Tea's Royal Family
THE EARL: Earl Grey is the most common tea in the Western world, after English Breakfast. Its distinctive flavor and fragrance come from oil of bergamot, a Mediterranean citrus fruit, and the base is a blend of teas, which traditionally hail from China, India and/or Sri Lanka. Today, you can find Earl Grey teas on green, white and even oolong tea bases. The origin of the tea’s name is presumed to come from Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey, who as the British prime minister in the 1830’s was conferred a gift of this exquisite bergamot-scented tea at the conclusion of his diplomatic visit to China.
THE DUCHESS: Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford (1783-1857), was a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria. She was unwilling to accept the discomfort, which she described as a “sinking feeling” she got every afternoon around 5 PM. Being a Duchess, Anna chose to combat this lull in energy and spirit by sitting down to a nice cuppa tea accompanied by sandwiches and cakes. The idea was such a good one that afternoon tea soon became a ritual throughout all of England and its colonies.
THE EMPERORS: The legendary Chinese Emperor Shen Nung is credited with inventing the cart and plow, by taming the ox and yoking the horse, as well as establishing a stable agricultural society in China. His catalog of 365 species of medicinal plants became the basis of later wellness studies. He is also credited with the discovery of tea, in 2737 BCE. As the myth goes, the emperor was boiling a vat of water near a tea (Camellia sinensis) plant. When a leaf floated in and infused the water, it produced an enchanting elixir that left him feeling refreshed and renewed, and thus tea as a healthy beverage was born.
With flavors that are close to the heart of the tea plant, white tea was the favorite of Chinese Tea Emperor Hui Zong (1101-1125) who was so preoccupied with his love of tea and his pursuit of the perfect cup, that he lost his empire to invading Mongols. White teas have since traditionally been used as a Tribute Tea to the Chinese Emperor.