How did Earl Grey tea get it's name?

Earl Grey tea is a classic tea that has been around since the early 1800s. It is a black tea flavored with bergamot oil and is thought to be named after Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1830 to 1834.  It is thought that the prime minister was presented with a special tea flavored with bergamot oil as a gift from a Chinese mandarin. The tea quickly became popular in Britain and soon spread throughout the world.  There are many theories and legends about this origin of this popular tea. One particular legend claims that Charles Grey received as a gift, tea flavored with bergamot oil, perhaps as a result of his ending the monopoly held by the East India Company on trade between Britain and China.


According to the Grey family, the tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin for Lord Grey, to suit the water at Howick Hall, the family seat in Northumberland, using bergamot in particular to offset the preponderance of lime in the local water. Lady Grey used it to entertain in London as a political hostess, and it proved so popular that she was asked if it could be sold to others.

Jacksons of Piccadilly claim they originated Earl Grey's Tea, Lord Grey having given the recipe to George Charlton, partner at Robert Jackson & Co., in 1830. According to Jacksons, the original recipe has been in constant production and has never left their hands. Theirs has been based on Chinese black tea since the beginning.

Other theories for the provenance of the tea suggest it may have been developed independently of the 2nd Earl of Grey, with the Earl title being added at a later date.

References have been found in old advertisements dating to the 1850s and 1860s (after the death of the second Earl of Grey) to "Grey's Tea" or "Grey's mixture", with the earliest being attributed to a tea merchant known as William Grey in 1852. The first known published references to an "Earl Grey" tea are advertisements by Charlton & Co. It has been suggested that the "Earl" title was added to make the tea seem more posh, or alternately that it became associated with Henry Grey, the third Earl Grey, who was alive at the time where the "Earl" title began to be attributed to the tea.

Earl Grey tea is known for its unique flavor, which is a combination of the earthy flavor of black tea with the sweet and floral notes of bergamot oil. The bergamot orange is a citrus fruit that is native to Italy, and it is the oil extracted from the rind of this fruit that gives Earl Grey its distinct flavor. The flavor of Earl Grey tea is also often described as having a slight smokiness.

picture of a whole bergamot fruit and a sliced bergamot

Earl Grey tea is often enjoyed with a slice of lemon or a bit of cream or milk, depending on one’s preference. It is often used in baking and other recipes as well, such as cupcakes, scones, and cheesecakes. Earl Grey tea is also a popular base for many types of iced tea. Earl Grey tea has a long and storied history. It is a classic beverage that continues to be enjoyed by tea lovers around the world. Whether you prefer it hot or iced, Earl Grey tea is sure to tantalize your taste buds, and if you like Earl Grey with a little twist try our Vanilla Earl Grey and Chocolate Earl Grey!


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