Friday, December 19, 2008

The Distinctive Flavor of Earl Grey Tea

Many people find the unique flavor of Earl Grey to be their favorite; smoky and fragrant with hints of citrus, it is reputed to be the tea of choice for Captain Picard from Star Trek.
Although many people consider Earl Grey as a type of tea, any black tea with bergamot flavor added is in fact Earl Grey. Some manufacturers will even use their lower quality black tea to make Early Grey in the belief that the strong flavor of bergamot will mask the poor taste of the tea. Mostly taken black with maybe a slice of lemon added, Earl Grey is nevertheless one of the most popular of all the flavored teas in the world.
Origin of Earl Grey
The story of how Earl Grey began is shrouded in mystery and contradiction. The popular myth is that Earl Charles Grey, the prime minister of Britain in 1830, was given the recipe from a mandarin he met while touring China. Versions of the story claim that he had saved the life of the mandarin, and the tea was a special gift of gratitude. Earl Grey was then reputed to have demanded his tea supplier in London recreate the tea for him, and the taste became fashionable, eventually spreading worldwide.
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.
What is Bergamot
The bergamot used to flavor Earl Grey comes from a tree that is grown in the south of Italy. A citrus fruit, somewhat like lemon, orange and grapefruit mixed together, the scent is often likened to orange blossom. The oil of the fruit is added to perfume including one of the original Eau de Colognes from Germany. It is sometimes called The Prince's Pear although it is inedible. There is also an herb called bergamot with completely different properties.
Perhaps Earl Grey tea is a good remedy for winter sniffles. Bergamot is used in aromatherapy to treat depression, and also has anti-microbial effects that can strengthen the resistance of the body to colds and illnesses. Specially made cold presses are used to extract the bergamot essence, which is then stored for at least a year. In the winter months, before it ripens, the fruit harvest is picked by hand.
Lady Grey
Lady Grey is still a popular blend today, although it is no longer believed to cause any particular impulses among female drinkers! It was believed that the addition of fruit would calm the effects of tea, so Seville orange, lemon and bergamot extracts were added. When Earl Grey tea was invented, it was considered that tea produced "improper impulses" in women, and thus Lady Grey was invented.
Corinne Waldon enjoys writing many
articles about tea
. To read more of her articles, go to
The Tea Spot


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