Velvety smooth and brisk on the inside, the London Fog has been a sleeper cafe treat since the late 1990s. The drink is basically a black tea latte: an infusion of Earl Grey tea made with steamed milk and just a hint of sweetness. You might say it falls somewhere between a chai latte and a traditional cup of tea.
Who invented the London Fog?
It’s our pleasure to say that in this day and age of internet theft, ChatGPT, and no one getting credit for anything anymore, the London Fog can actually be traced to a specific individual: Victoria, BC ceramicist Mary Loria. Mary lived in Vancouver in the 1990s, and though she was (and still is) an avid coffee fan, pregnancy caused her to seek alternatives from her favorite brews—which were triggering incredible stomach sickness.
“I could not drink coffee at all,” Loria tells Sprudge about that time. “I wanted something creamier, creamy like a latte but I needed it to be not coffee.”
Loria could tolerate tea, so she began asking baristas at her local, Buckwheat Cafe, to brew her a steamed milk latte with a bag of Earl Grey. She’d then sweeten the latte with vanilla sugar. She began ordering the drink at other shops as well—”I remember trying to explain it to a Starbucks barista, and they were like ‘what do you want me to do!?’,” she says. Soon enough, the drink began appearing on menus and had spread to other cafes—especially in the Pacific Northwest—and remains a common menu item in North America today. (Starbucks introduced its own Teavana® London Fog Latte in 2009, which is made with tea, 2% milk, and vanilla syrup.)
Yet though it’s all true that Loria was the first person anyone knows of to order this drink, this history story is a bit of a mystery: she doesn’t know how the drink was named, nor does she know how anyone traced the story back to her. She was informed of a Wikipedia citation at some point, naming her as the drink’s originator—and the details sounded correct—but she still doesn’t know exactly who credited her.
“I didn’t set out to invent a drink,” says Loria, whose first child—the one who inspired the drink in the first place—turns 25 this year. “It was literally me thinking, oh you know what would be good?”
Do they serve the London Fog in London?
While the London Fog is most ubiquitous in the Pacific Northwest, it’s been spotted all over, on cafe menus from Calgary to New York to Kansas City. Some online resources purport that the drink exists in various parts of the UK under the name the “Vancouver Fog,” however this claim is unconfirmed.
As to London, Sprudge was unable to identify any cafes serving a London Fog in London. One local source we consulted told Sprudge that they had “no idea what this is” and were “appalled at the idea of a lot of milk with Earl Grey,” and added that furthermore they had “never seen it on a menu… never seen anyone drink one,” and “had no idea it existed.”
Can I make a London Fog at home?
Why, certainly. Depending on your milk steaming technology, your results may veer away from the drink’s original intent, but you can give it a go with the building blocks of Earl Grey, milk or milk substitute, vanilla, and sweetener. (Some people like to add lavender—we won’t stop them!) While some recipes call for steeping the Earl Grey first (preparing it as a proper tea) before adding steamed milk, others—like Loria’s original—simply add the teabag to a glass of steamed milk. Sweeten to taste to finish, and picture yourself on the misty shores of London. Or Vancouver. Or in a Starbucks. Whatever works!
Liz Clayton is the associate editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge.