About Me

When not at work with students, I spend my time in my room either reading, calculating something using pen and paper, or using a computer. I read almost anything: from the pornographic to the profound, although my main interests are mathematics and physics. "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." -Erasmus

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tea, Earl Gray, Hot

One of  L. E. Modesitt's books, Flash, features a character who drinks Earl Gray tea. Intrigued, I searched for the difference between ordinary black tea and found out that Earl Gray tea is a blend of tea and oil of bergamot. I knew that it wasn't supposed to be expensive, and decided to get some from Rustan's.

I wanted a substitute for coffee that I could enjoy at work, and it was good. Thankfully, I was able to obtain the original blend by Twinings; I was worried that I would get the "new and improved" blend (who remembers New Coke?) but found out from the Twinings website that the new blend was only made available in the United Kingdom.

Judging from the reaction, it looks like the new blend was a disaster for Twinings; the resulting public outcry led them to reintroduce the old blend as Classic Earl Gray.  In the same way, Coca-cola also reintroduced the old formula as Classic Coke, and then later stopped production of New Coke.

I don't know what motivated the Twinings people to tinker with the Earl  Gray formula, but I do know that sip tests of Coke versus Pepsi misled the management into thinking that people wanted the sweeter Cola, and so they used a sweeter (among other things) version of the Coke formula. Malcolm Gladwell tells the story in his book Blink, and his conclusion was that the Coke people were using the wrong test of what people preferred.

While reading one of the rants of the people who disliked the New Earl Gray, I was amused to learn that Earl Gray was Captain Jean-Luc Picard's favorite drink. His usual line was "Tea, Earl Gray, Hot." (with Earl pronounced "Ehl") There's actually a youtube clip of all the instances Picard had Earl Gray. It can be found here.

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