The first mention of Earl Grey tea was in 1824 and it was associated with the idea of using bergamot to enhance the taste of low quality tea. The name ‘Earl Grey’ is most often connected to the English aristocrat and Prime Minster Charles Grey

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The History Of Earl Grey Tea

Audios with an Australian Accent


The first mention of Earl Grey tea was in 1824 and it was associated with the idea of using bergamot to enhance the taste of low quality tea. The name ‘Earl Grey’ is most often connected to the English aristocrat and Prime Minster Charles Grey.

A potted history of Earl Grey

1830 marked two significant moments in British history; it was the year that Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey, became Prime Minister and it was the year the lawn mower was invented by Englishman Edwin Budding.  Suffice to say, the history of the lawnmower is clear cut whilst that of Earl Grey tea is a little more opaque. 

NEW VOCABULARY: mention, bergamot, enhance, aristocrat, significant, lawn mower, suffice it to, suffice to say, is clear cut, opaque

AUDIO LISTENING 1: Remember to listen and read together:

Section One: (Grammar introduction: the difference between affect (v) and effect (n)

The origin of tea

As with all teas, including flavoured teas such as Earl Grey, its origin lies in China. The Chinese have flavoured water with leaves for well over 4,000 years and have had an enormous effect (noun) on the world of teas. Tea brewed from Camellia Sinensis leaves became popular during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), but it was to be another 1,610 years before Earl Grey tea would be invented.

The drinking of tea had profound effects (noun) on British society. Tea most certainly affected (verb) British society and it’s class structure during that time. The drinking of tea became a social pleasure among the elite in places like London.

Earl Grey tea was originally Chinese black tea flavoured with bergamot oil. The insertion of bergamot into black tea affected (verb) its taste greatly.  Bergamot trees grow almost exclusively in Calabria in southern Italy. They are a natural hybrid of sweet lime and bitter orange. The fruit is about the size of an orange but with the colour of a lime. Therefore, significantly, the flesh and juice of bergamots are extremely acidic, so the fruit is predominantly grown for its zest from which bergamot oil is extracted. This oil is added to the dried black tea leaves to give Earl Grey its distinctive lifted-floral scent and sweet-citrus flavour.

NEW VOCABULARY: lies in, leaves, brewed, Han Dynasty, invented and marketed, exclusively, 
a hybrid of sweet lime, the flesh, extremely,  acidic, zest, its distinctive, lifted-floral scent, and sweet-citrus flavour

AUDIO LISTENING 2: Remember to listen and read together:

Section Two:

The 2nd Earl Grey

Several brands lay claim to marketing the first Earl Grey tea and there are numerous stories about the involvement of Charles Grey 2nd Earl Grey, who was prime minister from 1830 to 1834.

The official story is that he reportedly received a diplomatic present of tea that was flavoured with bergamot oil. According to the UK government website, the tea became so popular that Charles Grey asked British tea merchants to recreate it. Another story,  is that the tea was in fact created to suit the lime-rich water at Howick Hall, the Grey family seat in Northumberland on England’s northeast coast. 

NEW VOCABULARY: lay claim to, numerous, involvement, prime minister,  reportedly received a diplomatic
according to, tea merchants
AUDIO LISTENING 3: Remember to listen and read together:

Video Listening Section: Watch the video and then answer the questions below.

Twinings is a British tea company. Twinings tea is available in Brazil. Twinings make quality teas including Earl Grey tea.


        1. What does “AKA” mean?
        2. What is Earl Grey Tea flavoured with?
        3. When they take the skin off the bergamot and make ‘pulp’ with it.  What do they use the pulp for?
        4. How much is 1 kg of bergamot worth?
        5.  Where is the company ‘Twinings’ situated?
        6. What was Queen Elizabeth’s favourite tea?

Section Three:

Essential oils

Perfumed, fragrant, scented, floral – all these words apply to Earl Grey tea and rightly so, because, aside from tea merchants, another industry uses bergamot oil – the fragrance market. The perfume houses are meticulous in their market research and there are plenty of studies showing essential oils and perfumes help relaxation, ease tension and assist in the production of hormones that release anxiety; citrus aromas in particular are known to reduce anxiousness.

So next time you feel het up or stressed out why not make yourself a pot of Earl Grey tea and relax. Better still, take it outside and admire your beautifully cut lawn, and you won’t be worried if you see it needs mowing!

NEW VOCABULARY:  Perfumed, fragrant, scented, floral , apply to, aside from, meticulous, plenty of, essential oils, ease, anziety
citrus aromas, anxiousness, feel het up, better still, admire, beautifully cut lawn

AUDIO LISTENING 4: Remember to listen and read together:

Section Four:

Flavour to enhance or disguise?

There may be a more cynical angle to the development of Earl Grey tea. As with all valuable commodities, fake and illicit tea imports were rife. Tea was so popular it was heavily taxed; indeed it was the British tea tax in America that saw the dumping of tea leaves into Boston Harbour which led to the American Revolution barely sixty years earlier.

By the early 1800s, tea was in demand, smuggling was an issue – and so was the quality of some teas. What better way to disguise your ‘fannings’ or dust than by flavouring them with something else? However, regardless of however humble (or not) its beginnings, Earl Grey tea quickly became very fashionable.

NEW VOCABULARY:  cynical angle,  valuable, commodities, fake,  illicit, heavily, taxed, indeed, tea, Boston, Harbour, barely,
smuggling, demand, to disguise, fannings, dust, flavourings, regardless of, however, humble, fashionable

AUDIO LISTENING LESSON: Remember to listen and read together:

Writing Section:

Write 150 words about your preference of beverage. Say why you prefer it and how you take it.


In your text use one example of the present perfect progressive tense and one comparative and one superlative. You will find the relevant lesson documents below on our FREE book download website.

Free Downloadable English Lessons


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