What is Earl Grey Oolong tea?

When thinking of an Earl Grey tea, most of you probably have in mind a black tea infused directly in a mug from a tea bag. In this context an Earl Grey Oolong sounds a bit exotic to say the least.

However, as Earl Grey refers to a tea aroma and oolong is one of tea families, the two can absolutely go together.

In this blog post we will look at:

  • the history of Earl Grey tea
  • the history of oolong tea
  • how the mix of the two can be achieved

 What is Earl Grey tea

The history of Earl Grey tea is tightly woven into the larger history of tea exportation. Tea drinking custom originated in China in the 3rd century of the Common Era where it was adopted by all the social classes: from the regular Chinese to the Imperial Court. Buddhist monks were avid tea drinkers and considered tea drinking as helping with their meditation. It is probably them who brought the custom to Japan and to other countries in Asia.

In the 16th century China started exporting tea worldwide leading to a significant trade imbalance with Britain as Britons came to love the Chinese tea and were eager to pay for it in silver coin. To undermine the Chinese domination in the tea market, the British started planting tea trees in India and even brought over some Chinese tea farmers to master the tea production process.

The trade between Britain and China was at the time managed by the East India Company which was undergoing increased scrutiny and was deprived of its monopoly in the 1830's by the Prime Minister Charles Earl Grey. This British politician who also abolished slavery in Britain was allegedly given some orange-scented tea as a symbol of gratitude for his accomplishments.

Earl Grey tea was at the time black Chinese tea scented with bergamot, a small Mediterranean citrus fruit. Over time, the delicate Chinese tea was replaced with stronger Ceylan tea to accommodate for the British custom of drinking tea with milk. Although the Earl Grey tea was known from the 1830's, the first printed ad for it appeared in the 1880's. 

The most commonly version of Earl Grey tea known today is strong black tea perfumed with bergamot.

 What is oolong tea

Oolong tea, also know as black dragon tea or wulong tea, originated from the Fujian region of China about three hundred years ago.

It is different from both green and black tea - while black tea is fully oxidized and green tea is not oxidized, oolong tea is partially oxidized. 

The oolong leaves are most frequently rolled into small pearls and unfurl into beautiful entire leaves during the infusion. The infusion is almost milky and sweet with floral and caramel notes. The colour ranges from light yellow to copper, depending on the degree of oxidation.

Oolong tea is mostly produced in the Fujian region of China and in Taiwan. Most of the tea production in Taiwan is oolong tea.

The magic behind an Earl Grey Oolong tea

Earl Grey Oolong tea is simply top quality oolong tea scented with bergamot. It should be infused like an oolong tea - either using the gongfu cha technique or in a small teapot / gaiwan. No milk nor sugar should be added as this tea is delicate and naturally sweet.

It can be used in recipes such as the Earl Grey Oolong chocolate truffles and can be drunk in the evening because it's low in caffeine.

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