The Distinctive Flavor of Earl Grey Tea

There is a particular flavor to Earl Grey tea that makes it a favorite of many people. Slightly smoky, fragrantly scented and spicy, it is a unique taste that you will not find anywhere else. Famous drinkers of Earl Grey tea include Captain Picard of Star Trek.

In fact, Earl Grey is not a kind of tea, it is just black tea with the flavor of bergamot infused through it. Almost any black tea can be used to make it, in fact, quite often it is used to disguise cheaper grades of tea as bergamot has such a strong flavoring. Usually drunk black with perhaps some lemon added, Earl Grey is the most popular flavoured tea in the world.

Origin of Earl Grey

The legend is that Earl Grey (Charles Grey, prime minister of Britain from 1830 to 1834) saved the life of a mandarin while on a diplomatic mission to China. In return, the mandarin gave him a gift of some tea which he took back to the UK with him. Earl Grey apparently developed such a taste for the tea that when it started to run out he took some to the tea merchants and demanded they make him a special blend. The new, intriguing flavor subsequently spread throughout the country and then the world.

It is a good story, but unlikely to contain much truth! Charles Grey never visited China and the Chinese drink very little black tea in any case, which means the true origin of Earl Grey tea is still a mystery.


Bergamot is a citrus tree that is cultivated on the south coast of Italy. Also known as the Princes Pear, the fruit is inedible but the oil extracted from it is used to fragrance perfume as well as tea. The oil was an ingredient of one of the first Eau de Cologne ever made. (It is quite different from the herb called bergamot) The fruit is a cross between lemon, orange and grapefruit, sometimes compared to orange blossom.

Bergamot is picked by hand in the winter, before the fruit is ripe. The essence is extracted mechanically by purpose made presses and stored for a year or longer before use. Bergamot is said to help resist colds and flu, having anti- microbial effects. The oil is also used to treat depression in aromatherapy oil, and as a digestive aid. So drinking Earl Grey could be good for you!

The Taste of Lady Grey

When Earl Grey tea was invented, it was considered that tea produced "improper impulses" in women, and thus Lady Grey was invented. It was believed that the addition of fruit would calm the effects of tea, so Seville orange, lemon and bergamot extracts were added. Lady Grey is still a popular blend today, although it is no longer believed to cause any particular impulses among female drinkers!

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About The Author, Cory Willins
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