The Chief’s Story - A Folk Tale on African Earl
African Earl is our fun attempt at reimagining a piece of history that may or may not have been. History becomes contemporary fact when it is preserved as a factual record by the surviving dominating force. "History is written by the victors".
Our imagination can never be imprisoned. This story of the popular “Earl Grey” tea is rendered into an African folk tale by Naima Harrington (the founder’s niece), It will prompt your mind to question the roots of many stories as you sip this delectable original “African Earl” tea.
We hope you are able to sit back and indulge in our delightful new blend - African Earl.
A tea, in our eyes, fit for any African Royal.
Re-imagined by Naima Harrington
Young Feruzi, who had been put to bed by his father many hours ago, stood by the door of his room. His feet were bare on the hard floor, his little frame shaking with cold.
“Baba, baba!” He called out.
Feruzi’s father, a tall and handsome man, came hurrying from his room. Concern and confusion furrowed his brow. It was very unusual for his son to be awake at such a late hour.
“Mwana? What is it.” He knelt down by his sons side.
“Baba, I cannot sleep. The wind scares me. Tell me a story.”
Though it was late and Feruzi’s father was tired he could not refuse his son. He lifted him and carried him to his bed, covering his small body with a blanket.
“I will tell you a story, but you must promise to try to sleep.” He looked at his son expectantly.
“Yes baba, I promise.”
“Alright. Feruzi have you ever heard of the Chief’s story?” The young boy shook his head fevrently. “Many many years ago in a land that is now Kenya there lived a Chief. It is his history that brought us the Earl Grey tea. The one Shosho always drinks. Do you know it?”
As the two huddled closer Feruzi’s father began his story.
The sun was hanging low in the sky by the time the Chief arrived on the outskirts of his home. His day had been tiring. Trekking through shrubs and wading through streams, hour after hour he had searched for that rarest of fruits. His hands were cut and bruised, his long limbs aching with exhaustion, but the Chief showed no signs of depletion. As he rode into the village, heads turned with interest, smiling when they realised who it was that passed by.
“Karibu nyumbani”, cried the young boys who raced down the path.
Above the heads of his people, the Chief could see smoke rising and rising and rising, higher and higher into the evening sky. He dismounted his horse and strode toward the communal fire. Families stood huddled together, soft, anticipatory words escaping into the breeze, all awaiting the arrival of their leader. The Chief sighed contently; oh what a joy it was to be surrounded by family!
As they turned to face the Chief a cheer of relief escaped from the crowd. There had been, for the best part of the day, a feeling of tension about the place. The children had watched their parents scurrying around exchanging clipped sentences, with a mild sense of curiosity. As the sun had begun to descend in the sky, with no sign of their leader, an atmosphere of panic had enveloped the village. His arrival released the people from their fretting.
“I have brought home what is needed. The day was long but I am certain it will be worth the labour.” Announced the Chief triumphantly. “Niletee maji.”
The Chief was led to the side of the fire and handed a bowl of water. He kneeled and reached into his pocket, producing a single fruit. The orange gleam of the fire danced along its surface. The Chief carved the fruit with his knife, allowing the peel to fall into the bowl of water. His brow furrowed with concentration as he mixed and chopped and stirred. Though his hands were calloused and cut, it was their undeniable elegance that caught the attention of a passing shadow. A young man watched from behind the crowd as the Chief placed the bowl on to the flame, watched as the water bubbled and brewed, watched as whisps of steam escaped into the night air. When eventually the Chief removed the bowl and poured the tea, the young man was entranced.
“Excuse me,” the boy called. “Sir!”
The crowd turned to look at the boy. He was scrawny and pale, an unusual face. His clothes, though crumpled from a days wear, were clearly of the finest quality.
“Yes?” The Chief searched the faces in front of him, his eyes landed on the boy. “Young man did you just call out?”
“Yes sir. I was passing your village when I happened to notice your fire. I rode by to see if there was anywhere I could stay the night. I wondered what it was you were brewing.” The boy nodded his head to the contents of the bowl.
“It is the best tea you will find on this continent, a recipe that cures all ailments, made from the flesh of matunda ya shauku.” The Chief held the bowl closer to his chest. “Where have you travelled from?”
“Further west, across the sands.” Replied the young man.
“If you are in need of a shelter I must insist that you stay with us until dawn, it can be a perilous journey onwards if taken in the dark. Come and sit, we will have tea.”
Bowing his head in thanks, the young man allowed the chief to lead him to the fireside. It was there that the young man stayed the whole night, in the company of the Chief and his people. Talking and drinking hot, sweet tea. They exchanged stories and songs, the boy told them of his homeland, of his family, of his travels. When the morning arrived the boy stood and looked at his newly made friends.
“I must thank you all for the kindness you have shown me, and of course for the splendid tea. I best be getting on. ”
“Karibu rafiki yangu, it was a pleasure. Goodbye, mister…” The Chief hesitated, he had not in fact caught the name of his guest.
“Grey, Charles Grey.” The boy mounted his horse. “Goodbye Chief.”
Feruzi’s father looked down at the boy huddled in his arms. He had expected his son to be asleep, but to his surprise his small brown eyes were wide open. There was a frown tugging at the sides of his mouth.
“But baba what happened after?”
“What happened after…?”
“Mister Grey left, but what happened to the Chief? And his tea? Did Mister Grey and the Chief ever meet again?”
Feruzi’s father chuckled. “I suppose now that I have started the story it is only fair for me to tell you the ending.”
When Grey returned home he decided to chronicle his travels. He wrote to many newspapers requesting a column. Eventually he was granted his wish. He told stories of the continent, of its people and its natural beauty. Most of all he wrote of his friend, the Chief and of his tea, which he nicknamed ‘African Earl’. The tale became famous across the country and many readers wrote to the newspaper asking for a recipe. Unable to find the exact flavour and earthiness he had tasted by the Chief’s fire, Grey decided to use bergamot oranges instead.
It was in the bustling rooms of a print shop, amongst the steam and machines, that the Chief was forgotten. The tea was renamed ‘Earl Grey’, by a publisher who thought it easier to pronounce. The tea became popular bringing the publishers many riches. The Chief never learnt of his tea’s fame and lived to be an old and happy man.
“Baba, is that not incredibly sad? The Chief could have been a very rich and prosperous man.”
“You are right mwana, but in some ways the Chief was happier and more content than all those who had profited from his recipe. He had his family and his land, and he lived a long and peaceful life. It is not always the material things that bring joy.”
“Yes baba.” Young Feruzi sighed as his eyelids fluttered shut.
Re-Imagined by Naima Harrington