Earl Grey tea is a black tea blended with bergamot oil - a bergamot is a small, acidic orange, and the oil is extracted from the rind.
Earl Grey tea has a bright, refreshing taste. A versatile tea, Earl Grey can be served hot, either by itself or with milk and sugar, and can also be used to make iced tea. Sold in over ninety countries around the world, Earl Grey is the world's most popular tea.
History of Earl Grey tea
Earl Grey tea is named after Charles Grey, the second Earl Grey and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the 19th century.
The story of Earl Grey tea is enshrouded in legend. The most common version of the legend says that the Earl received a gift of bergamot-flavored tea in 1834, from a Chinese mandarin during a visit to China. One version of the story attributes the gift as a diplomatic pre-requisite, while another version attributes the Earl as saving the mandarin's son from drowning and was offered a gift in gratitude.
The tea became very popular in the Prime Minister's drawing room. Twinings, Earl Grey's tea merchants, were given a sample of the tea and were asked to create a similar match. The family gave permission for the blend to be sold to the public, and the Twinings blend includes Chinese tea, Indian Darjeeling, Ceylon tea and Lapsang souchong, a strong-tasting and smoky black tea.
Earl Grey tea variations
A similar tea to Earl Grey is the Lady Grey. Like the Earl Grey, the Lady Grey is a black tea blend, but with Seville orange and lemon as well as bergamot in the mixture. Another similar tea is the Earl Green tea, which uses green tea instead of black. Earl Green is said to be a milder version of Earl Grey.
Another tea company, however, claims to be the originator of Earl Grey. Jacksons of Piccadilly claim that the Earl had given the recipe to them in 1830. According to Jacksons, this recipe has been in constant production since then, and has never left their hands. The Jacksons recipe uses Chinese tea exclusively.
Contrary to popular belief, the name Earl Grey does not mean the tea is of good quality! Some brands of Earl Grey use a heavy amount of bergamot oil to mask the inferior quality of their black tea. It is always recommended that the tea is bought from a quality company, and is tasted before purchase.