Who was Earl Grey?
This week one of our glorious customers ordered some Garden Grey Black Tea. This is a tea we blend ourselves with organic lavender grown in the wilds of Tibet. What an aroma! While this is not one of our more popular teas, it did get me thinking about Earl Grey in general.
Most tea lovers are familiar with this black tea. One whiff of this tea reveals the distinctive aroma on the nose and in the cup. This is a very traditional black tea with the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a very fragrant citrus fruit.
What about the man behind the tea?
Charles Grey (1764-1845) descended from a long-established Northumbrian family seated at Howick Hall. Educated at Eton, Trinity College, and Cambridge. He became the 2nd Earl of Grey and was a politician in the Whig party (Democrats), and became Prime Minister at the ripe old age of 22! His first parliamentary address as PM was in 1787 and concerned a recent free trade agreement made with France. He was involved in four years of political reform and the author of the Reform Bill of 1832 (which saw the reform of the House of Commons). Grey had an enormous impact on the development of democracy in Britain, abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833.
The Whig historian T.B. Macauly wrote in 1841,
‘At an age when most of those who distinguish themselves in life are still contending for prizes and fellowships at college, he had won for himself a conspicuous place in Parliament. No advantage of fortune or connection was wanting that could set off to the height his splendid talents and his unblemished honour.’
Outside of his political achievements, Earl Grey enjoyed life! He was said to be tall, slim, and strikingly handsome, and had 10 sons and 6 daughters with his wife. He also fathered at least one illegitimate child! Earl Grey enjoyed gallivanting around the country, breeding dogs, playing cribbage, and also found time to have an affair with the Duchess of Devonshire.
Earl Grey the Tea
There are several tales as to how the tea was named after such a noble and colorful figure! According to the most popular legend, a grateful Chinese Mandarin is partially responsible. His son was rescued from drowning by one of the Earl’s men. So, the Mandarin first presented the blend to the Earl in 1803. This legend seems to have little basis in truth! The Earl apparently did not set foot in China, and the use of bergamot to scent tea was then unknown in China. Jackson’s of Piccadilly claim they were the originators of the recipe, which was given to them by the Earl himself.
While the truth is unknown, like the very popular Earl himself, this tea is one of the most well-known flavored teas in the world. Many people who I chat with over the years claim not to care for the very distinct flavor of Earl Grey. However, I have found by offering samples of Earl Grey that most people have never experienced a good quality, loose-leaf tea. The quality of both the tea and the bergamot is paramount! Any deviation can result in an unpleasant tea with a residual taste on your palate.
When brewing a hot cuppa Earl Grey, we infuse for only 2 minutes or so. We then enjoy multiple infusions from the same leaves. It is the perfect accompaniment to tea sandwiches and cakes (Mmmm!), but just drinking alone is fine too. ‘Gallivant’ with your Earl, and find your favorite way to enjoy. Very different from Rooibos.
Along with Garden Grey, we offer two versions of Earl Grey Black tea. One is our premium blend Earl Grey, and we also offer an Organic Earl Grey. Our Organic Earl Grey is the tea we offer in the silk tea sachets and can be found served by nearly all of our Serving Partners.
You may be surprised to find you like Earl Grey tea now that you know a bit about the man behind the tea.