Who was Earl Grey?

tea cup

Most afternoons we have a cup of Earl Grey, the tea blend which has been flavoured with the addition of bergamot oil.

The tea is named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764 –1845) who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from November 1830 to July 1834.

You might have seen Charles Grey played by Dominic Cooper in the 2008 film The Duchess, directed by Saul Dibb and starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes.

The tea was specially blended for Lord Grey to suit the water at Howick Hall, the family home in Northumberland. The bergamot oil (extracted from the peel of the Bergamot orange) was used to offset the preponderance of lime in the local water. Lady Grey used the blend when entertaining in London and it proved so popular that she was asked if it could be sold to others.

In addition to his affair with The Duchess (Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire), Lord Grey had many other affairs. His wife, Lady Grey, gave birth to sixteen children of which only two failed to survive until adulthood.

Several variants of Earl Grey tea have evolved including:

Lady Grey of which Twinings Cornflower Lady Grey and Citrus Lady Grey combines Earl Grey tea with Cornflower and Seville oranges.
London Fog is a combination of Earl Grey, steamed milk and vanilla syrup.
A blend with added rose petals is known as French Earl Grey.
A variety called Russian Earl Grey often contains ingredients such as citrus peels and lemon grass in addition to the usual black tea and bergamot.

If you have £7 to spare you can indulge in some Earl Grey tea from the Rare Tea Company which offers “a clean and exceptionally bright infusion with exhilarating citrus notes.” Or my favourite Newby Teas does 25 Earl Grey teabags for £4.50 which are “refreshing, comforting and synonymous with British history.”

It must be time to put the kettle on again!

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Thanks for reading my blog today.

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