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There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.

— Henry James. The Portrait of a Lady.

Earl Grey

Earl Grey is the world's most famous flavoured black tea. Earl Grey owes its citrusy flavor to the addition of bergamot essential oil. Bergamot is a small lemony fruit.

Due to the natural sweetness of Earl Grey, this tea classic combines well with the sweets served during an afternoon, such as scones, Madeline cakes and shortbread.

Few people know that the tea was named after Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey and the British Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834.

The stories of the blend's origins are many and varied. It has been claimed the recipe was given to a British diplomat in gratitude for saving the mandarin's life while in China on a mission for the Prime Minister. Some say it was Earl Grey himself who traveled through China and saved the mandarin. Neither story has ever been substantiated.

Be that as it may, Earl Grey is an unprecedented classic that has earned its place in the annals of tea history. A blend that has convinced many of the benefits and diversity that tea has to offer.

There are many variations on the Earl Grey theme. For example, there is Earl Grey based on Rooibos or green tea. But extra ingredients are also added to the tea to create a special taste sensation. There is the Lady Grey with extra cornflower blossom and citrus, an Earl Grey with Jasmine, a Russian Earl Grey or even an Amsterdam Earl Grey!

Discover the beautiful Earl Grey loose leaf tea collection at The Smallest House!

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Origin of Earl Grey

Earl Grey is a black tea flavoured with bergamot oil. It therefore falls under the scented teas. The black tea used for this scented tea,  can be a "single origin", originating from a specific tea plantation from, for example, India or Africa. It is also possible that a blend of different types of black tea is used, for example a combination of Ceylon and Assam.

Production of Earl Grey

Black tea is rolled immediately after wilting to quickly kickstart oxidation processes. The leaves are then completely oxidised before drying, giving them their dark color and rich flavour.

A tea is flavoured or perfumed during production towards the end of processing, usually after the tea leaves have dried. One way tea is flavoured is by mixing the finished tea with flowers, herbs and spices so that the blended ingredients are visually pleasing and lightly infuse the tea leaves with their aroma and flavour. Another way that tea is flavoured is by spraying or covering the finished tea during or after the drying process with extracts, essential oils or flavourings.

Tips for making Earl Grey

Black tea can handle hot water well. On average, the water should be between 90ºC - 100ºC before it is poured over the tea leaves.

The average brewing time for black tea is between 1 and 3 minutes.

The information sheet of the tea indicates the desired water temperature and brewing time.

What many people don't know is that you can brew black tea several times. You will notice that the tea will taste slightly different every time. Some flavour notes come out even better after the second and third use!