Bergamot, Beverages, and Sweet Delights

Bergamot oranges

If you are a fan of Earl Grey Tea, the candy/confection known as Turkish Delight,or any number of dry, white vermouths…you might be a fan of Bergamot Oil. Bergamot oil is derived from the rind of Citrus bergamia fruit, otherwise known as bergamot, or the bergamot orange.

It is believed that bergamot is a hybrid of a type of lemon crossed with the bitter (Seville) orange. The resulting fruit may have been named after the city of Bergamo in Lombardy (Italy), where it was historically sold. Another theory states that it was named after the Turkish words bey armudu (“prince’s pear) or bey armut (“prince of pears”). The fruit itself has greenish-yellowish skin (depending on ripeness) and bitter pulp that also appears as a mix of yellow and green. The plant itself is an evergreen tree that can reach a height of about 10 to 12 feet (3 to 4 m) with dark, fleshy leaves. It blooms with highly aromatic, white flowers in the spring.

Calabria highlighted in the map of Italy

Calabria—the province of Reggio di Calabria to be precise—is the leading area for the production of oil of bergamot. The area, located on the very tip of the toe of Italy’s “boot,” grows 90% of all the bergamot oranges in the world, and the region has protected geographical indication status for its bergamot oil: Bergamotto di Reggio Calabria – olio essenziale PGI. These days, bergamot is also grown in France, Argentina, Morocco, Turkey, Brazil, and parts of Africa.

The aroma of Bergamot oil is often described using the following terms: lemony, citrus, grapefruit, floral, or spicy (nutmeg-cinnamon-anise). The flavor of the fruit itself is described as citric and acidic (but not quite as sour as a lemon), and bitter (somewhere between a grapefruit and a lime).

Earl Grey tea, as it has been known since the 1830s, was originally a type of black tea flavored with bergamot oil. (These days, there are versions made with many types of tea including green tea, oolong tea, and an herbal variation based on Rooibos). The name of the tea goes back to Charles Grey—the second Earl Grey, also known as Viscount Howick—who served as the Prime Minister of the UK from 1830 to 1834.

.

The flavored tea, gifted to the Earl, was supposedly created specifically to meld with the water of the area. It became wildly popular—Lady Grey loved to serve it at social and political gatherings—and has been produced in various incarnations ever since.

Earl Grey tea has made its way into a number of drinks and cocktails (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) over the years. One long-lost (but not quite forgotten) tradition is known as a Moseley Tea Service (named after a suburb of South Birmingham). When your order a Moseley Tea Service, you get a drink made with a cup of Earl Grey tea (prepared however you like it) fortified a shot (or two) of gin.

A more recent innovation—a drink known variously as the London Fog, Manchester Fog, or Earl Grey Tea Latte—was invented in the early 2000s in Vancouver, BC (and imitated all over the world these days). The drink is made using a very strong potion of Earl Grey tea (such as one tea bag to ½ cup of hot water steeped for two to four minutes), steamed milk, and vanilla syrup. (Beware of the commercial use of the term “London Fog” as there are quite a few trademarks and copyrights lingering about.)

.

Bergamot is widely used in aromatized wines and liqueurs as a bittering and/or flavoring agent. Such products include Cocchi Dry Vermouth, Briottet Crème de Bergamot, and the new-liqueur-on-the-block, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto. These products are so interesting that they warrant their very own blog post (hopefully next week).

Hard candy corner: The area around the French city of Nancy (in the Grand Est Region) produces a hard candy flavored with oil of Bergamot. These candies, which have PGI protection, are known as Bergamotes de Nancy PGI.

In addition to its culinary uses, bergamot oil is also quite useful within the realms of herbal medicine and aromatherapy. According to the dō Terra website, it has “both calming and uplifting abilities” and can “dissipate anxious feelings while simultaneously providing cleansing and purifying benefits.” (But be careful…it can cause the skin to be ultra-sensitive to sunlight.) The plants themselves have highly fragrant roots that can act as an insect repellant.

Confusion corner: A flowering, aromatic herb formally known as Monarda didyma also goes by the name Bergamot (in addition to scarlet beebalm and Oswego tea). The aroma of Monarda didyma is said to be familiar to Citrus bergamia, but there is no familial link between the two species.

References/for more information:

 

 

 

 

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

One Response to Bergamot, Beverages, and Sweet Delights

  1. This is so fascinating!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: