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Earl Grey


About Earl Grey Loose Leaf Tea


Earl Grey (sometimes spelt ‘Earl Gray’) is perhaps the most prominent and celebrated blend in existence, certainly one of our favourites here at the Kettle Shed. Since Lord Grey introduced this tea to the market in the early nineteenth century, Earl Grey tea has proved so enduringly popular with the British public that it now stands as a veritable paragon of British culture in its own right.

With its light, tangy allure, Earl Grey makes for a gentle brew best enjoyed in the afternoon, preferably alongside a plethora of biscuits and cheese. However, biscuits notwithstanding, the perfect companion for Lord Grey’s eponymous beverage can be none other than the second child of Earldom – the sandwich!


Taste

Earl Grey’s unique, captivating flavour derives from the blending of black tea with essential oil distilled from bergamot orange rinds. It is this process that lends Earl Grey its delectable citrus zing and smoky overtones.

Further zest may be facilitated by adding a slice of lemon or lime to the cup. It is rumoured that a few thirsty mavericks add sugar and even milk to the tea, which must be administered with great caution to avoid overpowering the natural flavour of the blend. Indeed, one can brew the Canadian variant, ‘London Fog’, by adding steamed milk and a dash of vanilla syrup to half a cup of Earl Grey.

 

History and Origin

Although it is held as fact that Earl Grey tea was introduced and popularised around the 1830’s by former British Prime Minister, Lord Grey, the origins of the blend itself remain shrouded by myth and hearsay.

In one such legend, the recipe is bequeathed to Lord Grey by a grateful Mandarin gentleman whose son was saved from drowning by a British diplomat. In another, rather more ambitious, version of the tale, the Mandarin’s son was saved by Lord Grey himself (which we at the Kettle Shed find highly unlikely as Lord Grey never visited China).

The Grey family maintain that the blend was specifically engineered to compliment the water supply at Howick Hall, the family’s ancestral residence in Northumberland. The addition of bergamot oil was intended to counteract the presence of lime in the local water.

In any case, the use of bergamot oil in tea is not recorded by the Chinese prior to the emergence of Earl Grey tea on the British market, which reduces the likelihood of the recipe having originated directly from China.

Over the last 200 years, the traditional black tea Earl Grey blend has evolved and diversified to create variants which include green, oolong and decaffeinated permutations, as well as multitudinous flavours of Lady Grey tea.

 

Brewing Instructions and Tips

  • Use one teabag or teaspoon per cup of boiling water.
  • Allow 2-4 minutes for infusion, any longer may produce too strong a taste.
  • A slice of lemon can add extra zest.
  • Adding milk may overpower the taste of the tea.
  • Due to its potency, Earl Grey tea leaves can be reused two or three times.