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Know Your Substances: Earl Gray 

We discover the historical past of this business favourite, the way it’s made, and the distinctive methods it’s being included into café menus.


Featured photograph by Matt Seymor by way of Unsplash

We see Earl Gray at virtually each café—however are you aware how the tea grew to become a coffeehouse staple in so many elements of the world? In right now’s installment of “Know Your Substances,“ we’re exploring every part Earl Gray, together with the way it’s made, the way it grew to become common, and the distinctive methods it’s being included into store menus.

A hand pours brewed tea from a black pitcher into small white cups on black saucers. Steam rises up from the tea.
Earl Gray is black tea scented with bergamot oil, and consumption of the tea dates again to the 1820s. Photograph courtesy of Oriento by way of Unsplash.

Making Earl Gray

To start out, let’s discuss what Earl Gray really is: black tea scented with bergamot oil. Bergamot oil comes from the bergamot orange (citrus bergamia). This aromatic citrus fruit is in regards to the dimension of an orange. It has a bumpy rind and a yellow-green colour paying homage to lime. The bergamot orange is believed to be a hybrid of bitter orange and lemon or lime, and its taste is sharp and bitter.

The mother and father of the bergamot orange are believed to have originated in Asia, and ultimately arrived in Italy. Centuries of commerce and cross-pollinating produced the bergamot orange. At the moment, Italy is the highest producer of bergamot oranges, with fruits rising abundantly alongside the coast of the Ionian Sea.

It takes about 100 bergamot oranges to provide simply 3 ounces of bergamot oil. To make Earl Gray tea, black tea leaves are flavored with the oil, with ratios various between varieties. Several types of black tea, resembling Darjeeling, Ceylon, or Assam, can be utilized. The ensuing tea is superbly fragrant and flavorful. 

Three bergamot fruits hang together at the end of a tree branch. They are small, round, and bumpy in texture. The fruits are a light green color similar to lime, while the leaves are yellow green.
Bergamot is a cross between bitter orange and lemon or lime, with a bumpy rind and a yellow-green colour. Photograph by way of Pixabay.

Surprising Origins

Opposite to frequent perception, Earl Gray is just not an English invention, although it was popularized in England. Earl Gray and different scented teas really stem from historic China. There, tea leaves have been usually infused with herbs and flowers resembling jasmine or rose. This made the beverage all of the extra alluring to emperors and different royalty world wide.

We are able to hint the consumption of Earl Gray tea again to the 1820s. There are a number of tales circulating about how precisely the tea was first created. One story tells of how, throughout a visit to China, English Prime Minister Charles Gray was gifted black tea scented with the oil of bergamot oranges—and the ensuing beverage was named after him. Some consider that Earl Gray was created when bergamot oranges have been by chance combined with tea leaves being shipped from China to England. The outcome was a delightful mixture of aromas and tastes. No matter which story is true, the creation of Earl Gray was a cross-cultural affair—a melding of traditions and flavors from world wide.

A wooden tray at Alchemist holds a white teapot with a small spout and metal lid. There is a wmite ceramic tea cup on the tray next to two small blue-green macaron cookies.
In Los Angeles’ Koreatown, Alchemist Espresso Undertaking serves Earl Gray tea together with Earl Gray macarons. Photograph by Emily Meneses. 

Earl Gray on the Menu

Other than merely brewing Earl Gray tea, there are such a lot of methods to benefit from the taste of this fragrant beverage. You will have heard of a London Fog—Earl Gray sweetened after which topped with steamed milk (which tastes nice “soiled“ with a shot of espresso). Or possibly you’ve loved a slice of Earl Gray-flavored cake. Situated in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, Alchemist Espresso Undertaking presents Earl Gray macarons of their store, together with the loose-leaf tea.

With a narrative courting all the way in which again to the 1820s, Earl Gray is a residing legend within the meals and beverage world. We’re joyful to see that this drink has withstood the take a look at of time.


Emily Pleasure Meneses (she/they) is a author and musician primarily based in Los Angeles. Her hobbies embody foraging, cortados, classic synths, and connecting along with her Filipino roots by way of music, artwork, meals, and beverage.


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