SINCE LAST WRITING ABOUT TEA in general and Tazo’s Earl of Grey in particular, I have tried to other earls: both the Twinings and Stash’s Earl Grey Black & Green (the blend is interesting but I prefer each separately). I can report with comfort that, for my taste, while both are good neither holds a candle to the Tazo. 1
Which leads us to the idiom, can’t hold a candle to: the phrase apparently has its origins in England in the 17th century. It first appeared in print in Sir Edward Dering’s The Fower Cardinal – Vertues Of A Carmelite Fryar in 1641: “Though I be not worthy to hold the candle to Aristotle.” 2
“Apprentices used to be expected to hold the candle so that more experienced workmen were able to see what they were doing. Someone unable even to do that would be of low status indeed.”
It was apparently first used in print in the way that we currently use and understand the phrase in 1883 in William Norris’ novel No New Thing: “Edith is pretty, very pretty; but she can’t hold a candle to Nellie.” (The Phrase Finder)
Aftertaste of Citrus aurantium bergamia
Which brings us ’round again to tea: with Tazo Earl Grey, the essence of the necessary bergamot is much more evident in the taste. Perhaps with time, my palate may yearn for subtlety, but at this point in time I prefer the sweet, perfumey aftertaste of the fruit of the Citrus aurantium bergamia.
I have no idea why the old Gene Chandler hit Duke Of Earl popped into my head while writing this piece, but it did. A bit of hum-able, unforgettable silliness from the early ’60s (“Duke Duke Duke, Duke of Earl . . . Yes, I’m the Duke of Earl”), Duke Of Earl hit the top of the Billboard chart and had one of the few doo-wop hits after that genre’s run of popularity in the ’50s.
The other early ’60s doo-wop biggie was, of course, the Marcels’ inane, wonderful arrangement and performance of Blue Moon. Anyway, I did a brief piece on Duke Of Earl for my other site (“duke duke duke, duke of earl”) that includes a vintage video of Chandler as the Duke. Give it a read and a view.
FEATURED IMAGE: In 2016,the Englewood section of Chicago renamed a stretch of 59th Street between Racine Avenue and May Street is now named Gene Chandler “The Duke Of Earl” Way.
1 Give a read to“Do You Think that Popeye and Olive Oyl Drank Earl Grey at Tea Time?”
2 The word fower is an old Scottish variant on four. Almost sounds like the way Paul pronounced “four” in the count-off that opens I Saw Her Standing There.