Earl Grey Tea: Fact and Fiction

Earl Grey TeapotEasily 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 Controversy

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!

January 11 2011 10:38 pm | Organic Tea Facts and Tea Culture

2 Responses to “Earl Grey Tea: Fact and Fiction”

  1. Barbara Krastin on 18 Jan 2011 at 9:15 am #

    I have a large supply of your teas presently.Thus, I won’t be ordering more for awhile — and I’ve reached the point where I definitely prefer white teas. They seem to be more delicate and i enjoy them for that reason. But keep me on your email list — I never know when I’ll change my mine.
    This summer I likely will travel to my hometown, Toledo. Am hoping to drive up to Ann Arbor then.

  2. Lu on 19 Jan 2011 at 3:32 am #

    I too still have quite large supply of arbor tea in stock right now. The thing is when I ordered last time, I ordered some of my favorite tea as well as a new flavored tea and my favorite tea tasted different than the batch which made it my favorite and as for the flavored tea, I really regret I should’ve ordered something, anything else. I got a lesson that I should go for the basic, clasic flavor when it comes to tea/coffee..no added flavors for me. Earl Grey is classic enough I think so I guess I’ll be ordering a few more altho I still have plenty left.

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