26th
Sep
2014

Posted in Kafevend Blog

Today we are going to take a look at a firmly established tea in the UK, along with a couple of its variations. The tea in question is Earl Grey, an old favourite for many folks. Quite how the tea came about is a matter of debate, though the name at least is traditionally attributed to Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey. Charles Grey was once Britain's Prime Minister, from 1830-34 and whilst in power saw the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832 and the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833.

Earl Grey tea is a black tea which is flavoured with oil from the bergamot orange. The majority of bergamot oranges produced globally are grown in the Province of Reggio Calabria in Italy, which lies in the extreme south- the toe, for those who can't help but think of a boot when they see a map of the country. It is grown along a small stretch of coast that borders the Ionian sea. The bergamot orange has become an object of pride and also a symbol for the region. The city of Reggio which lies near to the area they are grown is also known as the city of the bergamot.

Bergamot flavoured black tea first showed up in Britain during the 1820s and was sometimes used as a way to pass off some teas as higher quality Chinese teas. The first time Earl Grey tea appeared in print was during the 1880s in an advertisement. Prior to that, the similarly named Grey tea also featured in advertising, lending credence to one theory that says the addition of "Earl" may simply have been someone's cunning marketing strategy. According to the Grey family themselves, Earl Grey tea was made by a Chinese mandarin who blended the tea especially for the hard water used at the family's home in Northumberland. Twinings and Jacksons of Piccadilly both claim the original receipt of the recipe from the Grey family, but as with the rest of the tea's history, it's hard to know for certain which company it was.

Despite the confusion over the first company to make Earl Grey, Twinings were able to obtain the endorsement of Richard, the 6th Earl Grey, whose signature appears on their Earl Grey tea boxes. Alongside this traditional tea, Twinings also launched their own Lady Grey tea in the 1990s in a bid to market the brand in the traditionally coffee obsessed Scandanavia. Lady Grey contains less bergamot oil and introduces orange and lemon flavouring.

Another tea similar to Lady Grey is Lady Hamilton, which adds just a hint of orange to the mix. This is made by the All About Tea company which can be found in Southsea, Portsmouth. The small factory is open to tours and also features a small cafe out front. Portsmouth is of course home to the HMS Victory, flagship of Admiral Nelson, whose mistress was Lady Hamilton- inspiration, no doubt, for this particular blend.

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