Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Greys of pomp and hogwash

Hello everyone, I have a special treat for this blog post. I have found someone who says he know the truth about the mysterious origins of the world’s arguably first flavored tea: Earl Grey.
Mr. Chinwester has been privileged to written records that have been passed down through generations by notable and wealthy ancestors. He won’t lend them to me, of course, said I would get the pages dirty. Wouldn’t even let me –see- the books, said I’d still get them dirty. Indeed. But if he has at long last the truth about the origins, then we shall all have to suffer for information I suppose.

Now, before I get to him, let me tell you that Earl Grey tea was probably created around the early 1800’s, but no one knows for sure. How it came about, and who created it has long been debated by old tea manufacturing companies. The tea itself hasn’t suffered from the mystery; it is one of the most popular tea blends of the world.
It is the tea that I drink every morning when I wake up, without any pomp or ceremony. No teapot, just a mug with two lumps of sugar popped in, and a teabag of Twinings'. Even Captain Jean–Luc Picard favoured this tea most of all. As long as it was hot, of course. And now, to tell us fully about the tea, and at long last the true history, is uh, the enthusiastic (and pompous) Mr. Chinwester:

Ah why hello little commoners! Allow me to introduce myself; my name is Fitzwilliam Ronald Chinwester the first. I was asked by the owner of this blog to give my knowledge on something I know very many things about. I assure you that this is not a rare occurrence and my mind over flows with thoughts of many, many important things. Indeed, they very often have to be very shallow to be able to all fit in my head, I have so many.

Right right, onto the important subject (only slightly more important than of myself) of my disclosure: Earl Grey Tea. Why yes! The glorious tea of a ladies’ luncheon! Of the afternoon sort where crumpets and scones are eaten with decided vigor! The tea I daintily drink from rare and expensive porcelain while I wait on the moors –with rifle in hand of course- for a hind to cross my path! Ah, don’t be off put by my wealth my good reader. Not all of us can have our tea served to us in items made in far off exotic lands. Mine, I must boast, were made in the wondrous land of china!
Earl Grey is only Earl Grey when a black tea base is made with a squishy little citrus fruit called the Bergamot. The bergamot fruit isn't exactly edible, but the skin, or rather, the rind is the prize. It has long been used as an additive for tea and perfume. In fact, if you lean in and take a whiff, why yes, don’t I smell lovely?

Earl Grey tea was named after an actual person, you know, Charles Grey. My wealthy ancestor actually chatted to him about the weather once. It’s true! Now the Earl wasn’t the original Earl Grey at all, but rather the second. Now I can tell you personally that being a first, like myself, is much more prestigious than anything a second has to offer. And when I have a lady to finally wed me, and produce a Fitzwilliam Ronald Chinwester the second, I shall make a point to remind him about it daily.
Ah herm hm. Right, the tea. The Earl Grey was a good chap, was even the prime minister of the United Kingdom at some point in his life. I am sure he did many fine things, like abolish slavery and such. But what he did most spectacularly was the single handed rescue a poor drowning Mandarin man from a river while he was in China. Oh yes, a fine swimmer he was, swam the River Thames every chance he could. He would swim right under the ice in the winter, and hold him breath during the summer when the heat made the sewage smell uncomfortable strong. The Chinese fellow was so thankful, rightfully so, that he presented the Earl with the recipe that has now become known as Earl Grey Tea! Oh, just a moment.

I have just been told by the mistress of this blog that I have said a fallacy. Apparently, Lord Grey has never stepped foot in China. Well, a man -was- rescued, and if not by him then one of them men in his employment.
What, apparently, black tea in China wasn’t as popular as it became in jolly old England, and therefore wouldn’t have made a suitable gift?
And the Chinese didn’t use the Bergamot fruit for flavourings?
Really now, you are just picking apart my story for sport.
Harumph. My story is perfectly possible. I’m the one with the passed down records that most assuredly indeed exist. You don’t have any such privilege to prove otherwise.

Well, perhaps Howick hall, the resident of our brave Earl, had terrible tasting water due the high amounts of lime. Back then nothing could be done, and a Chinese man - I bet you it was the same drowning man!- was brought in to see if he could make a tea that wasn’t ruined by the water. He picked a black tea base, and blended it with the citrus fruit rind. It proved to be spectacular, and the Lady Grey began serving it in London. It was a political family mind you, and therefore all the people who mattered started drinking this new tea. They enjoyed it so much (and I would think lime-less water would have improved it ten fold) they requested it be sold. Twinings' got it -oh how I do love Twinings'!- and the rest is history. It is, after all, all noted down my records.

Lady Mary Elizabeth Grey has her own tea but I dare think it wasn’t -her- who came up with it. Women aren’t capable to do such things as thinking...
Madam! Did you just assult me? I dare say I didn’t just deserve to be. Imagine, attacking a guest! Harumph! Now if you don't mind, I still have some concrete history to tell.
It was probably the company Twinings' -oh I do love Twinings'!- who came up with that brilliant ‘Lady Grey’ marketing idea. It is a lovely tea made with another bitter fruit, lemon seville orange.

I dare say Lady Grey wasn’t as lovely as her tea, or the Earl wouldn’t have been so randy for the Duchess of Devonshire. Still, there isn’t a tea called the Duchess of Devonshire, now is there. Then there is the Earl’s ‘questionable’ brother who was found with a duke, and thus became the inspiration of Earl Grey Cream. Just a little vanilla is added in this blend to make it smooth and creamy. Scrumptious!

What are you implying? I did not just make that last part up, Earl Grey Cream absolutely has vanilla flavourings. I also take high offense at you trying to negatively portray my character. Me a liar? How dare you. I do believe I am done here, for I no longer will subject to your lies and indiscretions!

Good day!


Well, sorry about that everyone. That’s what I get for trying to invite an ‘expert’ to talk. Obviously the mystery of origins is still there, and might never be solved. Still, no matter what your preference, there is a Earl Grey to suit your tastes. You can have more black tea and a little bergamot for a slight citrus flavour, or a lot of bergamot mixed into the tea for a stronger citrus flavour. Stash’s Earl Grey is very strong for the bergamot flavouring, while Twinings' in more mild in that sense. You can have actual rind in your tea in a high quality tea, or just artificial flavourings in a inexpensive tea. I will have the Earl Grey Cream from the Metropolitan Tea company for a treat, for there are few rivals for a tea as smooth as that one is. I am partial to the Metropolitan tea company's Earl Grey Cream, as I found other companies put too much bergamot and that clashes dreadfully with the vanilla. Lady Grey, I sometimes swap for my normal Earl Grey. It is fruitier and lighter, and seems to suit a cheery, sunny morning beautifully.

I do have one ominous “Beware” though. If you drink more than four liters of Earl Grey in one day, and do this daily, some negative symptoms can occur. The bergamot can, in high doses, cause muscle cramps. It can also have the same effect as grapefruits, slowing the absorption of estrogen and decreasing the effectiveness of birth control pills. But you have to be drinking a very large amount of Earl Grey daily for this to happen.
Earl grey is found in many pantries, and will always be my number one must have tea.
Twinings' can be found in nearly all grocery stores, and the Metropolitan Tea company is only in select tea supplier stores.


  1. Apparently in Japan you can get Earl Grey Kit Kat bars. At least according to the picture on the wikipedia page for Earl Grey tea. I had no idea where Earl Grey came from other than assuming it was named after an Earl. Fascinating.

  2. @Revbat Very fascinating! And the earl grey Kitkat would be very interesting to try.

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