Sep 202018
 

Today is the birthday (1853) of Somdetch Phra Paramindr Maha Chulalongkorn (พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรมินทรมหาจุฬาลงกรณ์ พระจุลจอมเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว), or Rama V, the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri. He was known to the Siamese of his time as Phra Phuttha Chao Luang (พระพุทธเจ้าหลวง, the Royal Buddha). His reign was characterized by the modernization of Siam, governmental and social reforms, and territorial concessions to the British and French. Because Siam was threatened by Western expansionism, Chulalongkorn, through his policies and acts, managed to save Siam from colonization, which earned him the epithet Phra Piya Maharat (พระปิยมหาราช, the Great Beloved King).

Chulalongkorn was born to king Mongkut (of King and I fame) and Queen Debsirindra, and in 1861, he was designated Krommamuen Pikhanesuan Surasangkat. His father gave him a broad education, including instruction from European tutors such as Anna Leonowens. In 1866, he became a novice monk for six months at Wat Bawonniwet according to royal tradition. Upon his return to his secular life in 1867, he was designated Krommakhun Phinit Prachanat (กรมขุนพินิตประชานาถ). In 1867, Mongkut led an expedition to the Malay Peninsula south of the city of Hua Hin, to verify his calculations of the solar eclipse of 18th August 1868. Both father and son fell ill of malaria. Mongkut died on 1st October 1868. Assuming the 15-year-old Chulalongkorn to be dying as well,  Mongkut wrote on his deathbed, “My brother, my son, my grandson, whoever you all the senior officials think will be able to save our country will succeed my throne, choose at your own will.” Si Suriyawongse, the most powerful government official of the day, managed the succession of Chulalongkorn to the throne and his own appointment as regent. The first coronation was held on 11th November 1868. Chulalongkorn’s health improved, and he was tutored in public affairs.

The young Chulalongkorn was an enthusiastic reformer. He visited Singapore and Java in 1870 and British India in 1872 to study the administration of British colonies. He toured the administrative centers of Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay, and back to Calcutta in early 1872. This journey was a source of his later ideas for the modernization of Siam. He was crowned king in his own right as Rama V on 16th November 1873. Suriyawongse then arranged for the Front Palace of king Pinklao (who was his uncle) to be bequeathed to king Pinklao’s son, prince Yingyot.

As regent, Si Suriyawongse wielded great influence. Si Suriyawongse continued the works of Mongkut. He supervised the digging of several important khlongs (canals), such as Padung Krungkasem and Damneun Saduak, and the paving of roads such as Chareon Krung and Silom. He was also a patron of Thai literature and performing arts. At the end of his regency, Si Suriyawonse was raised to Somdet Chao Phraya, the highest title a noble could attain. Chulalongkorn then married four of his half-sisters, all daughters of Mongkut.

Chulalongkorn’s first reform was to establish the “Auditory Office” (หอรัษฎากรพิพัฒน์), solely responsible for tax collection, to replace corrupt tax collectors. As tax collectors had been under the aegis of various nobles and thus a source of their wealth, this reform caused great consternation among the nobility, especially the Front Palace. From the time of Mongkut, the Front Palace had been the equivalent of a “second king”, with one-third of national revenue allocated to it. Prince Yingyot of the Front Palace was known to be on friendly terms with many Britons, at a time when the British Empire was considered the enemy of Siam.

In 1874, Chulalongkorn established the Council of State as a legislative body and a privy council as his personal advisory board based on the British privy council. Council members were appointed by the king. On the night of 28th  December 1874, a fire broke out near the gunpowder storehouse and gasworks in the main palace. Front Palace troops quickly arrived, fully armed, “to assist in putting out the fire”. They were denied entrance and the fire was extinguished. The incident demonstrated the considerable power wielded by aristocrats and royal relatives, leaving the king little power. Reducing the power held by the nobility became one of his main motives in reforming Siam’s feudal politics.

When prince Yingyot died in 1885, Chulalongkorn took the opportunity to abolish the titular Front Palace and created the title of “Crown Prince of Siam” in line with Western custom. Chulalongkorn’s son, Prince Vajirunhis, was appointed the first Crown Prince of Siam, though he never reigned. In 1895, when the prince died of typhoid at age 16, he was succeeded by his half-brother Vajiravudh, who was then at boarding school in England.

