Legend surrounds many teas but none more so than the timeless blend called "Earl Grey" but where did this quintessentially English tea come from and how did it come by it's name?
The man behind the legend
As with all legends & stories the truth can be lost in the sands of time but the man whose name it holds was Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey (1764-1845). Charles served as PM from 1830-34 and although now remembered for the tea his notable political achievements included the Reform Act(1832) & the Slavery Abolition Act (1833).
So why did the tea gain this illustrious name? There are many theories such as the Earl saving the life of a Chinese noble and being rewarded with the tea or that he was given the tea as a gift for abolishing the East India Companies monopoly on trade routes. However the Grey family history attributes the blend to the gifting of tea to Lord Grey by a Chinese Mandarin who added Bergamot to offset the quality of water at Howick Hall, Northumberland.
Whatever the truth is it is more than likely that Grey at some point purchased or was given some high quality Chinese tea and flavoured it with bergamot oil, a practise that was not uncommon at the time. In fact at the time many cheaper imported teas were flavoured with bergamot to imitate more expensive teas as well as helping balance the flavour that may be affected by local water quality.
A legend is born
The blend apparently gained fame when Lady Grey (yes she was real as well) travelled to London to entertain and the legend was born. Over the centuries many have claimed ownership of the distinctive blend with Richard the 6th Earl Grey lending his endorsement to Twinings but several other companies including the East India Company lay claim to its origins!
Whatever the truth, a true Earl Grey blend uses only the finest bergamot oil normally found using Calabrian bergamot oil to create the distinctive citrus & lightly perfumed scent synonymous with this timeless classic.
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