Even my tea aficionado friend was impressed (his daily brew is bespoke, made up by a small Yorkshire firm of tea importers). “What did you say this was, again?” he asked me. I’d already told him: a blend of black China tea with bergamot oil, lemon and orange peel. “It’s aromatic and clean, without being too perfumed,” he enthused, sipping and savouring the light, citrus, honey-gold brew. What I failed to mention was that this wasn’t just any tea – this was Empress Grey tea from Marks and Spencer.
Apologies for the cliché, but sometimes the best things can be found in the least likely places. This is M&S’s version of Lady Grey tea – as its name suggests, a more delicate variation on Earl Grey – and, in my opinion, it really does surpass all others. I’m not the only one who thinks so: Steepster.com, the online tea fanciers’ forum (which was actually set up by three Americans), has 86,489 tasting notes posted on 22, 860 different teas, and Empress Grey ranks highly at 87 per cent.
Did I mention that the box is pretty too? The elegant geometric design wouldn’t look out of place among my friend’s array of caddies. I might just surprise him for Christmas.