In Burma, while the British Army fought the Burmese Konbaung Dynasty, Siam remained neutral. Britain had agreements with the Bangkok government, which stated that if the British were in conflict with Burma, Siam would send food supplies to the British Army. Chulalongkorn honored the agreement. The British thought that he would send an army to help defeat the Burmese, but he did not.

During his reign the king employed his brothers and sons in the government, ensuring royal monopoly on power and administration. Chulalongkorn initiated reforms such as establishing the Royal Military Academy in 1887 to train officers in Western fashion. His upgraded forces provided him with the power to centralize the country. The government of Siam had remained largely unchanged since the 15th century. The central government was headed by the Samuha Nayok (prime minister), who controlled the northern parts of Siam, and the Samuha Kalahom (grand commander), who controlled southern Siam in both civil and military affairs. The Samuha Nayok presided over the Chatu Sadombh (Four Pillars – social spheres). The responsibilities of each pillar overlapped and were ambiguous. In 1888, Chulalongkorn moved to institute a government of ministries. Ministers were, at the outset, members of the royal family. Ministries were established in 1892, with all ministries having equal status.

The Council of State proved unable to veto legal drafts or to give Chulalongkorn advice because the members regarded Chulalongkorn as an absolute monarch, far above their station. Chulalongkorn dissolved the council altogether and transferred advisory duties to the cabinet in 1894. Chulalongkorn abolished the traditional Nakorn Bala methods of torture in the judiciary process, which were seen as inhumane and barbaric to Western eyes, and introduced a Western judicial code. His Belgian advisor, Rolin-Jaequemyns, played a key role in the development of modern Siamese law and its judicial system.

Chulalongkorn was the first Siamese king to send royal princes to Europe to be educated. In 19th century Europe, nationalism flourished, with calls for more liberty for peoples within multi-ethnic states. The princes were influenced by the liberal notions of democracy and elections they encountered in republics such as France and constitutional monarchies like the United Kingdom.In 1884 (year 103 of the Rattakosin Era), Siamese officials in London and Paris warned Chulalongkorn of threats from European colonialism. They advised that Siam should be reformed like Meiji Japan and that Siam should become a constitutional monarchy. Chulalongkorn demurred, saying that the time was not ripe and that he himself was making reforms. Throughout Chulalongkorn’s reign, writers with radical ideas had their works published for the first time. The most notable ones included Tianwan, who had been imprisoned for 17 years and from prison produced many works criticizing traditional Siamese society.

In 1863, king Norodom of Cambodia was forced to put his country under the French protectorate. The cession of Cambodia was officially formulated in 1867. However, Inner Cambodia (as called in Siam) consisting of Battambang, Siem Reap, and Srisopon, remained a Siamese possession. This was the first of many territorial cessions. In 1887, French Indochina was formed from Vietnam and Cambodia. In 1888, French troops invaded northern Laos to subjugate the Heo insurgents. However, the French troops never left, and the French demanded more Laotian lands. In 1893 Auguste Pavie, the French vice-consul of Luang Prabang, requested the cession of all Laotian lands east of the Mekong River. Siam resented the demand, leading to the Franco–Siamese War of 1893.

The French gunboat Le Lutin entered the Chao Phraya and anchored near the French consulate ready to attack. Fighting was observed in Laos. Inconstant and Comete were attacked in Chao Phraya, and the French sent an ultimatum: an indemnity of three million francs, as well as the cession of and withdrawal from Laos. Siam did not accept the ultimatum. French troops then blockaded the Gulf of Siam and occupied Chantaburi and Trat. Chulalongkorn sent Rolin-Jacquemyns to negotiate. The issue was eventually settled with the cession of Laos in 1893, but the French troops in Chantaburi and Trat refused to leave. Despite Siamese concessions, French armies continued the occupation of Chantaburi and Trat for another 10 years. An agreement was reached in 1903 that French troops would leave Chantaburi but hold the coast land from Trat to Koh Kong. In 1906, the final agreement was reached. Trat was returned to Siam but the French kept Koh Kong and received Inner Cambodia.

Because of the seriousness of foreign affairs, Chulalongkorn visited Europe in 1897. He was the first Siamese monarch to do so, and he desired European recognition of Siam as a fully independent power. He appointed his queen, Saovabha, as regent in Siam during his travel to Europe.

