Was it Earl Grey in the laboratory with the teacup? Or the Chinese mandarin in the arboretum with the hedge clippers? I like a good mystery – don’t you?
Earl Grey tea has been popular since the 1820’s. It’s origins are uncertain and there are contrasting stories about how this fragrant tea came to England. One story attributes the tea’s popularity to the influence of Charles Grey, an English aristocrat, the 2nd Earl Grey, and British Prime Minister in the 1830’s. It may be the Earl received the tea as a diplomatic gift. But from whom?
A more exotic story involves a Chinese mandarin who mixed the tea for the Earl while he was in China. Only the Earl was never in China. A second version claims the tea was first blended for the Earl in England by a Chinese visitor.
World Tea News gives an informative article on Earl Grey although it suggests there may be no connection between the real Earl Grey and the tea after all.
What gives Earl Grey tea it’s distinctive, pungent flavour?
The additive in Earl Grey tea is bergamot oil from the rind of the bergamot orange, a citrus tree which blossoms in winter and is grown commercially in Calabria, Italy. Also in France.
I am not a huge fan of Earl Grey tea although I do like the idea of tea in food and Earl Grey has long been used as flavouring in cakes and sweets, especially in chocolate and savoury sauces. For sauces teabags are added to the basic stock, boiled for a few minutes and then the bags discarded. For sweet recipes loose tea is added to melted butter or warm cream.
A popular tea latte with the evocative name ‘London Fog‘ is made with Earl Grey. There are hundreds of variations and highly recommended is the addition of lavender. Using the method found on Wikipedia I reduced the milk (1/2 milk, 1/2 tea) and used two teabags per cup. I substituted the syrup with vanilla essence and honey. It is a comforting drink on a gloomy, overcast day.
The fragrance of bergamot has an uplifting effect. It is said to relieve irritability, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, insomnia, lack of confidence and mood swings. So breathe in the vapours of your freshly made Earl Grey tea and let it perfume the whole room. I paired my cosy London Fog with a good Who-done-it beside the fire. I shan’t be going far today.
“Tea! Bless ordinary everyday tea!” – Agatha Christie.