Behind the Apron – Just My Cup of Tea: Earl Grey & Lavender Panna Cotta

By Mary McCune

Mary McCune
Mary McCune

This might be the first year I haven’t fallen victim to the City of Tree’s infamous allergy season, so my sinuses have allowed me to fully appreciate the blooming new season that has been creeping upon The Grid for months.  I found my inspiration for this Italian custard after sipping on a cup of Earl Grey tea while sitting underneath the canopy of flowers on the patio of Temple Coffee’s S Street location.

This is not the first time I have infused tea into a recipe, and in fact, I try to do so as often as possible.  Folding teas into any dessert recipe can create a fun and flavorful twist on a classic recipe (see: Spicy Chai Banana Bread).




Mary’s Field Notes:

While infusing tea flavors into baked dishes can be light and fun, infusing anything with lavender can easily tip from delightful to disastrous.  I caution you strongly when baking with lavender. The first time I made this recipe, I used equal parts of Earl Grey tea and lavender.  Big.  Mistake.  The lavender ended up overpowering all other flavors, which is not the worst baking mistake to make, but made for some awkward faces at the Easter dinner table!




Earl Grey & Lavender Panna Cotta

Difficulty Level (0-10 scale, where 10 is extremely difficult): 3/10.

Prep Time: 1 hour 20 minutes (you can steep the tea in the cream ahead of time and shave off an hour of prep)

Bake Time: This dessert is “no bake”!  Chill these babies overnight though, minimum 4 hours if you are in a rush. 

Yield: 8 servings 

Perfect for: High tea with girlfriends or a Downton Abbey binge (or both?)


Special Equipment:  Ramekins, teacups, or wine glasses


  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • ½ cup loose leaf Temple Earl Grey tea*
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender (found at the Sac Food Co-Op)*
  • 2 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla



1. Combine cream, milk, Earl Grey loose-leaf tea and lavender in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring every couple of minutes to make sure tea and lavender are fully submerged. Once the mixture is boiling, take the pan off the heat and cover loosely with aluminum foil, allowing steam to release. Let steep for 45-60 minutes.


2. When the cream has finished steeping (mixture should be slightly lighter than burlap), “bloom”** the gelatin over the 3 tablespoons of cold water. Once fully bloomed, it should have a jelly-like consistency, about 4-5 minutes.


3. As the gelatin is blooming, strain the infused cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding the tea and lavender.


4. Pour the cream back into the saucepan and add sugar, the bloomed gelatin, and the vanilla, stirring over medium-low heat until the sugar and gelatin is just melted, but not boiling.

5. Once the sugar and gelatin are combined into the cream, pour the cream into eight teacups, ramekins, etc… Chill at least 4 hours, but overnight is best.  Panna cotta keeps for up to 2 days.




* Not a fan of Earl Grey?  Try other teas like jasmine or green tea! 

** “Blooming” means to sprinkle the gelatin powder evenly over the cold water in a small bowl and let the mixture stand until fully dissolved.

Recipe adapted from Camille Styles and Hummingbird High.


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