Earl Grey one of the most famous and consumed teas in the world: it is a precious mix of black tea flavored with bergamot oil, a citrus fruit grown extensively in Calabria.
Its history hides some mysteries and legends that it is worth discovering before tasting a cup. Let’s get to know the origins and properties of this drink together.
Earl Grey: all the “fault” of Earl Charles?
The history of black tea with bergamot is relatively recent: the distribution of Earl Grey tea happened in England in around 1820.
This drink came about as a cheaper version of the fine aromatic Chinese teas and it would appear that it owes its name to Earl Charles of Grey, the Earl Grey after whom it is named (“Earl” is a title of nobility which derives from Scandinavian ones), who was also the Prime Minister of Britain at the beginning of the 19th century.
The story goes that Lord Charles Grey had received a gift of tea flavored with bergamot oil, which he became so fond of that he distributed it for use amongst his fellow countrymen.
However, according to another version of the story, the origins of this tea’s destiny was connected to a Chinese man, saved from drowning by Earl Grey himself: as a reward, the man revealed the real recipe for this tea to the Earl!
There is even a third story regarding the origins of the tea with bergamot: the story goes that a ship loaded with tea, coming from India and heading towards Great Britain, stopped off in Calabria to load up with these citrus fruits.
The blends of tea absorbed the aroma of the fruits and the result was a drink which became an unbelievable success.
Properties of black tea with bergamot
Earl Grey tea is perfect both at breakfast and in the mid-afternoon and aids digestion; furthermore it is also capable of calming colic and pains of a gastric nature.
Among the virtues of bergamot oil, we should highlight its disinfecting and antiseptic powers, and its use in aromatherapy to counteract depression, stress and tension.
But what is bergamot?
Bergamot (Citrus Bergamia) is a citrus fruit which belongs to the Rutaceae family. In terms of shape and size, this fruit is half way between an orange and a grapefruit, dark green in color and slightly squashed at each end.
Its pulp is yellow, while its skin is thin and smooth; to taste, bergamot is very bitter, due to the presence of a substance, naringin (a bioflavonoid), and the presence of an extremely high concentration of citric acid.
Bergamot also contains many polyphenols, substances which may help to reduce naturally the levels of cholesterol in the blood.
Because of its flavor, bergamot is rarely eaten like other citrus fruits; it is used almost exclusively for producing essential oil, with which perfumes and other cosmetic products are made, besides, obviously Earl Grey tea.
Where does bergamot come from?
In the province of Reggio Calabria, from Villa San Giovanni to Gioiosa Jonica, still today, around 90% of the global production of bergamot is grown.
The origins of this citrus fruit are quite mysterious, in fact there are many legends about where it originally came from.
Some maintain that bergamot was imported from the islands of central America into Europe by Christopher Columbus, others say that it comes from China, and others believe it comes from Spain.
On the true origins of this citrus fruit there is not a great deal of certainty, and, furthermore, we should not forget the fact that bergamot is actually originally from Italy; more specifically from Calabria, which has actually been one of the main areas of production since the 18th century.
Just think that the very first machine invented for extracting bergamot oil was invented in Calabria, by the local Nicola Barillà.
Green tea with bergamot and other varieties
Today there are many different varieties of Earl Grey tea, using green tea, Oolong tea or Rooibos tea, whereas in the past the name was given exclusively to black tea flavored with bergamot oil.
There is also a variant known as Lady Grey, which contains black tea, bergamot oil, rind and essential oil of lemon.
Today Earl Grey tea is one of the most widely consumed teas in the world: the fortune of this tea discovered by Lord Grey continues, as does the extraordinary adventure it has had over the centuries.
If reading this has made you want to taste this wonderful flavored drink, take a look at our selection, where you will find earl grey with cream and earl grey blue flowers, black tea with bergamot with blue cornflower petals.