Who is the Earl of Earl Grey tea? Why does he have a tea named after him? And what makes it Earl Grey anyway?
Earl Grey tea is a regular black tea scented with oil of bergamot. Bergamot orange, the source of oil of bergamot is a pungent fruit, and not technically an orange but about the size of one. It has a lemon color, but is less palatable. It is never used for its juice, sometimes is made into marmalade, but most commonly used for its essential oil.
The practice of adding bergamot oil to tea began as an attempt to disguise average quality teas as finer teas. At first people were appalled by the practice, even taking businesses to court for falsifying the quality of teas. But pragmatism prevailed, and the British decided that they liked the flavor; soon teas were actually touted as containing bergamot oil.
The Earl that eventually became so closely associated with the tea was Earl Charles Grey, British Prime Minister in the 1830’s. He abolished slavery in the British Empire during his stay in office. But his persisting history is a confusing tie to this tea. Did he like the tea? Was it merely an affirmation of his political power? No one knows.