A much-loved cup of tea is always a pleasure to discover or to rediscover. Through tea, one does not only enter a world of incredible flavors but also gains insight into the culture, innovative ideas and the world beyond the boring, generic, store-bought tea. The tradition of tea-drinking has been with us for centuries now, and never really fails to impress, even today. Even though it takes little to enjoy a simple cup of tea, its story is, however, much more complex. Ever since the Western world has been introduced to tea, we knew that exciting times are ahead. In the following paragraphs, we are going to look at the story of tea blends, or to be more exact, world’s most famous scented tea blends, Earl Grey and its trademarked version, Lady Grey. How do they differ, and which one is better; let’s find out.
Earl Grey Tea
The story of Earl Grey tea allegedly starts with Prime minister of the United Kingdom, Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and his diplomatic visit to China in the 1800s. There, as many believe, Charles tasted scented teas for the first time, and upon his return to Britain, sought similar teas to enjoy. At that time, different scents and flavors were made readily available, like bergamot, for example. Rumor has it that the regular tea has been stored next to bergamot oranges during a shipment from Asia, to the estate of Charles Grey, creating the now globally known Earl Grey tea.
However, the story of Earl Grey tea has a more thorough background. Earl Grey is made from black tea. The leaves for this tea are usually milder-tasting leaves that are produced either in China, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) or India. The tea leaves are scented with the oils of the bergamot plant; this plant is native to South-East Asia and has only later been introduced to Europe. In Europe, the bergamot plant has been used primarily in the perfume industry, and only later in the tea industry. The process of creating Earl Grey includes the oil extraction from the fruit of bergamot which then rests with the tea leaves. The bergamot plant is similar to orange and has a light, citrus note that pairs simply and beautifully with tea leaves. However, Earl Grey teas are known to be on the stronger side of flavor, as the makers tend to use too much of the bergamot oil, creating a distinct ‘soapy’ taste.
Lady Grey Tea
Now that we have a basic insight into the origin and characteristic of the Earl Grey tea, we should take a look at Lady Grey. It is important to point out that Lady Grey, just like Earl Grey, is scented black tea, flavored with the bergamot oil. So, what’s the difference between these two? Lady Grey is actually the trademarked variation of Earl Grey. As a relatively new occurrence in the tea industry, Lady Grey was introduced to the tea market in the early 1990s by the English tea maker Twinings. When it comes to the actual difference between Lady and Earl Grey, many would argue that Lady Grey is actually a softer version of Earl Grey black tea. That is why Twinings describes Lady Grey as made for those who found Earl Grey to be too strong.
Lady Grey is also a black, scented tea with bergamot oil, but it contains orange and lemon peel, additional citrus flavoring, and in some versions can contain lavender or cornflower as well. Cornflower is a blue petaled flower that makes the Lady Grey blend more subtle and softer in taste and flavor when compared to Earl Grey. As described by Twinings, Lady Grey is a more elegant version of Earl Grey that is more uplifting, light and mild in flavor and taste. Lady Grey is also usually made from a mixture of Sri Lankan (Ceylon) black tea and the additional citrus flavoring, whereas Earl Grey is made from Chinese, Sri Lankan or Indian black tea and bergamot oil only. These few points could be the main differences between Lady Grey and Earl Grey. It is important to bear in mind that Lady Grey is a trademarked blend and cannot be sold under the name Earl Grey. Another interesting info; just like Earl Grey was named after Charles Grey, Lady Grey was named after Charles’ wife, Mary Elizabeth Grey. Other than these few subtle differences, there isn’t much that makes these two teas completely different; the one is simply stronger, and the other softer in taste and flavor. Simple as that.
With the introduction of Lady Grey, Twinings made an excellent decision that has changed the tea industry to this day. Earl Grey, which is too strong for the Nordic, and other European palates, for example, has been replaced by Lady Grey. With its softer and milder flavoring, Lady Grey made its way to thousands of European and worldwide households and teashops. However, regardless of which one you prefer, we can all agree that a humble cup of tea can make a bad day better, frayed nerves calm and collected and generally has the ability to spread joy and delight through taste, flavor and unforgettable smell.
If this little article made you excited about tea, here’s a quick little tip on how you can prepare your homemade Lady or Earl Grey spiced blend today. Make sure to use 5 teaspoons of black (Indian or Chinese) tea, to which you will add one roughly chopped, dried ginger, and one chopped, dried orange peel. Mix it all together and place in a tin. The tea blend should rest for 48 hours in a dry, cool place before you can use it. Once the blend is done resting, make a cup of tea and enjoy it with some milk, or sugar. Or, you can just buy it from Twinings; the choice is yours. Either way, make sure to really enjoy your tea time. Don’t forget the biscuits.