The Story Of Earl Grey Tea

Who was the man behind the Earl Grey curtain?

Charles Grey (1764-1845).
Charles was an English aristocrat who was educated in Eton and Cambridge and elected to Parliament at the age of 22. He married Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby (daughter of Baron Ponsonby of Imokilly, Co. Cork, Ireland) and had six daughters and ten sons! Before he was married, he had an illegitimate daughter with the Duchess of Devonshire, which is the subject of the 2008 movie, “The Duchess”. He was a member of the Whig party and became foreign secretary in 1806 but a dispute over the rights of Catholics ended that appointment. He inherited the title of Earl when his father passed away in 1807 and became a member of the House of Lords.

Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 22 November, 1830 to 9 July, 1834. He was noted for advocating parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. Two of his most notable reforms were the Reform Act of 1832 and the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 but interestingly, the monopoly of the East India Company in Britain’s trade with China ended while he was prime minister.

A tea by any other name…
How he became associated with the tea is unclear. There are stories of good deeds in China that resulted in the recipe for the tea coming to his ownership. Another version tells how the blend was created by accident when a gift of tea and bergamot oranges were shipped together from diplomats in China and the fruit flavor was absorbed by the tea during shipping. Yet another version of the story involves a Chinese mandarin friend of the Earl blending this tea to offset the taste of minerals in the water at his home (Howick Hall, Northumberland, England).

In reality, it is not absolutely clear why the tea was named after Charles. Jackson’s of Piccadilly say that they introduced the blend in 1836 “to meet the wishes of a former Earl Grey”.  In contrast to later associations, it seems that at that time it was used unfavorably to enhance the taste of low-quality tea, which suggests that it was rather unlikely that Charles Grey, the second Earl championed or recommended the tea.

So what exactly is Earl Grey tea?
The first reference to bergamot-flavored tea was found in 1824. Earl Grey teas, traditionally, were blends comprised of varying black teas with bergamot oil added to them. Today, any tea (green, white, herbal) that is sprayed with bergamot oil is known as Earl Grey. Every tea merchant carries an Earl Grey black tea blend and while some blends might even have the same name, they are all very different due to the variations in black teas used for the blend and the quality of the bergamot oil.

Bergamot oil comes from the rind of the bergamot orange, which grows on the citrus tree Citrus bergamia. The oil expressed from the rind is used, in addition to making Earl Grey tea blends, quite frequently in the cosmetic industry. Bergamot oil can be found in soaps, lotions, oils and perfumes and has been said to help alleviate depression as well as used as a digestive aid and used to help skin irregularities (such as psoriasis).

Earl Grey tea is a favorite with bakers in many culinary recipes. It goes especially well with cakes, cookies, confections and any recipe with chocolate!

20 Shades of Earl Grey Collection

Here at Best of British, we have found that Earl Grey is one of the most popular teas that we both sell from the emporium and serve in the tearoom. Given Sally’s interest in blending and aromatics, we are proud to present our extensive collection of wonderful blends based on this well-loved classic.
Bella Luna – The familiar notes of bergamot are highlighted by the soft glow of coconut and cream. This lovely blend produces a rich, bright, and well-rounded cup.
Citrus Paradisi – this is a citrus lover’s delight. Earl Grey black tea is combined with natural grapefruit oil to create a highly refreshing but full bodied, dark amber cup.
Decaf Earl Grey – the same great taste of a traditional Earl Grey without the caffeine.
Earl Grey - an exceptional combination of Darjeeling, Assam, Chinese, and Sri Lankan teas, with the oil of bergamot offers the well-loved traditional taste and aroma of Earl Grey.  
Earl Grey de la Creme - blended black teas and bergamot produce a bright cup that is gently rounded with the addition of smooth vanilla.
Emerald Green - this green tea version combines a China green Sencha tea with high quality bergamot oil, to produce a light and delightful scented tea brewing to a medium cup.
Extreme Earl Grey - For the "extreme" Earl Grey lover and originally formulated by Mr. Vail of Simpson & Vail for his Eastern European customers, this blend features more bergamot oil than usual. Highly aromatic with a very strong but not too astringent citrus flavor.
Lady Myrtle - A tantalizing blend of organic lemon myrtle, rooibos Earl Grey, lavender and rose petals results in a superior and pleasing floral cup.

Lavender Earl Grey- benefits from the addition of lavender flowers, which have a long history of medicinal, culinary and household use. For one, their sweet, floral fragrance is notably soothing, invoking relaxation. Combined here with the classic blend of Earl Grey's citrus and a hint of cream.

Moonlight - comforting flavors of vanilla and cream combine to soften the citrus notes of traditional Earl Grey.
Mrs. Grey - An interesting black tea blend that has the fragrant aroma and flavor of Earl Grey with orange and lemon peels that creates a refreshing taste sensation. Delicious when iced!
Rooibos Earl Grey - the classic blend with a twist, using South African Rooibos.  Zesty fresh citrus aroma, slightly dry but smooth, with a rounded and balanced orange rind flavor. Lingering citrus sweetness. Naturally caffeine free.
Sally's Secret – No, not named after our Sally, but was created in memory of a Harney & Sons staff member and adds pink rosebuds to the blend producing a lovely color in the cup and beautifully fragrant medium cup.
Supreme Earl Grey– this remarkable tea from Harney & Sons uses a higher grade of black tea with the addition of SilverTips. Flavored with bergamot oil to produce a full bodied amber cup.
Tulsi Earl Grey - this creation of Organic Rooibos and Tulsi (commonly known as Holy Basil) with lemongrass and bergamot oil is a new twist to the well-known taste. The herbs brew to a golden hue with a delightful light citrus taste.

Victorian Earl Grey – almost too pretty in its fresh state to brew, this artful blend of Rose Congou black tea, lavender petals, rose petals, rosemary and bergamot produces a full bodied, aromatic cup that has a sweet, floral taste and slightly earthy, woody aroma from the rosemary and lavender.
Decaf Victorian Earl Grey – same as the above without the caffeine.
Victorian London Fog -  the winning blend in Harney & Sons’ customer creation contest. The beverage called London Fog originated during the Victorian era. Traditionally, it is an Earl Grey served with steamed milk. This is a blend of black tea, oolong tea, bergamot oil, lavender, vanilla flavor.
Viennese Earl Grey -  a graceful variation on the traditional, this tea from Harney & Sons has a Darjeeling base, which makes it lighter than other Earl Grey versions.
Winter White Earl Grey - a perennial favorite tea from Harney & Sons, this tea combines beautiful Chinese Pai Mu Tan white tea with bergamot, and is an absolute pleasure to drink iced.
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