As I mentioned a couple of days ago, we decided to rename our Lady Grey tea. I put the word out to friends on all of the social media, and a former fellow moderator at the Straight Dope Message Boards who goes by the moniker of “Czarcasm” came up with the winning suggestion: Lady Greystoke.
Since the tea bar is a part of Red Lodge Books, we liked the literary connection behind Lady Greystoke: In Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan books, Jane Porter was the love interest. Tarzan himself was John Clayton, Earl Greystoke, so when he married Jane in the second book of the series (The Return of Tarzan), she became Lady Greystoke.
We had many other great suggestions — and quite a few silly ones — but none caught our attention quite like this one. We just may use several of those other names for other blends in the future, so we appreciate everyone who took the time to make suggestions.
The most common suggestion, interestingly, was to call the tea Jane Grey. Lady Jane Grey, also known as The Nine Days’ Queen, was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII. She ruled as de facto Queen of England for nine days in 1553, and was later executed for high treason. Since Lady Greystoke was also a Jane, we liked this connection, too.
In celebration, I shall be enjoying a mug of Lady Greystoke tea tomorrow morning at the tea bar. Everyone’s invited to come in and join me!
Today was tea blending day at the tea bar, as I mixed up new batches of our house blends. As I was working on our Lady Grey, I got to thinking about how incredibly different Lady Grey teas are from one company to the next, and decided to do a bit of reading on the subject.
It didn’t take long to find a comment that “Lady Grey” is a registered trademark of R. Twining and Company in the U.S. and U.K. (here’s a link to the trademark search on Trademarkia that shows it renewed in March of 2006). This hasn’t stopped quite a few companies from producing their own variations, like Jasmine Pearl (theirs has orange zest and lemon myrtle, but no bergamot!), SereneTeaz (an Earl Grey with lavender), American Tea Room (they don’t have a full ingredient list, but it includes cornflower petals), and Tea Embassy (another Earl Grey with lavender).
Should I follow their lead and continue calling my blend Lady Grey? Nah. I have better things to do with my time and money than fight legal battles. I’ll do the right thing and follow the example of Marks & Spencer (they call theirs Empress Grey) and Trader Joe’s (Duchess Grey).
Twinings originally named their Lady Grey tea for Mary Elizabeth Grey. Their Earl Grey tea (which they changed last year) was named for her husband, Charles, who was the second Earl Grey. Twinings uses less bergamot in their Lady Grey than they do in Earl Grey, but they add other citrus and some cornflower.
I’ve never understood the rationale of “clone blends.” My “Lady Grey” isn’t the same as anyone else’s. If it was, I’d just buy theirs. I want something different. Mine is an organic blend, using Chinese black tea, oil of bergamot, wild Tibetan lavender, a little bit of vanilla, and a touch of rooibos.
What to call it? The one consistent thing about all of our other Earl Grey teas is the word “Earl.” Earl Green (green tea + bergamot), Earl Red (rooibos + bergamot), and all of the blends that use the full “Earl Grey” moniker, like Mr. Excellent’s Post-Apocalyptic Earl Grey and Cream Earl Grey. The name “Lady Grey” keeps the “Grey” instead of the “Earl,” but is still connected.
So I have done what I often do in such situations: turn the question over to my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. I’ve asked Facebook and the Twitterverse for suggestions, and I’m starting a thread on my favorite message board (the Straight Dope). When we decide on a new name, you’ll read about it here first!
After my blog post a couple of weeks ago about Twinings changing their Earl Grey formulation, I went to my favorite online forum (the Straight Dope Message Boards) and started a poll to see what people thought about it. I never thought at the time that it would lead to a whole new spin on Earl Grey tea.
During the discussion, a fellow who uses the online moniker “Mr. Excellent” commented that:
“But yah, Twinings is acceptable, but I prefer to get my tea from a local tea shop. And lapsang souchong is more my thing, anyway. (Though adding bergamot could be neat …) “
The idea of a smoky lapsang souchong with bergamot just seemed wonderful to me, and I commented that I was going to give a shot at creating one. Mr. Excellent responded with:
“I’m looking forward to hearing how the Post-Apocalyptic Earl Gray works out! (Named thus because, with the smokiness of the lapsang, it should be like Earl Gray that survived some firey holocaust and came out awesome.) “
Over the course of the day, I played with recipes, and drank a lot of tea. By mid-afternoon, I was getting fairly close to what I wanted, and described it thus:
“The various strong flavors in this tea hit you at different times. As you bring the cup up to your mouth, the bergamot is the first thing to hit the nose, cutting through the smokiness of the lapsang souchong. When you take the first sip, the bergamot all but disappears, leaving the pine smoke flavor, which fades into the base tea (an organic black Yunnan) as it swirls through your mouth. After you swallow, the bergamot returns, blending with the smoke to create a lingering aftertaste.”
My goal was to create a blend that would make you feel like you were sitting among the smoldering remains of civilization, enjoying a nice cup of tea before hefting your shotgun and going back to fighting off the zombies. After another week or so of experimentation, I think I hit it. “Mr. Excellent’s Post-Apocalyptic Earl Grey” has officially gone on the menu at our tea bar, and as soon as I have the new tea website finished you will be able to buy it online.
Thank you, Mr. Excellent, for the idea and the name. I hope you enjoy the tea!
[UPDATE May 2012: Our new tea bar website is up and running, and Mr. Excellent’s Post-Apocalyptic Earl Grey is available for purchase now. It’s also now our second most popular Earl Grey out of the eight that are currently on our menu. I’ve updated links in this blog post accordingly.]
[UPDATE May 2015: My book, “Myths & Legends of Tea, volume 1” is out, and there’s a chapter devoted to the (fictional) backstory of Mr. Excellent’s Post-Apocalyptic Earl Grey. It’s set in Australia, 20 years from now…