Making of Earl Grey, a history of England’s most famous tea

Many myths – and recipes – surround Earl Grey, whose distinctive flavour and aroma come from combining black teas with oil extracted from bergamot rind (produced from the bergamot orange, a small citrus tree grown only in southern Italy). The history of arguably England’s most famous tea dates back to the 1830′s. Earl Grey is named after the British Prime Minister Charles, 2nd Earl Grey (1830-1834).

Legend has it while on a diplomatic mission to China; a mandarin confided the recipe in gratitude for saving his son’s life.  Another version has an Indian rajah’s son rescued from a tiger by one of Grey’s servants.  More likely, bergamot oil was brought to England, and thence to Grey’s tea, by British naval officers stationed in Corfu. However in all practicality, bergamot was added to the tea to suit the local water. In northern England, at Horwick Hall in Northumberland, where the family held their seat the water is very high in lime and bergamot helps offset this.

Since then, the original Earl Grey blend has had many interpretations and variations, with some brands being very secretive about their exact recipe. But in essence its always a blend of black teas (normally at least 3 different kinds) plus bergamot oil. Not all blends are however created equal and it largely depends on the quality and grade of teas, and bergamot oil used. Which explains the often confusing price variations of Earl Grey from one brand to another! For our Chateau Rouge Imperial Earl Grey blend we make sure to use the best grades available for each season, and while price is always a factor, we work hard to make use the best teas we can get for you to enjoy.

Like most was, they are best drunk black, but if you do want to drink your Earl grey with milk, remember to make it slightly stronger, not by infusing longer (as this will only make the tea more bitter) but by using more leaves.

Last but not least, joining the ranks of the famous, on and off screen, we have found a number of fictional Earl Grey lovers, including Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek, Bruce Wayne (aka Batman), Frasier Crane and James Bond.

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