This poetry writing prompt submitted by Janet McCann:
The Earl Grey blend, or “Earl Grey’s Mixture”, is assumed to be named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister in the 1830s and author of the Reform Bill of 1832. He reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic perquisite, of tea flavoured with bergamot oil.
According to one legend, a grateful Chinese mandarin whose son was rescued from drowning by one of Lord Grey’s men first presented the blend to the Earl in 1803. The tale appears to be apocryphal, as Lord Grey never set foot in China and the use of bergamot oil to scent tea was then unknown in China. However, this tale is subsequently told (and slightly corrected) on the Twinings website, as “having been presented by an envoy on his return from China”.
Earl Grey, of course I wonder
who he was, sipping my tea
which smells like a childhood story I was read
about China. Gratefulness? My grandmother
sitting under her calendar that said,
“There will always be an England,” would believe it.
The tiny Chinese boy slipping down the bank
into the river, brave British aristocrat
leaping after him? Bergamot–
such a whispery scent, citrus and flower.
Of course it didn’t happen, these things don’t
much as we may want them to. Not just the British toff
but the sense that everyone looks out for one another.
Of course it is in the interest of the tea firm
that something generous took place, that the man
received this priceless, expensive tea
because he was good. Of course you could
consider the Reform Act itself, it did away
with some electoral cheating. But this scent—
sour and gently sweet, this sip–
the mildly bitter afterbite. I can see two men
bowing to each other, between them
a cup—the gift, this warmth, this myth.
If you write a poem from this prompt, post it as a comment underneath the prompt in the Poetry Super Highway Facebook Group.