Earl Grey is one of the most famous black tea types that can be found in Western Europe and is immensely popular for its deep character and refreshing citrus notes. But there is more to Earl Grey than its delicious flavour. We take a closer look here.
Earl Grey was created in the early to mid-19th Century where oil of bergamot was infused with black tea in order to replicate the flavour of higher quality Chinese teas. It is believed that the tea was named for Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and British Prime Minister from 1830 - 1834 and that it was gifted to the Prime Minister from a Chinese envoy. There are some stories that this gift was the result of the heroics of Grey in China in the early 1800s, but this seems to be false as it is not believe that he ever travelled to China. Indeed bergamot as a tea flavouring was unknown in China at the time.
Earl Grey quickly became a staple of British tea and has held a position of renown ever since moving (along with that other favourite, Breakfast) from most commonly seen in loose leaf to tea bags and now enjoying a loose leaf tea resurgence.
We take huge pride in our Earl Grey selection with 8 different types of Earl Grey, one of which is green tea based. This delicious and versatile tea lends itself particularly well to blending with strong flavours and so we have created Tea Palace exclusive blends to suit every taste. Here are just a few of the options:
Palace Earl Grey is our famous signature blend that really packs a punch! Our special blend of black, whole leaf teas with careful proportions of natural oil of bergamot make for a heady, full-bodied and aromatic cup that is perfect to enjoy along with milk or lemon.
Of course the key to all of our Earl Grey blends is oil of Bergamot. But what is that exactly? Bergamot oil is taken from the rind of the bergamot orange which is a green citrus fruit, roughly the size of an orange. The possible health benefits of oil of bergamot are wide and varied and it is said to be analgesic, digestive, antiseptic anti-depressent and stimulating. Therefore, along with bring a delicious flavour to tea there are many other reasons to enjoy the oil of bergamot component to Earl Grey.
Earl Grey Blue Flowers is our more delicate take on Earl Grey. We take the same delicious whole leaf teas and blend it with a smaller proportion of oil of bergamot to our signature blend and also incorporate delicate mallow blossoms for a slightly sweeter, immensely drinkable version of Earl Grey
Our Organic Lavender Grey is both a Soil Association 2016 BOOM Award winner and former Great Taste winner! The strong citrus notes in Earl Grey hugely compliment the heavy perfume and almost minty notes of the lavender for an aromatic and popular cup.
Smoky Earl Grey has been one of the most recent additions to out Earl Grey range in order to have a strongly robust and savoury option in our range. Our Smoky Earl Grey is a blend of whole leaf black teas, oil of bergamot and malty, smoky Lapsang Souchong for a bold and full-bodied Earl Grey option.
Black teas can be cultivated anywhere in the world with many countries or regions having tea industry to a smaller or larger degree.
Black teas famously originate from China and India. Not only is the Cameila Sinensis plant from which all tea is cultivated indigenous to these regions, but the industry and processing methods used to create black teas also originated in these regions.
Amongst the most recognisable varieties are: Assam, Darjeelling and Nilgiri from India; Yunnan, Keemun, Lapsang and Pu Erh from China and Ceylon from Sri Lanka. Many of these types are named for the region in which they are grown, but some (like Lapsang) is names for the specific method used to infuse additional flavour to the leaves..
Black tea production is far from limited to these areas. Long, well-developed, successful and distinct industries are also present in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and even Hawaii.
The tea cultivation methods employed to grow and harvest leaves for use in Black tea processing are very similar to those for other tea types. Mature leaves are harvested by hand which allows for only fully ready leaves to be picked
Once picked, the leaves are withered and then bruised by either rolling or curling to shape and assist oxidisation. Once initiated, leaves are allowed to fully oxidise in order to develop the distinct black tea colour and flavours. At this stage smoke will be applied to Lapsang varieties in order to produce its distinct and unique flavour and broken or cut types will be broken down into smaller pieces.
Heat is then applied to stop the oxidisation process and also to remove all remaining water from the leaves. This is often an industrialised process that involves the use of large ovens to cope with the pure quantity of tea in need of drying asap to retain the finest flavour characteristics. The debris remaining after the whole and cut leaves (fannings and dust) are passed through the oven are collected and blended with other tea types to form the tea most often found in UK tea bags..
The oxidisation and drying method also acts as a preservative which is excellent for the transportation of the finished leaves around the world with minimal spoilage
Black teas come in a large variety of lengths, shapes, colours and flavours. However, all black tea types have specific properties for which they are specifically sought and / or cultivated. For example Darjeelings are expected to be vibrant, fresh with muscatel; whilst Assams are expected to be malty, spicy and aromatic.
Many black teas are “graded” which is a classification based on which part of the tea plant is included in the tea leaves. These grades are used to separate the best quality teas from the rest.
For the most part, teas with a high proportion of “tip” or “bud” visible as yellow or orange leaves throughout the tea are considered to be of superior quality. A tea with a high proportion of these buds is referred to as “tippy” and is the youngest leaf on the plant so often adds a fresh, vivacious note to the brewed cup.
In general, black teas are expected to be full-bodied, complex and aromatic; include whole, unbroken leaves and for the finer types, include a significant amount of tip.
At Tea Palace, we are extremely rigorous about product testing and sourcing only the finest quality loose leaf black teas. Our extensive sampling and testing process ensures that our range includes teas deemed to be of the highest possible quality.
Tea Palace does not source broken leaf teas. We are committed to promoting the luxury, quality and flavour of whole leaf and therefore we only accept whole leaf teas classified at the highest end of the grading scale. This applies throughout our range from single estate teas to those used in our blends.
Our black teas are selected to include key characteristics depending on the tea type and country of origin. In each case we will only add teas to our range that we feel demonstrate the finest characteristics of each tea type.
Finally, everything comes down to the flavour. A tea may have an excellent pedigree and leaf grade, but unless it is exceptional when brewed and enjoyed it would never be considered!.