Tea

While in college and shortly after graduation, my ideal weekend would include a “high tea” outing with friends. For years, it was a hobby (and almost an obsession) of mine to visit every tea shop in Southern California…sadly, I didn’t succeed in my quest, but I had a delicious time trying! 😉 In the beginning, I wasn’t very familiar with different types of teas, so I relied on the recommendation of others. Not surprisingly, Earl Grey tea was generally what people would suggest to me (did you know it’s second only to English Breakfast as the world’s best-selling blend of tea?) While no one really knows why this flavor of tea was named after the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey, Viscount Howick) who was best known for abolishing slavery in the British Empire and was one of the leading British statesmen of the late 18th Century and 19th Century, there are several myths and legends surrounding the origin.

Sitting there chatting with friends and daintily nibbling on finger sandwiches, I always felt so “posh” drinking my Earl Grey tea with milk and sugar. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that bergamot oil gives Earl Grey its distinctive flavor and aroma. The bergamot orange, grown primarily in the Calabrian region of Italy, is probably a hybrid of a sweet lime and a bitter orange. The fruit is the size of an orange, with the color of a lemon, is less sour than a lemon, but more bitter than a grapefruit. The rind from 100 bergamot oranges (both ripe and unripe) yields about 3 ounces of the fragrant essential oil.

But enough about that and on to the CHOCOLATE!

The graphics used on the box remind me of a Moorish palace floor. According to a Wall Street Journal article from 2011, planted behind the Belgravia Rococo shop, there is a Moroccan garden that has geometrical-design tiles which inspired the packaging.

Opening the box, I enjoyed reading about the history behind the company and the source of the cocoa that was used. One feature that I especially liked (and hope that other chocolate companies adopt) is that there are 4 small tabs at each corner that help keep the wrapped chocolate bar securely in place, preventing it from sliding around in the box.

Cutting open the top of the foil lined inner packaging, the citrus aroma immediately transported me back to my favorite afternoon tea outings. There is a rich dark color and matte finish to the bar which has seven narrow rectangles imprinted with the company name in block letters.

Segmenting one of the rectangles from the rest of the bar produced a dull snap, while breaking the rectangle in half produced a medium snap (possibly due to the air bubbles in the chocolate, see below for a photo). As I’m wont to do, I usually munch the first piece of any chocolate bar I try. This rewarded me with a satisfying crunch from the ground Earl Grey tea (3% of the ingredients) that was mixed into the chocolate itself – you can see black flecks of the tea throughout the chocolate.

There is a slow, even melt to the morsel and of course the mouthfeel is not smooth due to the tea. I was curious to see what a partially melted piece might look like…so here it is:

When a friend traveled to England to visit family for the holidays, I specifically requested that he bring back a different Rococo chocolate bar, which you will hear about in just a few weeks! Serendipity must have led him to also bring back this Earl Grey bar that I didn’t realize that I *needed* – such an unexpected pleasure to stroll down memory lane 🙂

It’s no wonder that founder Chantal Coady received the very first OBE (Order of the British Empire) for “services to chocolate making” as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2014.

To learn more about Rococo Chocolates and their range of artisan bars, check out: https://www.rococochocolates.com/

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