My dad is a major tea purist. Essentially, he views pretty much anything that isn’t plain black tea with some level of disdain. Green tea is okay, but not for him. Most herbal teas/tisanes are absolutely, undrinkably disgusting. Masala chai is an abomination.
I tend to disagree with him on those points (I generally prefer green tea to black for regular consumption, I drink a lot of herbal tea to reduce my caffeine consumption, and I savor the odd masala chai). But, like many of my dad’s opinions, this one sort of rubbed off on me for a while (see also: why I didn’t start reading graphic novels until college), so I thought that adding milk or sugar to green or non-spiced black tea was some kind of gastronomic sin. I still lean this way when it comes to green tea, but I’m over being a snob. I’ll keep drinking most of my tea “black” (especially if it’s green), but you do you, as they say.
For special occasions, or when I just feel like treating myself (or substituting a warm drink for dessert), my go-to drink was masala chai. It’s usually the only special tea latte on the menu.* While working on grad school applications in Silver Star, BC last year (in the middle of cross-country ski training camp), I felt in need of just such a treat and headed down to one of the coffee shops in the ski village.
To my surprise, chai wasn’t the only tea-based drink on the menu. There was also the mysterious London Fog, which was not described; the barista just told me it contained Earl Grey tea and vanilla. I received a pretty darn delicious brew: not too sweet, with the same comforting quality as a mug of steamed milk and the subtle flavors of bergamot and vanilla playing around behind the solid taste of black tea.
Fortunately, I have the restraint not to make this every day, but it’s always a welcome indulgence when I do. It’s also quick and difficult to screw up! I understand if you can’t stomach sweet, milky tea (Dad), but for the rest of us, this is a nice treat.
London Fog (Earl Grey tea latte/misto with vanilla)
Adapted (very slightly) from Gimme Some Oven.
1 (or 2) Earl Grey tea bags
1/2 tsp dried lavender (optional)**
Milk (your choice; I like 1%)
1 Tbsp sugar, more or less to taste
scant 1/4 tsp vanilla extract per 12 fl. oz. drink
Brew a strong cup of Earl Grey tea: put in teabag(s) and lavender if using, pour in freshly-boiled water so the cup is about 2/3 full, and let steep for 3-5 minutes, or to preference. In the meantime, measure out approximately enough milk to fill the rest of the mug, and steam or heat to a simmer over medium-low heat or in the microwave until hot but not boiling. Remove tea bag and lavender. Stir in sugar and vanilla extract until combined. Serve warm.
Serving suggestion: goes very well with a light cookie/biscuit, but rich enough to be consumed as a standalone treat.
*Unfortunately, this often means that it’s made from a overly sugary mix instead of actual tea brewed with spices and milk and sweetened with sugar or honey. This makes the London Fog more appealing, at least in my opinion. 12-year-old me loved that stuff.
**Go easy on the lavender unless you’re sure you like it; too much lavender can get really gross, and some Earl Grey tea blends already include lavender. On a similar note, be careful not to add too much vanilla extract, since this can add a weird alcohol-y taste to your drink.