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A Brief History of Earl Grey Tea

Posted by Bean & Bean on
A Brief History of Earl Grey Tea

Earl Grey, is one of the most renowned and full-flavored teas, Smooth and refreshing, this traditional black tea is loved all around the globe. The addition of Bergamot oil makes it even more delightful.

But how did it come into being? And was adding essential oils always the norm?

Who was Earl Grey?  

Earl Grey tea was actually named after Charles Grey. “Earl” is a hereditary title of the British aristocracy. Charles, being the 2nd Earl Grey, became the prime minister of the UK in 1830 and headed the abolition of slavery across the British empire. Today, however, he's mainly remembered for the famous tea blend named after him. But exactly how this happened is a bit of a mystery.

Earl Grey origin theories

the history of earl grey tea

The origin story of Earl Grey tea is still quite unclear. Many intirguing theories have been put forward to depict how this lovely brew may have been invented. We suggest sitting down with a warm cup of tea as we go over the most popular of these theories.

The first theory stems from the fact that Earl Grey is a tea of Chinese origin. Apparently, Charles Grey became associated with the tea as someone from the Earl's staff saved the life of a Chinese man's son. This man was supposedly a tea blender, and as a thank you, he made Earl Grey for Charles. Since Charles himself never set foot in China, this theory seems far-fetched; some believe a traveling merchant brought the tea with them from China.

According to the next theory, Earl Grey was blended to suit the water at the Earl's Northumberland home. The water at his house had a high mineral content, and hence the tea was created with a citrusy element to complement its taste, rather than clash with it.

The third theory, the creation of the beloved Earl Grey tea, was simply a coincidence. Seemingly a shipment of black tea leaves and bergamot oranges were being shipped together from China as a gift to the Earl. And as a happy incident, the citrusy oils and flavors were absorbed by the tea, creating Earl Grey. 

Variations of Earl Grey tea

the history of earl grey tea

Just like the thousands of blends of coffee, Earl Grey tea also has many of its own spinoffs. The addition of bergamot oils was also done to create a different blend as the Earl Grey leaves are quite versatile and go well with citrusy flavors. Here are some of the most common variations you’ll find:

  • Earl Green tea: As Earl Grey tea undergoes an oxidation process, the chemical composition changes, and the flavor becomes relatively stronger. To avoid this, green tea leaves or oolong leaves are used in place of the traditional black tea leaves. This makes Earl Green tea! 
  • Lady Grey tea: The Lady Grey tea itself has many known variations, the most common being cornflower Lady Grey tea and citrus Lady Grey tea which are delicious blends of Earl Grey tea.  In addition to the bergamot essential oils present in Earl Grey, cornflower and Seville oranges are added, which giveing it a spicy kick.
  • Russian Earl Grey Tea: A variety of Earl Grey tea that contains citrus peels and lemongrass, along with black tea and bergamot. Perfect with a dash of little milk, it's an intense blend with a symphony of flavors. 
  • London fog:- A hot tea-based blend of Earl Grey tea, steamed milk, and vanilla syrup. Created in Canada, the fog here is a reference to steamed milk and also has a version called "Vancouver fog", which has a substitutes of tea leaves and dairy alternatives.
  • Earl Grey Creme tea: Inspired by the London fog, Earl Grey Creme tea contains flavors of black tea, lavender, bergamot, and vanilla. Ideal with dairy, it's a rich and creamy tea perfect for any time of the year. 
  • Rooibos tea: Rooibos, also known as "red bush", is an herbal tea natively from southern Africa. Popular for generations, it's added as a substitute for the black tea in Earl Grey to create a similar variation. 
  • Smoky Earl Grey tea: And lastly, this list would be incomplete without the mention of Queen Elizabeth the 2nd's favorite drink. Smoky Earl Grey teahas bergamot, Lapsang Souchong, and gunpowder tea. 

Earl Grey today

the history of earl grey tea

A great drink for the morning or night, Earl Grey has become popular for many other reasons, too. Today, there are a variety of cakes, cookies, bubble teas, and other desserts , that you can make with Earl Grey tea. The citrus flavors and versatility of the tea make it ideal for various uses.

Earl Grey continues to retain its popularity after all these years, and is one of the most recognizable and distinct flavors. If you haven't tried it yet, we recommend starting with Organic Earl Grey Tea from our sister brand, Pepperpot. A mixture of whole black tea leaves and citrus oils, try it out for its clean sweet flavors.

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