Vaclav Havel (1936-2011), playwright, poet, political dissident and president of the Czech Republic, was several times imprisoned between 1970 and 1989. In this period of extreme solitude he had time to read a lot of books and to think about philosophical themes such as the relationship between human identity and immortality. He wrote letters to his wife Olga* from his cell in which he described the discomfort, his pains and sickness under the unhealthy conditions in prison. But in spite of everything there was one thing that could give him a feeling of harmony and mental balance he wrote and that was making tea by himself. The daily cup of Earl Grey gave him solace and a little sense of freedom. And as he wrote on the 27th of October 1980, he don’t made tea only for himself, but in order to survive, in his thoughts he actually made tea symbolic for his love Olga, for his family, his friends, for outsiders, for the world.
Today, I have also made Earl Grey. Earl Grey is a blend of black tea, flavoured with oil of the rind of the bergamot orange. It’s a pretty pithy tea with a pronounced citrus taste.
He is named after Lord Charles Grey the 2nd, British Prime Minister in the 1830s. A legend tells how the blend was created by accident when a gift for Charles Grey of tea and bergamot oranges were shipped together from China to England and the fruit flavour was absorbed by the tea during shipping.
Photo’s and text: Iris WeichlerCeramic mug (stoneware): Iris Weichler
* Letters to Olga, by Vaclav Havel