We’ll never know exactly when humans began drinking tea, but it’s likely that not long after, they began flavoring it with herbs, fruits, flowers and spices. Today, flavored teas make up a large section of the tea market and one of the most popular of these is a blend called Earl Grey.
Charles Grey was the second Earl Grey and a British Prime Minister during the early nineteenth century. His name graces a Saskatchewan village, a lodge in British Columbia and a Sacramento tea salon for starters, but he’s probably best known for the flavored tea that also takes his name.
Earl Grey typically consists of black tea flavored with an essential oil taken from the rind of the bergamot, a citrus fruit grown in the Calabria region of Italy. Earl Grey tea is a primary use for bergamot oil, but this substance also makes its way into confections and various perfumes, colognes and body care products.
The story of how Earl Grey tea came to be isn’t completely set in stone. Some say the Earl received a gift of bergamot tea from a Chinese mandarin or an Indian raja, as gratitude for his role in saving their son’s life. The Twinings company claims that when the Earl began to run low on supplies of this aromatic tea, he asked Richard Twining to make him more.
Earl Grey is usually a black tea, however other varieties such as green, white and oolong can be employed along with various other tisanes such as rooibos. Twinings makes a variation called Lady Grey, which is named for the Earl’s wife and which also includes citrus flavors. French Earl Grey includes rose petals and the London Fog is a drink made with Earl Grey, milk and vanilla syrup.
The bergamot in Earl Grey tea may offer health benefits due to its antiseptic, germicidal and calming properties. It is also a popular choice for both sweet and savory recipes. For the last word on Earl Grey tea, refer to Tending Toward Tea — a site that has been operating for 11 years, during which time it has amassed an impressive collection of Earl Grey reviews.