Posted by David at Arbor Teas on January 11, 2011
Easily the most popular of the English tea blends (our organic Earl Grey is certainly one of our most popular!), Earl Grey may seem as timeless as tea itself, but this tea is a surprisingly young blend with a checkered history that few can seem to agree on.
The Tea Itself
Traditional Earl Grey is a blend of black tea flavored with the essence of Bergamot rind, though the name may also be used to refer to any tea—black or otherwise—that uses bergamot as a flavoring (such as our organic green Earl Grey, and our organic Earl Grey rooibos blends). Bergamots are small tart oranges native to southern Vietnam that research suggests are a cross between the sweet lemon, Citrus limetta, and the sour orange, C. aurantium, and the essential oils from their rinds are what give Earl Grey its characteristic flavor. Consequently, the tea often sees use in all manner of confectionary, lending a subtle, citrusy zest to chocolates (like our tea-infused truffles!), cakes, or sauces.
The famous tea is named for an English prime minister, Lord Charles Grey the second, from the 1830s who first popularized its consumption. There is a popular legend that the Earl received the tea as a gift from a grateful Mandarin after one of his men saved the Mandarin (or his son, depending on which version of the story you hear) from drowning. Charming though it is, the story has no basis in fact, because the Earl never traveled to China during his life. Beyond that, no records indicate that the Bergamot was even cultivated in China at that time, so this tea would have been a very unusual gift!
Nevertheless, the current Earl Grey, Lord Charles Grey the sixth, maintains that at the very least his ancestor was given the tea as a gift from a Chinese envoy, and he endorses Twinings of London’s recipe for the tea. Interestingly, the English teahouse Jacksons of Piccadilly also claims to be in possession of the original recipe for Earl Grey, having received it from the Earl himself in 1830.
The Truth About Earl Grey
While the history of this tea may be up in the air, there is no doubt that Earl Grey is a positively delightful tea enjoyed by millions the world over. Whether you take your tea with milk and sugar, or hot and plain, Earl Grey is always a tasty decision! Treat yourself to our unquestionably delicious blend today!