Earl Grey loose Tea is a wonderful option for serving with afternoon tea. It has a slight citrus flavour it goes very well with almost anything fruity and delicate.
Earl Grey gets its flavour from bergamot oil. Oil of bergamot comes from the rind of bergamot oranges. These oranges are perhaps closer to lemons and grapefruits in terms of flavour, but it is not grown for its flesh. It is grown for the rind.
The rind is used in some kinds of marmalade and other preserves. And of course the oil is extracted from the rind.
Bergamot oil is used in perfumery extensively, and also in aromatherapy. In aromatherapy, it is said to be good for depression and it has great antiseptic qualities.
Earl Grey teabags are also an option, but I really do think that Earl Grey loose tea has a much better flavour, and it is easier to adjust the strength to your liking than with a teabag.
Although teabags are more convenient, and I do often use teabags, I have really noticed that Earl Grey loose tea has a better flavour. It's important to re-seal the packet carefully to keep the scent of the oil.
I have on occasion refreshed older tea by adding a drop (literally ONE drop) of my own essential oil of bergamot to the packet and giving the bag a shake.
Taste is highly linked to smell, and it's true to say that the smell of Earl Grey is a large part of its charm.
To make a really great cup of tea, I use 1 teaspoon of loose tea per person, plus one for the pot. Earl Grey, like all black teas, should brew for up to 5 minutes. The tea leaves should then be removed from the pot.
If you prefer strong tea, use more tea leaves rather than leaving it to steep for longer. Tea that is left to steep for more than five minutes becomes bitter. You can read more details about how to brew black tea in general here.
Earl Grey can be served with either milk or lemon.
Earl Grey is apparently named so after the 2nd Earl Grey, Charles. He lived in Britain in the early 1800s and spent much time in London, since he was Prime Minister for a while.
The Grey family, whose family seat is Howick Hall in Northumberland, say that the tea was specially blended for Lord Grey by a Chinese mandarin.
When Lady Grey served this tea in London, it became popular and so Twinings started to sell it, and still do to this day.
In fact there is another tea now called Lady Grey which has lemon peel as well as the bergamot for flavour. It's rather lovely.
So thank you Lord Grey of past times!