London Fog: Everything You Need to Know About the Earl Grey Latte from Vancouver

Are you green with envy at your coffee-loving friends and their extravagant frothy drinks?

Well tea drinkers, rejoice! Now you have your very own Instagram-worthy beverage to order from your local barista. You can even make this tasty concoction at home – it’s easy.

But what exactly is a London Fog? And did the drink come from England as the name suggests?

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London Fog Drink Origins

Picture this. It’s the 90’s, you’re pregnant and suffering from debilitating morning sickness. Not only can’t you drink coffee anymore, but everything tastes a little weird. Sucks, right?

Well, that’s what Vancouverite Mary Loria thought. At least according to a number of sources on the Internet.

Making an Earl Grey London Fog Latte

Who Invented the London Fog? And, Where Did it Come From?

Sadly, not much is known about the invention of the now-infamous London Fog drink. Even Twinings doesn’t go into much detail. However, several sources claim that its inventor was a woman by the name of Mary Loria. 

You heard right, zoomers – it wasn’t Starbucks!

The story goes that a heavily pregnant Mary went to her local cafe in Vancouver, British Columbia (The Buckwheat Cafe), 1997. That’s Canada (not England) for those who didn’t know.

A self-confessed ‘caffeine addict’, Mary wanted a tasty alternative to replace her morning coffee order. Clearly a fan of frothy drinks, she asked for an Earl Grey tea with hot skimmed milk – no water. 

I was thinking, if (the milk) was hot enough, it would make the tea

Vancouver is Awesome

Over time, this simple combination evolved, with Mary adding vanilla sugar to the mix. Et voila, the London Fog was born. 

But not quite.

Why is it Called a London Fog?

Mary explains that she never actually named her Earl Grey Tea Latte invention. That’s probably why the history behind this Earl Grey drink is a little, well, foggy. 

Instead, the London Fog likely got its name from some enterprising coffee shop trying to cash in on the early 2000s tea trend.

The link between the name and the drink, is presumably, the use of Earl Grey (a British tea blend). And, because when the milk hits that dark, brewed liquid, it looks a little opaque and cloudy like, you guessed it, fog.

To add to the confusion, the London Fog is also known as a Vancouver Fog, Earl Grey Tea Latte, or a Vanilla Tea Misto in some cafes. 

Although it probably wasn’t until Starbucks got its hands on this Earl Grey drink that the London Fog (name and all) went international.  

And this is where the dispute over what a London Fog actually is, begins…

What is a London Fog? Hint: It’s Not Just a Flat White Milk Tea!

Essentially, a London Fog is a cup of steeped Earl Grey tea with steamed milk. 

It can be drunk unsweetened, but vanilla syrup is often added. 

And at some cafes, you’ll find frothed milk, lavender, lemon zest, sweetener, and other ingredients either sprinkled on top or mixed in to zhuzh it up. 

However, there’s some debate over which category this dairy-filled drink falls under. And that’s largely to do with how it’s prepared, ordered, and served. 

So if you don’t see London Fog up on the chalkboard, don’t panic! Here are a couple of ways to order a London Fog drink at your favourite cafe.

Earl Grey Tea Latte

Unlike the (alleged) original ‘London Fog’, baristas typically use a small amount of water (approx. 100ml). Not just heated milk, like the drink Mary Loria first ordered in 1997. 

Similar to the coffee counterpart, an Earl Grey Tea Latte has a concentrated shot of steeped tea. 

The cup is then filled with steamed milk and topped off with a thin layer of frothed milk. Sweetener and vanilla flavouring may also be added to taste. 

It’s an excellent alternative to a classic coffee latte. Especially when you add all the trimmings.

Vanilla Earl Grey Tea Misto

A Tea Misto, on the other hand, uses a one-to-one ratio of steeped tea and steamed (not frothed) milk. 

Some might consider the Vanilla Tea Misto to be a simple milk tea. 

But, given the generous half and half milk to tea ratio, and the fact that hot steamed milk is used (instead of cold), the Tea Misto is an entirely different drink altogether. 

It’s sometimes referred to as the poor man’s latte. This is partly due to the pricing system at Starbucks which has sparked some heated discussions online. 

Old school Starbucks staff and customers will testify that this frugal hack would save you almost half the cost of an Earl Grey Latte. That’s until Starbucks officially added the London Fog to their menu. 