Siam had been composed of a network of cities according to the Mandala system codified by king Trailokanat in 1454, with local rulers owing tribute to Bangkok. Each city retained a substantial degree of autonomy, as Siam was not a “state” but a “network” of city-states. With the rise of European colonialism, the Western concept of state and territorial division was introduced. It had to define explicitly which lands were “Siamese” and which lands were “foreign”. The conflict with the French in 1893 was an example.

With his experiences during travel to British colonies and the suggestion of Prince Damrong, Chulalongkorn established the hierarchical system of monthons in 1897, composed of province, city, amphoe, tambon, and muban (village) in descending order. (Though an entire monthon, the Eastern Province, Inner Cambodia, was ceded to the French in 1906). Each monthon was overseen by an intendant of the Ministry of Interior. This had a major impact, as it ended the power of all local dynasties. Central authority now spread all over the country through the administration of intendants. For example, the Lanna states in the north (including the Kingdom of Chiangmai, Principalities of Lampang, Lamphun, Nan, and Prae, tributaries to Bangkok) were made into two monthons, voiding the power of the Lanna kings. Local rulers did not cede power willingly. Three rebellions sprang up in 1901: the Ngeaw rebellion in Phrae, the 1901–1902 Holy Man’s Rebellion in Isan, and the Rebellion of Seven Sultans in the south. All these rebellions were crushed in 1902 with the city rulers stripped of their power and imprisoned.

Ramathibodi II established a system of corvée in 1518 after which the lives of Siamese commoners and slaves were closely regulated by the government. All Siamese common men (phrai ไพร่) were subject to the Siamese corvée system. Each man at the time of his majority had to register with a government bureau, department, or leading member of the royalty called krom (กรม) as a Phrai Luang (ไพร่หลวง) or under a nobleman’s master (Moon Nai or Chao Khun Moon Nai มูลนาย หรือเจ้าขุนมูลนาย) as a Phrai Som (ไพร่สม). Phrai owed service to sovereign or master for three months of the year. Phrai Suay (ไพร่ส่วย) were those who could make payment in kine (cattle) in lieu of service. Those conscripted into military service were called Phrai Tahan (ไพร่ทหาร).

Chulalongkorn is perhaps best known for his abolition of Siamese slavery (ทาส.) He associated the abolition of slavery in the United States with the bloodshed of the American Civil War. Chulalongkorn, to prevent such a bloodbath in Siam, provided several steps towards the abolition of slavery, not an extreme turning point from servitude to total freedom. Those who found themselves unable to live on their own sold themselves into slavery with rich noblemen. Likewise, when a debt was defaulted, the borrower would become a slave of the lender. If the debt was redeemed, the slave regained freedom. However, those whose parents were household slaves (ทาสในเรือนเบี้ย) were bound to be slaves forever because their redemption price was extremely high.

Because of economic conditions at the time, large numbers of people sold themselves into slavery, and in turn they produced a large number of household slaves. In 1867 they accounted for one-third of the Siamese population. In 1874, Chulalongkorn enacted a law that lowered the redemption price of household slaves born in 1867 (his ascension year) and freed all of them when they had reached 21. The newly freed slaves would have time to settle themselves as farmers or merchants so they would not become unemployed. In 1905, the Slave Abolition Act ended Siamese slavery in all forms. The reverse of 100 baht banknotes in circulation since the 2005 centennial depict Chulalongkorn in navy uniform abolishing the slave tradition.

The traditional corvée system declined after the Bowring Treaty, which gave rise to a new class of employed labourers not regulated by the government, while many noblemen continued to hold sway over large numbers of Phrai Som. Chulalongkorn needed more effective control of manpower to undo the power of nobility. After the establishment of the monthon system, Chulalongkorn instituted a census to count all men available to the government. The Employment Act of 1900 required that all workers be paid, not forced to work.

Chulalongkorn had established a defense ministry in 1887. The ending of the corvée system necessitated the beginning of military conscription, thus the Conscription Act of 1905 in Siam. This was followed in 1907 by the first act providing for invoking martial law, which seven years later was changed to its modern form by his son and successor, King Vajiravudh.

In 1873, the Royal Siamese Government Gazette published an announcement on the abolition of prostration. In it, King Chulalongkorn declared,

The practice of prostration in Siam is severely oppressive. The subordinates have been forced to prostrate in order to elevate the dignity of the phu yai [dignitary]. I do not see how the practice of prostration will render any benefit to Siam. The subordinates find the performance of prostration a harsh physical practice. They have to go down on their knees for a long time until their business with the phu yai ends. They will then be allowed to stand up and retreat. This kind of practice is the source of oppression. Therefore, I want to abolish it.

