Just like wine, tea is a product of the soil. It is very difficult to obtain a constant level of quality, as there are significant variations in growing conditions from year to year, season to season and region to region. There are two types of blends: those that blend teas from many plantations in the same region (the resulting blend will carry the name of the region) and those that are made from teas of many origins, each with its distinctive characteristics: one will bring color, the other flavor, the third appearance.
The most widely-known blends are: English Breakfast (a robust drink, blending teas from Ceylon, Assam, and sometimes Darjeeling); Afternoon (the same type of blend, but more gentle); the Russian Caravan (gentle, aromatic blend made up of non-smoked Chinese teas); the English Blend (that marries teas from China, Assam, and Ceylon); the Irish Blend (made from Assamese teas).
Earl Grey is a blend of China teas to which is added essence of bergamot. This is one of the world's best-known blends, passed down to us from Edward Grey, Count of Fallodon, Minister of Foreign Affairs in England from 1905 to 1916. While on a diplomatic mission Grey discovered a very old Chinese recipe; on his return to England, he submitted it to Jackson of Picadilly who then made and marketed the tea under the name of Earl Grey.
©1996: Centre d'histoire de Montréal
Picture source: Le Tao du thé en Chine, Taïwan 1983