The Complicated Origins Surrounding The London Fog Drink

The London Fog drink — essentially Earl Grey tea with steamed milk and an added splash of vanilla — has had a consistent uptick in popularity since its inception. It's a hit with social media influencers who riff on its creamy warmth with holiday twists, like combining it with eggnog for a heavenly winter drink. It has also earned a spot on the menu of cafés the world over, including the London Fog Latte, which has been voted one of Starbucks' most underrated menu items.

The drink might be famous, but its origin story comes with a "nobody knows for certain" qualifier.  Was it named for the little gray puff of foggy mist that emits from your mug when steamed milk hits your Earl Grey tea? Or does it harken back to that disastrous fog that settled over London in 1952, highlighted in "The Crown" for an entire episode? The industry does lean toward one of those stories over the rest, and it begins with a pregnant coffee lover who wanted to switch up her daily hot beverage routine without losing out on a bit of a caffeine fix.

The London Fog drink may have started with a custom order

According to the oft-repeated tale, it was the mid-to-late '90s at Vancouver's Buckwheat Café when regular customer Mary Loria, suffering from morning sickness, wanted an alternative to coffee. She decided to get creative and asked her barista to add steamed milk to Earl Grey tea, to which Loria then added vanilla sugar. The concoction was delicious and she recommended it to friends far and wide, only to find some time later that the drink, newly named London Fog, began popping up all over the place.

That drink now comes in everything from powdered mixes to pre-mixed cans. Coffee houses have begun to feature lots of iterations of the London Fog drink, from adding a shot of espresso for a Dirty London Fog to switching out the Earl Grey tea for green Matcha. Starbucks rolled out its version of the drink in 2009, which was so popular that it is rumored to have boosted sales of Earl Grey tea. 

Despite such popularity, it remains unclear who named the drink and how the origin story ever got traced back to Loria. Credit aside, Loria didn't drink the concoction for long, going back to her regular coffee after pregnancy, but she still spreads love for the drink. In 2021, she told the local publication Vancouver is Awesome, "All of my kids drink it."