This Famous Calabrian Fruit is a big Part of Your Life and You Never Even Noticed!
Each morning half of our planet’s population wakes up and stumbles to their kitchen to make coffee and wake up the sleepy eyes. The other half of population does the same thing, but they prefer to put the tea kettle on and wake those same sleepy eyes with some strong morning tea. If you belong to the second lot, my bet is that you really like a cup of nice Earl Gray in the morning.
And this distinctive taste of Earl Gray blend, the citrus sourness and bitter taste mixed with fine herbs? Let’s all say “Thanks bergamot!”. And a fellow named the second Earl of Gray, of course. So how has this marvelous combo come to be? Who thought of adding a bit of bergamot to the beloved tea?
The Secret of Calabria
But before we answer that question, let’s get to know bergamot a bit better. It comes from the citrus family but has much thinner skin than lemon or lime, highly aromatic scent and very bitter taste. It is actually a cross between a lemon and a bitter orange. Its most valuable feature comes from its rind: the divine bergamot essential oil!
Although the origin of bergamot is South Asia, today, its home is almost exclusively Calabria, a region in the south of Italy. Over 90% of global bergamot production comes from the beautiful coastal part of Calabria. Of course, bergamot can grow in many warm climates, but bergamot experts say that, for example, even though it can be found all over the world, from Sicily to Brazil, nowhere does it match the quality of the one grown and cultivated in Calabria. We agree, and bergamot confirms that Calabria with 300 sunny days per year is indeed a magical place like no other in the world!
Earl Gray’s Best Friend
And now that we know all that, let’s get back to Earl Gray tea. There are several stories and legends about how bergamot became a part of it. The most popular one is that a ship that sailed from South Asia to England carrying bergamot and tea herbs encountered a storm at sea and although it managed to continue the journey, the precious cargo got mixed up and the new tea blend was born.
Another, less romantic story, comes from the descendants of Earl Gray. They claim that the water on their estate and in London was very hard and Earl Gray decided to add a few drops of bitter citrus bergamot because he noticed that bergamot was making the tea clearer (very hard water would make it look cloudy).
Although we can’t say for sure who is behind this idea, we are thankful to whoever thought of it!
Wake up and Smell...Bergamot!
Bergamot is also called the “finest flower of citrus” because it creates a perfect mixture of bittersweet, fresh, fruity and floral scents. It is no wonder that bergamot essential oil plays an important role in many of the most popular and classic perfumes because its scent blends nicely with wide range of scent tones such as vanilla, fresh flowery tones and even strong perfumes that give a very powerful scent use bergamot. It is also a very popular scent for soaps as it never fails to bring out that famous scent of freshness that we all love!
The Precious Essence
Bergamot essential oil is what makes products that contain bergamot so special in their taste and scent. But getting this precious oil from bergamot is not such an easy task. Bergamot’s skin is peeled and mechanically pressed to extract the oil and guess what?! It takes about 200kg of bergamot to extract only one kilogram of essential oil! Next time you spritz on your favourite perfume, think of the complex process it took to obtain this lovely scent!
Bergamot in the Kitchen
There was a time when bergamot fruit was considered inedible and even toxic to play any part in the kitchen, but in the last 20 years, things have changed. Many chefs have started adding bergamot juice or zest into pastry, cookies, and desserts to achieve a more “Mediterranean aroma”. Bergamot marmalade has become increasingly popular and you can even make it yourself, it’s not that hard!
If you want to impress your guests with something special, try adding a few drops of bergamot juice or zest in the salad or fish and it will give an unusual twist to your recipe!
A toast to bergamot
Bergamot has found its way into many cocktails. Bergamot rose martinis, bergamot mojito, or if you are a bourbon fan, a bergamot bourbon cocktail is a must-try! It will give a fresh, slightly bitter citrus note to your favourite drink and carry your thoughts to some warm Mediterranean landscape by the sea shore!
Relax, Bergamot’s got you!
Bergamot is rich in antioxidants and recent studies show that it can even reduce cholesterol. Bergamot essential oil is praised for its calming and relaxing effects. It is often the main ingredient in air fresheners and air purifiers. Also, bergamot has some great antibacterial and antiseptic properties and some people believe that if you put a drop of bergamot essential oil on your stomach it can help your digestion!
After finding out all the ways that bergamot makes our lives fresher, more aromatic and tastier, it is time to just say one big THANK YOU to this wonderful gift from Calabria.