When I was selling my tea at farmer’s market during 2008 to 2010, one of the many pleasures of the trade was talking to fellow tea lovers. We had conversations that ranged from tea trivial to semi-scientific on terroir. One of the surprises that I had through many chats was – a good majority of tea drinkers I encountered did not know that Earl Grey blend was named after a real person, Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey. Thanks to my mentor and teacher, Jane Pettigrew, I was put in touch with the estate of The Grey Family at Northumberland, and managed to wrangle an interview with the current descendant, Charles, 2nd Lord Howick of Glendale, to find out more about Charles Grey and his eponymous blend.
One weekday, I set off to meet Lord Howick, barely able to contain my excitement. Driving through the expansive moors and scenic Pennine Mountains, I finally reach Howick Hall in a little over four hours. None the worse for wear as the scenery more than made up for the time. I was first given a tour of the grounds by a keeper and visited the little church where 2nd Earl Grey is buried. Then it’s off to meet Lord Howick in the west wing who just recently arrived from Australia where he resides during winter. Lord Howick is more at ease in the gardens as a horticulturist then in front of the camera. I only have a voice recording of our interview, but I can say he is a grandfatherly figure who is unassuming, gentle in his speech with a subtle sense of humour.
The excerpted interview is condensed and edited: