Posts Tagged ‘Earl Grey’

London — By Andrea Kirkby on September 28, 2009 at 5:24 pm
Filed under: Earl Grey, earl grey tea, featuredarticle, History & Information, tea

English tea par excellence – Earl Grey

Regular readers know I have an obsession with tea… it’s a very English thing. (Not just English; one of my father’s Bulgarian friends depends on him to take packets of Taylors of Harrogate special mix over on the plane, and I’ve noticed French supermarkets now stock a much expanded range of tea.)

A lot of the time I’m looking for new tea experiences – trying China White, or flavoured teas, or the Indian variation, spicy chai masala. But somehow I always seem to come back to a small number of regular favourites: Lapsang Souchong, smoky and dark, gunpowder with its acerbic taste, and the aristocrat of English teas, Earl Grey.

Now there’s a story there, I thought to myself when I was making a pot this morning. Who was this Earl Grey chap anyway? And what made this tea so special? I had no idea, despite the fact I’ve been drinking the stuff for twenty years – so I looked it up.

It’s actually named after Charles Grey, second Earl Grey – Prime Minister of Great Britain in the early 19th century. The mixture of black tea with oil of bergamot – it’s the oil that gives the tea its particular aroma – was apparently developed for him by Jackson’s of Piccadilly; that hasn’t stopped other manufacturers from working out their own recipes.

The classic Earl Grey has now been joined by a number of look-alikes. For instance there’s a bergamot green tea made by Twinings – Earl Grey Green Tea. There’s also Lady Grey – scented with orange and lemon as well as bergamot. (Since the bergamot is itself a kind of small, acid orange, that combination works quite well. Better, in my opinion, than the green tea – it’s not got enough tannin to hold its own against the bergamot flavour.)

I’ve been told that ‘real’ Earl Grey should have only Ceylon black tea in the mix. That hasn’t stopped Celestial Seasonings from using Assam and Kenyan teas in their Earl Grey – but they’re Americans, so perhaps they haven’t learned their tea knowledge at nanny’s knee. Some very wicked people at Teavana have also combined vanilla with Earl Grey, which strikes me as a flavour too far.

If you want the real thing, try Jackson’s, Twinings or Taylors of Harrogate. Accept no imitations!

Photo by Elif Ayse on flickr

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