Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The return of the East India Company (yes, that one)

The East India Company lives again — and, get this, it's now Indian-owned.

The ultimate symbol of British imperialism and capitalist extremes, with an impressive history, the East India Co. was dissolved more than a century ago. But Mumbai-born Sanjiv Mehta opened a fine-foods shop last summer in London using the famous name, to which he'd acquired the official rights and trademarks (even the coat of arms). While the new East India Co. has no plans to dominate global trade again, it is offering — how could it not? — a sizable array of teas.

I've tasted one, and it's pretty extraordinary. Though I enjoy a quality Earl Grey on rare occasions, I've never found citrus flavors very complementary to black tea. (If you do, check out this run-down of citrus and tea.) East India offers a really pleasant alternative: a mango tea. Many brands offer mango teas (Adagio's is good), and East India's ranks high among them. To a surprisingly strong black tea is added dried mango fruit and mango oil, rounding out a remarkably full-bodied tropical flavor without becoming cloying or gimmicky. It doesn't strut through the door as a boorish Flavored Tea, you know? I've really enjoyed this, and I can't wait to ice it this summer.

Pictures of the shop and information about some of their other teas — from a Jane Pettigrew tea tasting there — can be found here.

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