I always associate Earl Grey with the often grey and rainy Britain. While attending school in West London, one of my favorite places to spend time was the Queen Mother Reservoir – or more specifically – Datchet Water Sailing Club. Rain or shine, summer and winter, sailors were always out on the water. While the British weather definitely drives away many foreigners, it never stands in the way of the Brits.
Waking up at ungodly hours to drive to Datchet, first we’d pull the boats up the hill, and down the next hill to prep them by the water.
Attach the main and jib sails. Drop in the dagger board. Attach the rudder, tiller and tiller extension. Make sure the kicker is tight and the bung is in place. Slowly back the small 2-person boat into the water, tie it tightly to the dock and go get yourself ready. Suit up with a wetsuit, drysuit or the ever-rare swimsuit (Britain rarely gets warm enough for such exposure). Grab your sailing boots, gloves and a cup of hot milky tea to warm you up before heading out to the frigid water.
It may sound daunting, unappealing and just plain chilly. But, after a nice hot cup of tea, you’re completely prepared to hit the water!
Some days the water began to ice up along the shore. On those days, it was rather painful when the boat accidentally capsized (you know my boat partner loved me when that happened…on more than one occasion while I was at the helm). Flipping the boat and desperately climbing back in felt like forever. Joints and skin burning from the 30-something degree water – even through the drysuit and insulation onesie.
And some days, during the summer months, we’d try to catch the wind from a storm rolling in. We’d make sure our boats were at the far side of the massive lake, in the shadow of Windsor Castle, when the clubhouse would raise the weather flag, signaling the boats to get off the water. Sails out as far as they’d go, we’d race back to the docks at the other end of the oblong reservoir. It looks peaceful and calm from the shore, but when you’re in the boat, moments like this feel exhilarating. Once back, we’d quickly pull the boats out, lower the sails and the boom, run inside and drink warm tea. We’d lounge around the cafe of the club, watching some classic British shows (Top Gear!!!) on the massive TV that sat adjacent to the wall of sliding glass doors, as the torrential rains fell.
This is my fondest tea memory. Comforting tea warmed your bones before heading out into the damp day and once more after returning from the black lake. Tea, I’m convinced, is the reason why I never got sick from the 6-hour days on (and in) the water.
Several years later, across the pond, Virginia’s sultry humidity is really starting to kick in as we near the summer months. But, these popsicles brings me right back to Dachet and the Queen Mother Reservoir. They’re cold like the British weather. Comforting flavors of Earl Grey and lavender give me the safe and cozy feeling I often felt before walking through the glass sliding doors, out toward the choppy water. A little honey to sweeten up the tea pops, and milk and cream to soften the harshness of the tea.
It’s a comfort food for me. What’s more British than Earl Grey? …and what’s a more comforting aroma than lavender? They go together beautifully. British flavors. British temperatures. These popsicles pretty much sum it all up!