Today marks 250 years since the birth of Charles Grey, prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1830 to 1834 and the man commonly associated with introducing the world to Earl Grey tea. Legend has it that Grey was presented with a diplomatic gift of black tea flavored with bergamot oil by an envoy on his return from China, and his wife, Lady Grey, used it to entertain London‘s movers and shakers. It proved so popular among the elite that it was soon being marketed as a brand, and now it’s one of the most popular teas in the world. To celebrate this historic drink, we’ve selected the three best places to sip Earl Grey in London today.
The Decadent Option
For a luxurious Earl Grey with delicious accompaniments, head to Claridge’s. The Earl Grey here comes from Tregothnan — a walled garden in Cornwall that has been producing teas since 1334 — and it is blended with a high-quality Assam (a black tea from India), then subtly hand-scented with fine bergamot oil. At this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel, enjoy an unlimited amount of the bright brew as part of the Classic Afternoon Tea menu, which comes with a selection of traditional English sandwiches, a variety of handmade pastries and, best of all, raisin scones with floral-flavored Marco Polo jelly and Cornish clotted cream.
The Quirky Option
It might be set within a traditional, 18th-century Georgian townhouse, but the moment you open the door to Sketch it feels more like you’ve crash-landed into some whimsical storybook world. The dining parlor looks like nothing else in the city: opulent, offbeat, bohemian and fun. Mismatched décor, brightly upholstered chairs, primary-colored geometric wall shapes, patterned beanbags and egg-capsule-adorned bathrooms combine to create one of the most peculiar establishments in London. But Sketch has solid culinary cred (French master chef Pierre Gagnaire is one of the people behind it), and it serves an excellent Earl Grey. Created by the well-regarded Jing Tea company, the Mayfair café’s Earl Grey Supreme is made from a base of divine whole-leaf Ceylon scented with bergamot and sprinkled with cornflowers.
The Tea-Tasting Option
If you are a tea aficionado who would prefer to sample a variety of Earl Greys in a single sitting, the best place to go is Twinings Tea Shop and Museum. In 1706, Thomas Twining purchased Tom’s Coffee House on the Strand and set about converting Londoners from keen coffee drinkers to die-hard tea lovers — an effort the Twinings brand continues in almost every country around the world. Today, the same 18th-centry shop remains — making it the longest-standing rate-payer in the city — and it’s a perfect place to partake in cup. The sampling counter offers hundreds of loose-leaf teas, with several Earl Grey varieties, including those blended with lavender, lemon, orange blossom and jasmine, as well as decaffeinated and organic choices. Try these, or Twinings’ own Lady Grey brand, by booking a tea tasting online, or just coming in on a weekday and taking a seat at the counter.
Photos Courtesy of Twinings Tea Shop and Claridge’s