Wednesday, November 05, 2008


No matter how many different blends of teas I try, I always return to the timeless Earl Grey. This week, I wanted to pay homage to this comforting old friend with a little background information on the tea and the man. Some of which, is reportedly myth and legend...No wonder I have such a fascination with this blend. Twinings Earl Grey blend is reportedly Queen Elizabeth's favorite tea.

The Earl Grey blend is named after the 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister in the 1830s, who reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic perquisite, of tea flavoured with bergamot oil[1], taken from bergamot, a citrus fruit typical of southern Italy.

Descended from a long-established Northumbrian family seated at Howick Hall, Grey was the second but eldest surviving son of General Sir Charles Grey KB (1729–1807) and his wife, Elizabeth (1743/4–1822), daughter of George Grey of Southwick, co. Durham. He had four brothers and two sisters. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, he acquired at those schools a facility in Latin and in English composition and declamation that enabled him to become one of the foremost parliamentary orators of his generation. Grey was elected to Parliament at the age of 22 in 1786. He became a part of the Whig circle of Charles James Fox, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and the Prince of Wales, and soon became one of the major leaders of the Whig party. Grey was noted for advocating Parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation.

The tea legend usually involves a grateful Chinese mandarin whose son was rescued from drowning by one of Lord Grey's men, although this blend of tea was first made from fermented black Indian and Ceylon teas. As green tea is much more popular in China than black tea, it seems somewhat unlikely that they would have had a recipe for what we now call Earl Grey to bestow on visitors, though over the years many other varieties of tea have been used. In addition, Lord Grey never set foot in China. Another version of the legend has the son of an Indian raja being rescued from a tiger by one of Grey's servants.

Jacksons of Piccadilly claim that it was they who originated Earl Grey's Tea, Lord Grey having given the recipe to Robert Jackson & Co. partner George Charlton in 1830; according to Jacksons the original recipe has been in constant production and has never left their hands. Theirs has been based on China tea since the beginning.

Variations on Earl Grey
1.Twinings also has a proprietary branded tea variety called "Lady Grey" made with lemon and Seville orange in addition to bergamot. Also of note is that Twinings received an official endorsement from the sixth Earl Grey, Richard Grey, whose signature appears on packages of Twinings Earl Grey.
2.The beverage company Snapple has released a tea beverage based on Earl Grey called Snapple Classic Tea Earl Gray.
3.Many boutique tea stores sell a similar blend with added rose petals known as French Earl Grey
4.A beverage called "London Fog" is a combination of Earl Grey, steamed milk and vanilla syrup.
5.Earl Grey teas made with extra large amounts of bergamot are often called "Earl Greyer". (wikipedia)


willow said...

Fascinating post, Rebecca! I knew absolutely nothing about the Earl. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for my second cup...

Rebecca said...

Willow, I somehow managed to drink only one cup today...Must remedy that! ;^)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I do keep coming back to this one. This was so interesting to read, and I'm tickled to share a favorite with the Queen!

Lavinia said...

Yes, Earl Grey is one of my standbys. No matter what other tea I may have on hand, one is always assured of a good cup of Earl Grey in Lavinia's house.