The Gazette directed that, “From now on, Siamese are permitted to stand up before the dignitaries. To display an act of respect, the Siamese may take a bow instead. Taking a bow will be regarded as a new form of paying respect.”

The royal Equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn was finished in 1908 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the king’s reign. It was cast in bronze by a Parisian metallurgist. Chulalongkorn had visited Europe two times, in 1897, and 1907, the latter visit to find a cure for his kidney disease. His last accomplishment was the establishment of a plumbing system in 1908. He died on 23rd October 1910 of his kidney disease at the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in the Dusit Palace, and was succeeded by his son Vajiravudh (King Rama VI).

Kaeng Phet Pet Yang (Roast Duck Curry) is a Thai dish with royal origins that is quite popular among tourists. To make it at home you will need to do some searching for ingredients, but it is not difficult to make. Nowadays the dish is served in the better quality restaurants in Thailand.

Kaeng Phet Pet Yang (Roast Duck Curry)

For the curry paste

7 dried Thai chiles
2 tbsp sliced shallots
3 tbsp chopped garlic
½ tbsp chopped galanga
2 tbsp chopped lemon grass
1 tbsp thin slices of kaffir-lime peels
1 tbsp chopped coriander roots
1 tbsp ground dried coriander seeds
1 tsp ground dried fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp shrimp paste
pepper

For the duck curry

1 roast duck, boned and sliced
1 cup thick coconut cream
6 cups of thin coconut cream from the second or third pressing
½ cup sweet basil leaves
2 tbsp chopped jalapeno pepper
6 sliced kaffir-lime leaves
20 small tomatoes, halved
1 small pineapple, peeled and cut into small pieces
½ cup chopped bamboo shoots, boiled
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
3 tbsp cooking oil

Instructions

To prepare the curry paste:

Pound the dried chiles and salt together in a mortar. Then add all the remaining ingredients except the shrimp paste and pound them together until they are well blended. Add the shrimp paste and blend thoroughly.

To prepare the curry.

Boil the thin coconut cream vigorously over high heat in a large pot for several minutes, then turn off the heat and let it stand.

Fry the curry paste in cooking oil in a wok over medium heat for a few minutes, then add the roast duck and blend them together. Remove the wok from the heat and pour its contents into the pot of cooked coconut cream.

Bring the pot to the boil over medium heat, and add the pineapple, tomatoes and boiled bamboo shoots. Simmer for five minutes, then add the thick coconut cream and stir to combine. Season with the fish sauce, sweet basil leaves, kaffir-lime leaves and jalapeno pepper. Cook gently for an additional five minutes, and serve in bowls with plain boiled rice.

Mar 132014
 

NPG 4137,Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey,attributed to Thomas Phillips

Today is the birthday (1764) of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, KG PC, known as Viscount Howick between 1806 and 1807, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 22 November 1830 to 16 July 1834. A member of the Whig Party, he backed significant reform of the British government and was among the primary architects of the Reform Act 1832. His administration also saw the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. In addition to his political achievements, he has come to be associated with Earl Grey tea.

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Grey was descended from a long-established Northumbrian family seated at Howick Hall, the second but eldest surviving son of General Sir Charles Grey KB (1729–1807) and his wife, Elizabeth (1743/4–1822), daughter of George Grey of Southwick, co. Durham. He had four brothers and two sisters. He was educated at Richmond School, followed by Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, acquiring a facility in Latin, and in English composition and declamation that enabled him to become one of the foremost parliamentary orators of his generation. Grey was elected to Parliament for the Northumberland constituency on 14 September 1786, aged just 22. He became a part of the Whig circle of Charles James Fox, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and the Prince of Wales, and soon became one of the major leaders of the Whig party.

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He was the youngest manager on the committee for prosecuting Warren Hastings. The Whig historian T. B. Macaulay wrote in 1841:

At an age when most of those who distinguish themselves in life are still contending for prizes and fellowships at college, he had won for himself a conspicuous place in Parliament. No advantage of fortune or connection was wanting that could set off to the height his splendid talents and his unblemished honour. At twenty-three he had been thought worthy to be ranked with the veteran statesmen who appeared as the delegates of the British Commons, at the bar of the British nobility. All who stood at that bar, save him alone, are gone, culprit, advocates, accusers. To the generation which is now in the vigour of life, he is the sole representative of a great age which has passed away. But those who, within the last ten years, have listened with delight, till the morning sun shone on the tapestries of the House of Lords, to the lofty and animated eloquence of Charles Earl Grey, are able to form some estimate of the powers of a race of men among whom he was not the foremost.

