Lavender-scented tea (photo © Doctors Health Press).
Earl Grey is one of America’s most popular flavored teas, a Keemun base flavored with a splash of bergamot oil, the latter pressed from the peel of the bergamot sour orange from southern Italy.
The tea is named for Charles Grey (1764-1845), the second Earl Grey. A distinguished aristocrat, he served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1830 to 1834.
There are different legends to explain how the tea recipe came to bear the Earl’s name.
According to the one told by the Grey family, the tea was specially blended for Lord Grey by a Chinese mandarin*, at Howick Hall, the family seat in Northumberland, England. The Earl never visited China.
The mandarin particularly chose bergamot to offset the preponderance of lime in the estate’s well water.
Lady Grey, a political hostess, used it to entertain in London. She had her tea blended at Twinings, beginning in 1931.
The blend proved so popular that Lady Grey was asked if it could be purchased by others. This is how Twinings came to market “Earl Grey” as a type of flavored tea.
The Greys (ostensibly lacking good business advice) did not to register the trademark. As a result, they have never received a penny from the worldwide sales.
However, they are sporting about it: Today’s boxes are signed by the current Earl Grey.
Traditionally, “Earl Grey” was made from black teas, but tea companies have since begun to offer Earl Grey in other varieties as well, such as green and oolong, along with dual-note flavors, such as the new varieties from Twinings.
Twinings North America has added to its line of Earl Grey black teas with the introduction of three new blends:
“Lavender and jasmine compliment the bold flavor of bergamot. Extra Bold is perfect for Earl Grey lovers who crave an intensified, more vibrant taste. We know these new blends will resonate with a new generation of tea drinkers.”
In addition to enjoying the teas at home, you can visit the gardens at Howick Hall, the home of Earl Grey, and have tea in the Easrl Grey Tea House.
Here’s more information.
*In imperial China, a mandarin was bureaucrat scholar in service of the government.
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