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What is Bergamot?

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What is Bergamot?

The "Prince's Pear" flavouring our Earl Grey.

Twinings Earl Grey is one of the nation’s best beloved teas. What makes this delicate and perfumed blend so popular?

The Hidden Secret Is Bergamot

The hidden secret is Bergamot. You probably already know this, of course. There is something about the sweet, floral, sour and bitter flavour of bergamot that blends perfectly with a bold, full-bodied and malty black tea.

Flavoured teas are a wonderful way to explore the hidden depths of a variety of teas and exotic tastes, and we love to dream up new blending recipes for flavoured teas and infusions. But by far and away the most famous flavoured tea is Earl Grey…

So Just What Is Bergamot?

Bergamot is a bitter, inedible citrus fruit – often called a bergamot orange – although confusingly, it is yellow coloured like a lemon.

It is from a spiny tree called the citrus bergamia, that originated in the tropical climes of South East Asia and is now grown commercially in the province of Calabria in Southern Italy. (80% of the world’s bergamot comes from Calabria!) You can also find it in the south of France and Africa’s Ivory Coast.

The tree blossoms in winter, and it is cultivated for the skin of the fruit, which is cold pressed for its oils, flavours and scents. What is lesser known about bergamot is that it is also grown in Antalya in southern Turkey where the skin is used to make Turkish marmalade.  

Origins and History

The name Bergamot derives from the Turkish words “beg-armudi” which means “The Prince’s Pear” – a fittingly majestic title for what is considered the finest and most exotic of citrus notes, used in all sorts of ways from flavouring Earl Grey tea to scenting essential oils. Indeed, it first came into vogue at the court of King Louis XIV of France in the 16th Century where aristocrats would commonly wear bergamot (“prince’s pear”) scented perfumes.

The traditional Eau de Cologne is heavily scented with bergamot and is said to have found its origins in the French royal courts 500 years ago, which is pretty mind-boggling. Bergamot is pronounced “burger-mott” in English, Bergamotto in Italian and Bergamote in French.

Today, bergamot flavouring is used widely in food, drinks (like Earl Grey of course) and for scenting perfumes, cosmetics like skin creams, bubble bath, shower gels and essential oils for which it is used extensively in aromatherapy. It was even used in traditional medicines throughout Renaissance Europe, as it was believed to have curative properties to keep fever away. Wealthy members of society would often wear a pomander around their necks, heavily scented with notes of bergamot – in order to hide the stench of body odour.

Earl Grey Another Way... Recipe Ideas

The rather exotic and perfumey notes of bergamot combine perfectly with a full-bodied black tea; and Twinings is said to have invented a blend that has become a national, not to mention international, treasure amongst tea lovers.

Not just a treat at tea times, we’ve been experimenting with using it in all kinds of imaginative and delicious culinary ways. From mocktails to cocktails, milkshakes to cream cakes, iced teas to ice creams, blinis to muffins and curries to flurries. We have an amazing collection of Earl Grey and Lady Grey inspired recipe ideas, both sweet and savoury, including gluten and dairy-free courgette and blueberry muffins… Yum!

These recipes are really straightforward and we’ve included a range of them for all times of the year – like smoked salmon earl grey flavoured blinis for drinks parties and Earl Grey flavoured French toast for a decadent breakfast treat. All of them show just how versatile our delicious bergamot flavoured Earl Grey tea is and why it is so deserving of its popularity. 

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