Many tea lovers are probably aware of at least the bare bones of the Earl Grey story. Earl Grey, the tea, for those of you who may not be clued in yet, is a type of flavored black tea that has been doctored up with the highly fragrant and distinctive oil of bergamot. Bergamot is a small citrus fruit that’s primarily grown in Italy.
Earl Grey, the person, is the guy Earl Grey tea is named for. He’s more properly referred to as Charles, 2nd Earl Grey, and if you’re like me and you have no clue what an Earl is or what they do you can get more info here. There are several conflicting versions of how Earl Grey came to be the namesake of this tea. Look for a brief overview of this issue here.
What a lot of tea lovers may not know is that if you’re ever traveling in the vicinity of Northumberland, in England, you can have the rather unique experience of drinking Earl Grey tea on the grounds of the very same place where Earl Grey lived. That would be Howick Hall. It’s “the ancestral seat of the Earls Grey” and has been owned by the family since 1319. Nowadays the property is operated as a tourist attraction known as Howick Hall Gardens. It includes the Earl Grey Tea House and various other attractions.
The tea house doesn’t have quite the pedigree as the rest of the property, having opened only a few years ago, in 2004. Since then operation has been leased to various parties and, as the Web site notes, ” they serve a variety of teas, home made and local produce, snacks and light lunches, sometimes on a self-service basis.” Potential visitors will also want to note that “the Earl Grey Tea House is open whenever the gardens are open, but exclusively for visitors to the garden. It is NOT open to other members of the public.”
While we’re on the topic of Earl Grey tea it’s as good a time as any to again mention the recent Twinings Earl Grey fiasco (or publicity stunt, as some have suggested). When Twinings made a change not so long ago to the formulation of their popular Earl Grey tea there was of an outcry from unhappy fans. The end result was similar to Coke’s fix way back when for the New/Classic Coke debacle. Twinings decided to keep selling the new blend of Earl Grey and also release a Classic Edition. For more on this issue, look here.
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