Just like a white tee or the perfect pair of jeans, a good-quality Earl Grey is an essential. No matter the size or theme of your tea collection, this timeless classic is one you’ll reach for again and again, both for everyday and for more formal occasions. Chances are good that you’re already familiar with the tea’s delicate, elegant flavor, but how much do you really know about Earl Grey?
Named for Charles Grey, a 19th-century Earl and British Prime Minister who received a tea flavored with bergamot oil as a gift in 1833, the beverage has had aristocratic associations from the very start. In fact, recent surveys taken in Britain show that the vast majority of citizens think that the tea is the most posh variety available.
After the tea’s initial appearance at diplomatic parties, dinners and events, it became such a highly-requested and sought-after flavor that tea giant Twinings began to produce in massive quantities, a trend that hasn’t let up and in fact, continues to grow. Earl Grey flavored ice cream, shortbread, candy, lattes, and even craft cocktails are popular, and any high-end hotel’s afternoon tea service is bound to offer Earl Grey - along with cream, sugar, and photogenic sweets and hors d'oeuvres.
Smaller artisanal tea companies are producing their own versions as well, always working to perfect the subtle, floral taste. Bergamot oil originates in a type of sweet orange peel, resulting in the soft citrus flavor infused with floral hints. And there are more options available today than ever before. If floral teas are what you love the most, you can get Earl Grey infused with jasmine and rose, and a summery varietal called Russian Earl Grey ups to citrusy ante by adding a dash of lemongrass. Though it’s most popular in black teas, bergamot flavoring can be added to green and white teas as well. Not into caffeine? Herbal tea - especially South African rooibos - can be infused with bergamot for that elegant and familiar taste, just as good plain as it is sweetened with honey or sugar and a dollop of cream.