Earl Grey and the rind of the bergamot fruit

Earl Grey tea is like English Breakfast's more refined cousin.

Earl Grey tea is like English Breakfast's more refined cousin. Step away from a "pot of tea for two" into the realms of a tea "blend" and your first encounter will be with Earl Grey.

A distinctive citrus flavour and aroma make Earl Grey an instantly-recognisable version of black tea. The citrus element comes from the oil of the rind of the bergamot fruit. The bergamot is about the same size as an orange, possesses the colour of a lemon, but is less sour than a lemon yet more bitter than a grapefruit. Basically, a bergamot looks, smells, and tastes like a bergamot.

There's a herb called bergamot, but that's in the mint family and has nothing to do with tea. Apart from mint tea. Maybe it's in mint tea. Bergamot mint tea. We could make a bergamot mint tea and we'd have every right to call it Earl Grey, as the name has never been trademarked.

Just about every tea company claims to know the origin of the blend. But the truth, just like any requests for a slice of lemon instead of milk, will forever remain ignored and eventually forgotten.

Twinings tell the tallest tale and, as we proudly only bother to stock their brand, it's our favourite version of events.

The second Earl Grey was prime minister in the 1830s. In 1832, one of his minions saved the life of the drowning son of a Chinese mandarin. As a symbol of his gratitude, the mandarin gifted the earl with citrus tea.

In truth, the second Earl Grey never visited China and bergamot was unknown to the Chinese at that time. But isn't it a marvellous story?

Whichever historical falsehoods you choose to believe, give Earl Grey a go. Just don't do the slice of lemon thing; it's like asking for a twig in your Darjeeling.