Grey was also noted for advocating Parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. His affair with the Duchess of Devonshire, herself an active political campaigner, did him little harm although it nearly caused her to be divorced by her husband. In 1806, Grey, by then Lord Howick owing to his father’s elevation to the peerage as Earl Grey, became a part of the Ministry of All the Talents (a coalition of Foxite Whigs, Grenvillites, and Addingtonites) as First Lord of the Admiralty. Following Fox’s death later that year, Howick took over both as Foreign Secretary and as leader of the Whigs.

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In Charon’s Boat (1807), James Gillray caricatured the fall from power of the Whig administration, with Howick taking the role of Charon rowing the boat. A group of naked British Whig politicians, including three Grenvilles, Sheridan, St. Vincent, Moira, Temple, Erskine, Howick, Petty, Whitbread, Sheridan, Windham,and Tomline, Bishop of Lincoln, crossing the river Styx in a boat named the Broad Bottom Packet. Sidmouth’s head emerges from the water next to the boat. The boat’s torn sail has inscription “Catholic Emancipation” and the center mast is crowned with the Prince of Wales feathers and motto “Ich Dien.” On the far side the shades of Cromwell, Charles Fox and Robespierre wave to them. Overhead, on brooms, are the Three Fates; to the left a three-headed dog. Above the boat three birds soil the boat and politicians.

The government fell from power the next year, and, after a brief period as a member of parliament for Appleby from May to July 1807, Howick went to the Lords, succeeding his father as Earl Grey. He continued in opposition for the next 23 years.

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In 1830, when the Duke of Wellington resigned on the question of Parliamentary reform, the Whigs finally returned to power, with Grey as Prime Minister. His Ministry was a notable one. He oversaw the passage of the Reform Act 1832, which finally saw the reform of the House of Commons, making the election of members of parliament much fairer and representative after centuries of corruption, and the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833. As the years had passed, however, Grey had become more conservative, and he was cautious about initiating more far-reaching reforms, particularly since he knew that the King (William IV) was at best only a reluctant supporter of reform. Unlike most politicians, he seems to have genuinely preferred a private life; colleagues remarked caustically that he threatened to resign at every setback. In 1834 Grey retired from public life, leaving Lord Melbourne as his successor.

Grey returned to Howick but kept a close eye on the policies of the new cabinet under Melbourne, whom he, and especially his family, regarded as a mere understudy until he began to act in ways of which they disapproved. Grey became more critical as the decade went on, being particularly inclined to see the hand of Daniel O’Connell behind the scenes and blaming Melbourne for subservience to the radicals with whom he identified the Irish patriot. He made no allowances for Melbourne’s need to keep the radicals on his side to preserve his shrinking majority in the Commons, and in particular he resented any slight on his own great achievement, the Reform Act, which he saw as a final solution of the question for the foreseeable future. He continually stressed its conservative nature. As he declared in his last great public speech, at the Grey Festival organized in his honor in Edinburgh in September 1834, its purpose was to strengthen and preserve the established constitution, to make it more acceptable to the people at large, and especially the middle classes, who had been the principal beneficiaries of the Reform Act, and to establish the principle that future changes would be gradual, “according to the increased intelligence of the people, and the necessities of the times.”

Grey spent his last years in contented, if sometimes fretful, retirement at Howick, with his books, his family, and his dogs. He became physically feeble in his last years and died quietly in his bed on 17 July 1845, forty-four years to the day since going to live at Howick. He was buried in the church there on the 26th in the presence of his family, close friends, and the laborers on his estate.

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Earl Grey tea is a tea blend with a distinctive smoky flavor and aroma derived from the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a fragrant citrus fruit. Traditionally, the term “Earl Grey” has applied only to black teas that contain oil of bergamot as a flavoring.

