Today is Jocelyn’s 17th birthday, and her sister Amanda is surprising her by coordinating an “Anything England” birthday blog fest in her honor! I originally intended to use a Jane Austen theme, but decided to tie in something that I ponder each morning over my 1/2 chocolate muffin (yes, you can eat chocolate for breakfast) and cup of hot tea. I’m assuming Miss Jocelyn isn’t doing school today, so I’ll offer her (and me) a little history lesson on a yummy and decidedly English beverage:
Who was Earl Grey and why is there a tea named after him?
English Tea Store.com tells me:
Earl Grey tea was named after Charles Grey, the second earl in his line. He was Prime Minister to King William IV in the early 19th century. The legend is that the Earl was given the recipe by a Chinese mandarin with whom he was friends, and whose life he had saved.
Earl Grey is a blend of Indian and Ceylon teas. The tea gets its unusual flavor from oil of BERGAMOT. Bergamot is a small acidic orange. The latest research indicates that the Bergamot orange is a cross between the sweet or pear lemon (Citrus Limetta) and the Seville or sour orange (Citrus Aurantium). The sour orange is native to southern Vietnam, hence the Chinese connection.
The legend usually involves a grateful Chinese mandarin whose son was rescued from drowning by one of Lord Grey’s men, although this blend of tea was first made from fermented black Indian and Ceylon teas. As green tea is much more popular in China than black tea, it seems somewhat unlikely that they would have had a recipe for what we now call Earl Grey to bestow on visitors, though over the years many other varieties of tea have been used. In addition, Lord Grey never set foot in China. Another version of the legend has the son of an Indian raja being rescued from a tiger by one of Grey’s servants.
What about Lady Grey? How did she rate her own tea?
It appears that no one really wants to talk about Lady Grey, except to say, “Lady Grey is a light, refreshing tea, pale gold in colour and infused with the flavours of orange, lemon and bergamot.”
This is quite a contrast to the fiction that I’ve invented and embellish day by day. My imaginary tale involves neither a Chinese mandarin nor an Indian raja, but rather an elegant and unpretentious earl (picture Jeremy Northam in Emma) commissioning a distinctive tea, with a warm and cozy curl-up-with-a-good-book-and-drink-a-cup sort of flavor and fragrance. One day he turns to his wife and says, “Yes, my dear, you shall have your own tea, too,” (Maybe this is the sort of thing Mr. Knightly would say with a charming smile after, “Try not to kill my dogs.”) and Lady Grey Tea is born.
Miss Jocelyn, I hope you have a wonderful 17th birthday, surrounded by friends and family. If I were there with you, I’d offer you a chocolate muffin and a warm cup of Earl Grey. You’re a sweetheart and I look forward to meeting you and your family very soon. I hope you enjoy perusing the blog posts in your “Anything England” birthday party!
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