Ingredients of Earl Grey:
Black tea (Chinese black tea and Ceylon), natural bergamot aroma.
Earl Grey Tea: A Complete Guide
For decades, Earl Grey has been a highly popular tea in Europe. It’s a black tea enhanced with a hint of bergamot oil. This results in an exceptionally aromatic and fresh taste with citrus notes. The flavor is very distinctive and instantly recognizable. Moreover, it pairs well with various sweets and pastries. No wonder the British love this tea so much. Often, Earl Grey is listed as a classic black tea on menus, showing how deeply embedded this infusion is in our culture. In theory, this popular cup is not really an orthodox tea, but rather a tea blend. This is because it concerns Camellia Sinensis leaves to which oil is added. This oil comes from the peels of the bergamot fruit.
This citrus fruit primarily grows in Italy and France. It’s a round to pear-shaped fruit, a relative of the orange, which in itself has a rather sour taste. The fruit isn’t typically consumed, and the trees are mainly cultivated for the bergamot peels, which primarily end up in perfumes, candles, and of course, Earl Grey tea. Sometimes, small blossoms are also added to Earl Grey tea.
An Earl Grey is based on a foundational black tea – often an Assam or a Darjeeling, sometimes even a combination. It’s made in the traditional manner, and after the tea leaves are oxidized, a small quantity of bergamot oil is added. The ratio of bergamot to black tea varies, and the specific type of bergamot oil has an impact on the final result. Nowadays, many aromas are replicated. At Thee.be, we always work with entirely natural oils.
Earl Grey is a tea steeped in history. It’s primarily associated with England, but it wasn’t necessarily the English who invented it. The Chinese have always experimented with ‘flavored tea’. While we often think that this is a typically Western thing, even though blends are incredibly popular in the West, the Chinese also have a long history of scenting tea. However, they do it more subtly than we do in the West, often with flowers. Since the dawn of tea-time, tea masters have tried to astonish emperors with special and highly aromatic teas, supplemented with jasmine flowers, roses, and oranges, for example.
Stories about Earl Grey
The first mentions of Earl Grey date back to 1824, and it’s believed that the name refers to the English aristocrat and Prime Minister Charles Grey. Several stories circulate about how this tea came into being. One myth talks about Charles Grey saving a significant Chinese Lord’s life during a trip to China. In gratitude, the Lord gave Charles Grey a recipe to flavor black tea with bergamot oil.
Another legend states that Earl Grey tea originated when both tea and bergamot fruits were shipped together from China to England. At some point along the journey, the two accidentally mixed. When the tea was consumed, the drinkers were surprised by the fantastic aroma of bergamot in the tea.
Another tale mentions a Chinese friend of Charles Grey visiting Northumberland in England. Wanting to mask the taste of the minerals in the water, he added a drop of bergamot oil to his black tea.
Yet another story often heard is that the first tea in England was so bad that they tried to improve its taste by adding bergamot oil. Or, that bergamot was added in England because the tea, after a long journey from India, often smelled stale.
The real story behind Earl Grey tea remains elusive. What we do know is that it has become one of the most popular teas worldwide.