Earl Grey...the REAL story.

Have you wondered what the story was behind the very famous Earl Grey Tea? Actually there are a few versions.

Before we continue, let me just give a quick primer on Earl Grey Tea itself. First of all it is NOT a tea type like green, black, oolong or white. It is a flavored tea. In fact, it is one of the most recognized flavored teas in the world. This classic British tea is traditionally a black tea base flavored with oil from the rind of bergamot orange, a citrus fruit native to Southeast Asia. Bergamot's appearance and flavor falls somewhere in between an orange and a lemon.

Now back to our story...

There really was an actual person named Charles Grey (1764-1845) who was an English aristocrat. He was educated in Eton and Cambridge and became a member of Parliament at the tender age of 22. He married the daughter of a Baron named Mary Elizabeth Ponsonby and they had 16 children together. Yikes!

Later he became a member of the Whig party and then the foreign secretary. He eventually inherited the title of Earl when his father passed away in 1807.

How he became associated with the tea is a little murky (kind of like that less than stellar tea that's available at the grocery store). But I digress.

Here are some of the accounts:

  1. One version is that the Earl performed some good deeds in China that led to his ownership of the tea.
  2. Another version tells how the blend was created by accident when a gift of tea and bergamot oranges were shipped together from diplomats in China and the flavor of the fruit was absorbed during shipping.
  3. Yet another version tells how the blend was invented to improve the taste of the water at the Earl's home.
  4. Jackson's of Piccadilly say that they introduced the blend in 1836 "to meet the wishes of a former Earl Grey". 
  5. It has even been said that the bergamot was used to enhance the taste of low-quality tea.

So as you can see, it's still unclear what the absolute TRUE story is, but it's certainly fun to speculate. One thing for certain is that a delicious new flavored tea was created. One so unique and appealing, that it has remained one of the most popular flavored teas for hundreds of years.

Today there are countless brands of Earl Grey Tea. You can even find a Lady Grey Tea that adds lemon and orange peel to the already present bergamot. The ones made from full leaf tea and flavored with the actual botanical extract of Bergamot (not artificial flavoring) are the correct choice if you want the true Earl Grey experience. 

I tasted many many Earl Greys before I chose the one that would become our Beleave Teas brand. Our classic Earl Grey Black Tea is aromatic and extremely flavorful, but we also have an Earl Grey Green Tea which marries the citrus notes of Bergamot to the freshness of a green tea. 

Either choice would make Charles Grey proud.