Tracing the Roots of Earl Grey Tea

What is Earl Grey Tea?

Earl Grey tea is a distinct blend known for its unique flavour and aroma. It is traditionally made by combining black tea with the essence of bergamot, a citrus fruit. The essence, also known as “Oil of Bergamot,” is extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange and lends a citrusy and aromatic quality to the tea.

While the traditional Earl Grey tea recipe consists of black tea and bergamot oil, variations have emerged over time. Some blends incorporate additional ingredients like lemon peel or cornflower petals to enhance the flavour and visual appeal. There are even versions that use green tea as a base instead of black tea, catering to those who enjoy experimenting with different flavour profiles.
Regardless of the specific blend, Earl Grey tea remains a beloved and popular choice among tea enthusiasts who appreciate its distinctive taste and delightful aroma.

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What is Bergamot?

Bergamot tea is typically brewed using black tea leaves and the fruit of the Citrus bergamia tree. The tea leaves can be sprayed with bergamot extract or essential oil, or mixed with dried bergamot rinds, resulting in a tea with a subtle citrus-like flavour.

Although bergamot tea is often associated with Britain due to its nickname from Earl Grey, it is actually native to Southeast Asia and is now widely cultivated in Southern Italy.

Overall, bergamot tea offers a unique and refreshing beverage option, and its potential health benefits are worth further exploration in conjunction with the known properties of bergamot as a whole.

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The Story of Earl Grey Tea

One of the most widely circulated myths surrounding Earl Grey tea involves Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey, who served as the British Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834. According to this tale, it is believed that Earl Grey travelled to China and, during his visit, rescued a mandarin’s life. In gratitude, the mandarin supposedly gifted Earl Grey a recipe for black tea scented with oil of bergamot.

However, this account is questionable considering the lack of documented evidence from Charles Grey’s well-documented political career. In fact, it is highly unlikely that he ever travelled to China, particularly during his time as Prime Minister. This is because Britain was on the verge of a conflict with China due to the opium trade, which funded the large quantities of Chinese tea being imported by Britain at that time.

Therefore, while the story of Earl Grey’s connection to China and the rescue of a mandarin’s son may be widely repeated, it should be taken with a degree of scepticism. The true origins of Earl Grey tea and its recipe remain uncertain, leaving room for speculation and the creativity of tea enthusiasts and historians alike.

Digging Deeper

There are a few different stories surrounding the origins of Earl Grey tea. One tale suggests that a Chinese mandarin’s son was saved from drowning by one of Lord Grey’s men, and as a token of gratitude, the mandarin presented the tea blend to Lord Grey. Another account claims that the tea was presented to Lord Grey by an envoy on his return from China.

The Jacksons of Piccadilly, a prominent tea company, assert that Lord Grey shared the tea recipe with George Charlton, a partner of Robert Jackson & Co, in 1830. According to the Jacksons, they have been producing the blend since then, maintaining its exclusivity within their company.The Jacksons have a rich history dating back to the 1680s as purveyors of luxury goods. Tea blending became one of their specialties, and by 1815, they were recognised as established tea blenders. Their blends gained popularity, even becoming a favourite of royalty, earning them the royal warrant.

Lady Grey, known as a political hostess in London, frequently served Earl Grey tea to her guests. The tea became so well-liked that she was asked if it could be sold to others. This led to Twinings introducing Earl Grey tea as a branded product.

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To sum up

Today, there are numerous variations of Earl Grey tea available in the market, as different companies have created their own blends. Each variation has its own unique taste and aroma. It would be fascinating to see if the Queen could do a blind tea tasting and determine which blend comes closest to the original formula. Earl Grey tea continues to delight tea enthusiasts around the world, maintaining its place as a beloved and iconic beverage.

Looking to invigorate your tea-drinking experience? Motley Brew offers two exceptional options for Earl Grey enthusiasts: Organic Earl Grey Black Tea and Organic Earl Grey Green Tea.

Savour the exceptional taste and aroma with every sip from Motley Brew’s organic Earl Grey selection.


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