For years I’ve enjoyed Earl Grey tea. In fact it was the first non-mainstream tea I ever took a liking to, and that’s going back forty odd years now. A dear friend introduced me to it and I’ve bought it ever since. Since it has always been very expensive compared to your common breakfast teas, almost double the price, it was reserved to enjoy only on the odd occasion. For a few years I didn’t drink it all because my very tight budget just didn’t allow it. The expense I believe comes from the addition of subtly flavoured bergamot, an oil extract from the bergamot orange. “Citrus bergamia, the bergamot orange (pronounced /ˈbɜːrɡəˌmɒt/), is a fragrant citrus fruit the size of an orange, with a green color similar to a lime.” (Wikipedia)
So a year or two back I began buying it again and noticed it wasn’t as strong. It took two bags to taste the bergamot. Or making a smaller cup. This led me to start reading the fine print. Yes it was labeled ‘light strength’. I contacted the Twinings Facebook page and asked what was up with the ‘light’? The answer was a little vague and I couldn’t really figure out what it meant. I did complain about the fact you could hardly taste the bergamot. Then recently I noticed a package change and the bags were sealed in a foil bag. The bergamot flavour was stronger and on examining the new pack it said 5% bergamot flavouring whereas the old packet said 3.5%. Yay, I said to myself. They’ve strengthened it. Then I began to ponder. ‘Flavouring’? Surely not? So I contacted the Facebook page again and asked is the flavouring real bergamot or imitation? I was instructed in their reply to contact Twinings using the email ad supplied. My first red flag. If it was real bergamot they would surely be proud to tell me that on Facebook for all the public to see. This was the reply I got:
In our Twinings tea bag Earl Grey products we use a combination of a granular bergamot flavouring, plus a liquid flavouring to give a strong aroma. The exact compositions of flavourings are the flavour houses’ proprietary information. However, the flavourings in Earl Grey include a small amount of bergamot extract and other natural flavouring chemicals and synthetically produced flavour materials.
So, I have replied (a week ago now) to ask what percentage of the flavouring is real bergamot? No answer yet although I suspect that will also be “the flavour houses’ proprietary information”. I will keep you posted on that one. My next email will question the cost compared to the real.
I figure if they are using artificial chemical flavouring then they ought not to be charging the very high price they do. I always paid more knowing that of course bergamot will be expensive and if I wanted that flavour it was worth the price. So there you go, this is what bloody corporations do (and if you read my posts you will know I don’t generally swear but on this occasion I am. I’m kind of gutted really). They’ve cut the cost of production (and no, chemicals won’t be dearer than real bergamot otherwise they wouldn’t be going to the trouble of sourcing them) and pocketed the difference they made (from we customers). We’ve learned to identify MSG by its various other abbreviated names, however in this instance, with the artificially tweaked bergamot, we have no idea what we are drinking chemical wise, plus it is just not the real deal.
So … I don’t like the fact that I’ve been drinking bergamot flavoured chemicals, especially after recently reading of the great health benefits of Earl Grey which would only be
present in real bergamot, (relaxing and sleep inducing were two of them) and I don’t like the fact I’ve been ripped off. If I didn’t love Earl Grey so much I’d stop drinking it. Although that may still be on the tables. I’m just weighing it all up at the moment. I’m asking myself also, what other products have chemical flavouring rather than the real thing? It surely proves we must read the fine print. Please do watch ‘The Corporation’ movie. You’ll understand why and how corporations can subtly mislead us.