Bergamotte

Tea flavored with bergamot to imitate the more expensive types of Chinese tea has been known in England at least since the 1820s. In 1837 there is a record of court proceedings against Brocksop & Co. who were found to have supplied tea “artificially scented, and, drugged with bergamot in this country,” but there is no known published reference to an ‘Earl Grey’ tea before advertisements by Charlton & Co. of Jermyn Street in London in the 1880s, though ‘Grey’s Tea’ is known from the 1850s.

The Earl Grey blend, or “Earl Grey’s Mixture”, is assumed to be named after the 2nd Earl Grey, who reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic perquisite, of tea flavored with bergamot oil. Bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia) is a small citrus tree which blossoms during the winter and is grown commercially in Italy. It is likely a hybrid of Citrus limetta and Citrus aurantium.

According to one legend, a grateful Chinese mandarin whose son was rescued from drowning by one of Lord Grey’s men first presented the blend to the Earl in 1803. The tale appears to be apocryphal, as Lord Grey never set foot in China and the use of bergamot oil to scent tea was then unknown in China. However, this tale is subsequently told (and slightly corrected) as on the Twinings website, as “having been presented by an envoy on his return from China’”

Jacksons of Piccadilly claim they originated Earl Grey’s Tea, Lord Grey having given the recipe to Robert Jackson & Co. partner George Charlton in 1830. According to Jacksons, the original recipe has been in constant production and has never left their hands. Theirs has been based on China tea since the beginning.

According to the Grey family, the tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Lord Grey, to suit the water at Howick Hall using bergamot in particular to offset the preponderance of lime in the local water. Lady Grey used it to entertain in London as a political hostess, and it proved so popular that she was asked if it could be sold to others, which is how Twinings came to market it as a brand.

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There are different varieties of a tea known as Lady Grey; the two most common kinds (Lavender Lady Grey and Citrus Lady Grey), which combine Earl Grey tea with lavender and Seville oranges, respectively.

A beverage called “London Fog” is a combination of Earl Grey, steamed milk and vanilla syrup.

There are variations available including such ingredients as jasmine, as well as various flowers. A blend with added rose petals is known as French Earl Grey.  A variety called Russian Earl Grey often contains ingredients such as citrus peels and lemon grass in addition to the usual black tea and bergamot. Also, several companies make a tea called Earl Grey Green or “Earl Green” tea, combining green tea leaves rather than the traditional black tea leaves with bergamot flavoring.

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A similar variation called Earl Grey White or “Earl White” tea combines white tea leaves with bergamot flavoring.

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Rooibos Earl Grey is a variation using this South African herbal tea as a substitute for the conventional form made with black tea. This variation may have originated from Malaysia.

Twinings reformulated their Earl Grey tea in April 2011, claiming to have added “an extra hint of bergamot and citrus.” The overwhelmingly negative comments on their website were picked up by the press, who drew attention to the establishment of a related protest group on Facebook.

I am something of a tea aficionado (not as rabid as my son who has shelf upon shelf of tea varieties and paraphernalia).  I prefer Chinese teas and I have a number of favorites such as longjing, lapsang souchong, and da hong pao. I make them as simple infusions with no additives so that I can savor the basic tea flavors.  Hence, I dislike flavored teas such as Earl Grey where the bergamot oil overwhelms the tea.

While I don’t like Earl Grey as a tea, I’m all right with it as a flavoring for both sweet and savory things.  Here’s a recipe for Earl Grey chocolate cake.

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Image – Susie Kushner

 Earl Grey Chocolate Cake

4 Earl Grey tea bags or 2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey
1 cup water
½ cup (1 stick) butter
3 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup plain yogurt
confectioner’s sugar

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 350° F/175°C.

Butter the lining of an 8-cup fluted tube pan.

Bring the water to around 185° F/85°C.  It is a great mistake to brew any tea with boiling water. Too many bitter oils are released.  Infuse the tea bags or tea leaves for 3-5 minutes, then strain the tea and reserve.

Beat the butter, eggs, and granulated sugar until fluffy. Blend in the chocolate. Beat in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, yogurt, and brewed tea. This can be done by hand or with an electric mixer.  Pour the batter into the cake pan.

Bake 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes. Turn the cake out of the pan on to a wire rack and let cool. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Serve in slices at tea time with a pot of unscented tea.

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You can make your own version of Earl Grey by the cup or pot if you have bee balm in the garden. Bee balm (especially Monarda didyma) has high concentrations of an essential oil that is remarkably similar to bergamot, although chemically distinct.  You can infuse these leaves along with black tea, or infuse them by themselves.