Most of you have probably heard of Earl Grey tea, even if you haven't tasted it.
Flavored with Bergamot oil, Earl Grey tea is very popular, especially in Britain.
But what is Bergamot oil?
Bergamot oil comes from the rind of a fruit called the bergamot orange that grows in Italy. It is a citrus fruit with the appearance and flavor somewhere between an orange and a lemon, with a bit of grapefruit and lime thrown in for good measure.
I've enjoyed Earl Grey tea for years but didn't know its back story, so I thought I'd share what I discovered about this exceptional tea.
This information comes from the East India Company, which pioneered tea. So enjoy...
It's a common myth that Charles Grey (1764-1845), the 2nd Earl Grey and Prime Minister of Great Britain from November 1830 to July 1834, discovered the tea known today as Earl Grey. It is a fine heritage for a fine tea, but the facts do not support the story.
It was, however, highly likely that Earl Grey popularised it. Still, the original recipe was created by Sir Joseph Banks, an eminent botanist at Kew Gardens and advisor to The East India Company, and George Staunton, another botanist, who in 1793 was a member of an East India Company-funded mission to China, intended to unlock trade between Britain and China.
At this time, Banks became interested in the possibility of growing tea in India. So, he requested Staunton to observe Chinese tea cultivation and flavoring methods, who provided, as an example of what was required, a botanical drawing of a Bergamot plant.
The archives of the original East India Company document Staunton's findings. He noted tea bushes and bitter orange bushes growing together. He observed the Chinese scenting the tea with the orange flowers. Staunton recommended this to Banks in his report, and Banks duly experimented in his own little teahouse in London. We believe he used Bergamot oil, grown only in Europe, to scent the tea simply because it was the closest substitute for the unavailable Chinese Neroli oil obtained from the Bitter Orange plant.
Earl Grey tea - Chinese black tea with Bergamot oil - was born.
Product development is only one aspect. Marketing is another.
Banks was a friend of Earl Grey, who loved the tea. In recognition of his social influence of the day, the tea was named after him.
Well, I think having a tea named after you is pretty cool. Since the initial Earl Grey blend, many innovations have been based on Earl Grey tea.
I carry in my store:
- Earl Grey Creme de la Creme is a store favorite and tastes fantastic;
- Decaf Earl Grey Creme de la Creme;
- Lavender Earl Grey for all you lavender fans;
- Victorian Earl Grey has a floral base;
- Organic Earl Grey Extreme has a lot of bergamot flavor;
- Earl Grey Cream Green is uniquely delicious because its base is green tea instead of black tea.
Earl Grey tea can be enjoyed with or without milk, sugar, or honey. You can also drink Earl Grey tea as a latte or over ice. So, I would say this is one of the most versatile teas around.
So there you have it. The history of Earl Grey tea plus lots of fun Earl Grey tea options to enjoy.