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, 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 not known, 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 the 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 from 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.
The Tea for me?
“What is your favorite tea?” and then, “What is the best tea for me to drink?”
These are two questions I am asked often when sampling tea at the market or Selby Gardens. I find it extremely fascinating to explore and chat about people’s different tastes and enjoyment when drinking a cuppa—some thoughts to share on this often complex pastime of drinking tea.
My usual answer to the first question, “What is the best tea for me to drink?” is quite simple, the tea that you like the best!
For me, Green Tea is simply the best tea because of the powerful health benefits associated with drinking green tea. The truth of the matter is that if you really don’t like green tea, the chances are that you will not drink a sufficient quantity of green tea to achieve the promised healthy enhancements.
If you prefer a Rooibos tea, then you should drink it because you are certain to drink much more of it. And you will benefit from the high antioxidant levels and the unique combination of vitamins and minerals found in Aspalathus linearis. You may prefer a combination of botanical tea and herbals or, indeed, all herbals. Each tea offers unique health benefits and unique flavors, and only you can decide the one you like the best.
Now the second question, my favorite tea, has become quite complicated. I have many favorites and drink different teas at different times of the day.
Loose Leaf tea
As an Orthodox tea lover, I almost exclusively drink loose leaf tea. I love the taste of Camellia sinensis in all its wonderful forms and natural flavors. I do not need the addition of fruits, flowers, or added flavors to make tea more palatable or enjoyable because, to me, they mask the true flavor. And I want to taste the true flavor of loose leaf tea. Why only loose leaf tea? See Think Out of the Bag.
That does not mean that I will not drink or appreciate a finely blended tea with quality ingredients such as our Goji Green or Earl Grey (thanks for snapping the fab pix, Alexis Z), both perfect for afternoon tea. Also, see my post on Early Grey. Are you Spellbound?
I am now much more sensitive to caffeine and find I must stop drinking true tea around 5.30 pm; otherwise, I find myself enjoying my tea all night long!
This has meant a shift to herbals for that time frame. Like Rooibos, Naturally, caffeine free Organic Honeybush fits that niche perfectly for me because of its soothing and calming qualities.
Since I have been sampling tea to so many tea lovers each week, I realized that no two people are alike regarding their taste in tea. Selby Select is by far our best selling tea, and people absolutely love it. However, some people do not care for these amazing Rooibos’ flavor, no matter how high praise.
MY POINT IS? There is a favorite tea out there for everybody. There is no good excuse for not drinking tea. As I have said before, please find what you like and drink lots of it.
The Tea Team
Are you Spellbound?
While sampling our iced Earl Grey, a customer told me she had read that Bergamot was bad for you.
How can the most popular flavored tea in the world possibly have an unhealthy ingredient for you? I wanted to prove that theory very wrong and found some interesting facts. Though, I’ll tell you about our iced Earl Grey later.
Bergamot is small, pear-shaped citrus native to southeast Asia. Now it is commercially grown in Calabria, Italy. The fruit thrives on the Calabrian coast and is the symbol of the region. Like most citrus, I am sure it makes excellent marmalade. My Key Lime marmalade would be hard to top, but I digress.
Bergamot is used in half of all women’s perfumes. And Bergamot is used in aromatherapy to treat depression and aid digestion. I couldn’t find much negative press.
Extract from the bergamot plant was used in sunscreens but was banned in 1995. Bergamot blocked the absorption of potassium in the intestines. Why would it be used as a digestive aid then?
I found that various North American plants of the mint family are also called bergamot due to their fragrance. One was used to make a beverage by the American Indian Oswego tribe. In the 18th century, colonists drank this ‘tea’ during their boycott of British teas! We won’t get into that now, though!
The worst info I found was that Bergamot had been used in Witchcraft. Maybe it cast a spell on all those people who think it is the best-tasting tea ever! Are you spellbound?
The Tea Lady