So who was Earl Grey?
Before we start down this road let’s put one thing straight to bed, there definitely was a man called Earl Grey. Some people believe it was a Victorian marketing man’s idea, but sadly PR and marketing guys was a product of the 20th and not the 19th Century.
One thing we can be assured of is the taste of Earl Grey tea. Another is that Earl Grey Tea has always been associated with the upper classes as being a posh tea. Fortunately in the much more reserved and open minded 21st Century everyone can enjoy the taste of Earl Grey Tea whoever you might be. Here at UKVending we have a range of Earl Grey teas to suit all tastes. But who was it named after and why?
Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey (1764-1845), Prime Minister
As with all things Victorian there is a lot of legend to pick through. One myth is that Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and British Prime Minister of the 1830’s helped a Chinese family when their son was drowning in a local river and they gave him a gift of black tea flavoured with bergamot as a gift. The legend continues that he loved the tea so much he brought it back to Great Britain and had his local tea maker reproduce the taste. As he was the Prime Minister the local firm named the new blend after Earl Grey and a legend was born.
That’s one take on the story. Another has that a tea shop called Brocksop and Co had court proceedings launched against them for supplying tea, “artificially scented and, drugged with bergamot in this country’. Those Victorians really didn’t have any taste at all it seems! The first known advertisement for Grey Tea appeared in the 1880’s for Charlton & Co of Jermyn Street, London.
In 1830 Jacksons and Piccadilly claimed to have originated the blend, whilst the family of Lord Grey said that the blend had been perfected to make the best use of the water in the ancestral home of Howick Hall in Northumberland. The Bergamot used to disguise the taste and odour of lime in the local water supply. Such was the life of a wife of a prominent politician that Lady Grey used the tea to entertain when in London. On one occasion she entertained representatives from the tea company Twinnings and they asked if they could buy the blend and add to their empire.
As recently as 2010 a survey found that people still associate Earl Grey Tea with the upper classes or being posh but with the profusion of scented and flavoured teas on the market Earl Grey Tea can still be considered one of the first and still a survivor almost two hundred years after Earl Grey visited China.