However, there are some that branches still honour the old pricing system – at least according to Reddit

So, if you don’t mind zero syrup and a little less foam on top of your London Fog, but still want something a little different, the Vanilla Tea Misto is an excellent choice.

Of course, other variations of this popular tea drink exist. This is largely down to what you put into your cup. 

The only limitation is your imagination… and your budget.

But What is Actually in a London Fog?

Usually, a London Fog is made with Earl Grey (black tea), steamed milk, and vanilla syrup. 

But when you’re making it at home, you won’t always have access to everything you need.

While sometimes people may simply prefer to use an alternative. This could be for flavour, health, or dietary reasons.

So here’s a breakdown of what’s in a London Fog along with a few different options.

The Earl Grey Tea

Traditionally, Earl Grey is made with Black Tea. However, Green, Oolong, Darjeeling, and a variety of other teas are sometimes used. 

Therein lies the problem – which tea do you use to make a London Fog drink? 

Technically, you can use any teabag or loose-leaf you like. Anything from a classic Earl Grey to an extra-strong blend, or even an Earl Grey Crème (vanilla-infused blend). 

But ideally, given the generous milk to tea ratio of a London Fog, you’re going to want an Earl Grey tea blend that can hold its own. Not just the tea flavour but the bergamot and vanilla too. 

Tea Concentrate

If you’re in camp Earl Grey Latte, then a ready-made concentrate like Tazo London Fog Latte Black Tea Concentrate could be the answer. 

All you have to do is add milk. And because there’s no tea bag to steep, it can be used to make either a hot or iced London Fog with ease – no waiting for the kettle to boil or for the liquid to cool!

And while Tazo also comes in silk teabag form, the concentrate has the vanilla flavouring already infused to streamline the London Fog making process.

But be warned, this stuff is strong. It’s a concentrate after all. 

Tazo London Fog Latte - Earl Grey Tea Concentrate

Starbucks Copycat

If you want that authentic London Fog experience at home, however, Starbucks reportedly uses Teavana Earl Grey tea sachets. 

An Earl Grey Crème variety, these tea bags contain vanilla with a hint of lavender – perfect for those in camp Vanilla Earl Grey Tea Misto. 

DIY London Fog

If you’re on a budget, Ahmad Tea has a robust and punchy Earl Grey blend with a rich Kenyan black tea base. 

Brewing your own Earl Grey tea (whichever brand you use) gives you a little more flexibility over the milk to water ratio. You’re also in control of how much flavouring you use. And whether you want to make an Earl Grey Latte or a Vanilla Earl Grey Misto London Fog. 

Just be careful not to over brew your Earl Grey. 

Even when diluted with milk, if your tea has been steeped too long it’s going to taste bitter. Equally, if you don’t steep it for long enough, your London Fog will lack depth and flavour. 

One thing that does stay constant, however, is that a London Fog must be made using Earl Grey blend (bergamot and all). Otherwise, you’ll end up with something entirely different. 

If you were to use an Irish or English Breakfast tea, for example, you’ll end up with a Dublin Fog. 

The Milk

Gone are the days where lactose filled cow juice is your only option. Nut, soy, oat, rice, and coconut all make an excellent milk substitute. 

In fact, you can even buy yourself a vanilla flavoured version for an authentic London Fog drink. And, they can be frothed just like normal milk.

Of course, the type of milk you choose will have a bearing on the taste and overall mouthfeel of your London Fog drink. 

The important thing to consider, though, is that the London Fog requires hot, steamed milk. 

This is unless you’re ordering an Iced London Fog. In which case, cold milk is used. And, if you’re feeling fancy, cream can be added too. 

Adding Milk to Earl Grey Tea

To create that same opulent frothy texture as a hot Earl Grey Latte, the milk is shaken together with vanilla and your sweetener of choice. It’s then poured over your cold tea and ice cube mixture. 

If you’re ordering from a Starbucks, they automatically use semi-skimmed (2%) milk rather than whole milk (full fat). Therefore, if you want a Skinny London Fog drink, you’ll need to request skimmed milk (fat-free) when ordering.

The amount of milk you use depends on whether you’re making a London Fog Latte or a London Fog Misto. 

The Temperature

Whether it’s an Earl Grey Latte or a Tea Misto, a classic London Fog is served hot (85-95°C). 

