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Who was Earl Grey?

Posted on 04/06/2023

Earl Grey is one of the most iconic tea blends in the world, delighting millions of tea lovers with its signature flavor note of bergamot for centuries. But who was Earl Grey, the man after whom the drink was named? A simple internet search will reveal that “Earl Grey” was not a single person but a title passed down through generations of powerful families in the peerage system of Great Britain. That being said, historians are confident that the name of the tea refers to Charles Grey - or more formally, "The Right Honourable Charles, 2nd Earl Grey," who inherited the title of Earl Grey from his father.

Earl Grey Charles was a British politician who rose through the ranks of Parliament, eventually serving as Prime Minister of Great Britain from November 1830 to July 1834. The tea’s exact beginnings remain shrouded in mystery, as over time many different stories have circulated about the circumstances surrounding the event. These tales often center on an unnamed tea merchant from China. Perhaps the man gifted quality tea to Earl Grey on a trip to China as a token of gratitude for saving his life (how and when he may have been endangered are unclear, but records show that the Earl never set foot in China, raising question to the authenticity of this narrative). In another yarn, the merchant presents the Earl with tea and bergamot oranges that have been stored in a shipping box together, the tea absorbing the citrus scent in a happy accident. The story provided by the Grey family today is that the blend was specially crafted by the merchant for the Earl as a gift. Oil from the rind of the citrus bergamot was added to the tea to offset the taste of the hard water at the family's residence.

No matter its origins, we raise our cup to Earls Grey, both past and present. Fancy a cup of your own? Explore our Earl Grey Teas!

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