If you ever doubted that tea reflects history, then think about the politics swirling around the time Earl Grey, the tea, came into the teapot. While lovely stories proliferate about the origins of Earl Grey tea, consider this: In 1833, while Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey, was Prime Minister, his government passed an act abolishing the trade monopoly of the East India Company with China. The East India Company was more than a major importer: In its prime, it was an imperial force that controlled more territory than the entire United Kingdom. Since one of the company’s major exports was tea from China, the law passed while Grey was Prime Minister opened up the tea trade for other companies. Was the tea an expression of gratitude? Connection or coincidence?
Fun sip: Few teas are named after British figures. One exception: In 1921, Twinings began marketing “Prince of Wales” tea, a light, fragrant of black tea, that was the personal blend of future King Edward VIII. Yes, that king whose speech “giving up the throne for the woman I love” fame traumatized his country, resulted in the reign of his younger brother King George VI , succeeded by the current Queen Elizabeth, whose daughter-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales, was the great-great-granddaughter of one of Earl Grey’s daughters. Got that?
Next Post: However fascinating tea is with a dash of history, LTR will return to more prosaic tea topics. Coming: How the pros taste tea