But sometimes, it gets a little warm and steamy outside and a piping hot tea is the absolute last thing that you want. 

Luckily, there’s a simple solution – serve it chilled.

Earl Grey Frappuccino

A London Fog Frappuccino is basically a frozen, blended Earl Grey Tea Latte. 

More like a tea flavoured dessert than a thirst-quenching drink, it sometimes includes vanilla ice cream instead of steamed or frothed milk. 

But this drink shouldn’t be confused with an Iced Earl Grey Latte.

Iced London Fog

The main difference between this drink and a hot London Fog is that this version is icy cold. 

As the name suggests, it’s just a cold London Fog with ice cubes (not blended).

If you opt for a cold London Fog, you’ll need to plan in advance. 

You can either use a chilled, store-bought, pre-made concentrate. Or, brew your tea the day before and refrigerate overnight. 

And don’t forget the ice!

The Flavouring

Besides Earl Grey tea, vanilla is a key flavour in a London Fog. 

If you’re making it yourself, there’s plenty of ways to infuse it into your brew.

Here are a few:

  • Syrup
  • Flavoured Milk
  • Infused Sugar
  • Essence or Extract
  • Earl Grey Crème Teabags 

Frothed milk, lemon zest, lavender, and blue cornflower are also sometimes added to complement the bergamot. They also look pretty sprinkled on top – ideal for your Instagram feed!

The Sweetener

Like most things in life, the type of sweetener you use comes down to personal preference. 

Mary Loria, the rumoured creator of the London Fog, used vanilla sugar. But, if you order a London Fog from a Starbucks, they will use 1-5 pumps of vanilla syrup – depending on the size of your drink.

Whereas some variations of the recipe include honey, agave, or even maple syrup.

Here’s a mini breakdown of the different sweeteners you can use in a London Fog drink. 

Sugar

Brown, white, granulated, or cubed, sugar comes in many forms. This sweetener is easy to get your hands on and is basically syrup in raw form. It’s also the most common way to take the edge off a bitter tea.

If you can’t get your hands on a vanilla-infused sugar, you can easily substitute it for whatever variety you have in your cupboard. 

Of course, whichever sugar you decide on will affect the overall taste of your drink. 

Dark brown sugar has a deep and rich molasses flavour – it’s almost caramel or toffee-like in taste. While white sugar is much more neutral and a little bit sweeter.

Just don’t forget to add some vanilla essence or another unsweetened flavouring for that authentic London Fog experience.

Honey

There are over 300 different types of honey. And the taste will change depending on the country, region, and local pollen source.

Variations in flavour range from orange blossom, eucalyptus, and buckwheat – to name a few. It’s the perfect match with a floral black tea blend like Earl Grey.

And because it’s higher in fructose than glucose, honey is a little sweeter than sugar. This means that you can use less of it. 

Vanilla Syrup

Essentially a mixture of sugar and water, you can make your own syrup at home or buy it readymade. 

While syrup comes in many different flavours, you’ll want vanilla for that authentic Starbucks London Fog taste sensation. 

Maple Syrup

For something a little different, you can pay tribute to the drink’s Canadian roots and use maple syrup instead of standard vanilla. 

The flavour will have a heavy molasses taste. That’s assuming you’re using pure Nova Scotian Maple.

Like honey, maple syrup is completely natural. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It’s strong tasting and very high in sugar so use it sparingly. 

However, this will turn your London Fog into a Canadian Fog. Also known as a Halifax Fog on the East Coast. 

Kind of ironic considering that the original London Fog drink was invented in Canada.

Agave Syrup

If you want to add a Mexican twist to your London Fog, use agave. 

Made using the nectar of the blue agave plant (the same used for Tequila), it has a similar consistency to honey. 

Like honey and maple, there’s a slight botanical taste to this natural sweetener.

Overall though, it is much more neutral in taste and less sweet than sugar. 

For this reason, it can be infused with other flavours like lavender, lemon peel or vanilla bean – all perfect for a London Fog drink.

The end result is a cross between a London Fog (Earl Grey & Vanilla Syrup) and Mexican Fog (English Breakfast & Agave).

Will You be Giving it a Try?

So there you have it. Hopefully, the next time you see a London Fog on the menu, you’ll give it a try.

Why not! It contains less caffeine than coffee. And, it certainly makes a change from a standard cup of Earl Grey tea.