Earl Grey tea is the most popular flavored tea, making it a true classic. Find out what makes Earl Grey an international bestseller.
I'm writing this post while intentionally sipping a cup of Earl Grey. The delicious citrusy aroma is accompanied by the soft spring sun streaming through my window. This classic signature blend is perfect for an afternoon tea - preferably with scones.
I confess that for a long time, I never liked Earl Grey. Every blend I tried tasted like drinking perfume. Am I alone here?! Always willing to try a new tea, I never gave up. I finally came across an Earl Grey that I liked, a full-bodied black tea with a light citrus note. It was absolutely delicious!
I had to find out why. What made this one stand out from all the other Earl Grey’s I’ve tried? Why was this tea so superior?
What is Earl Grey Tea?
Earl Grey is a blended, flavored black tea. The exact blend of black tea used, as well as the choice and amount of bergamot oil, will greatly affect its flavor. This is why the craft of the tea blender is so important.
A classic Earl Grey is a black tea blend of Darjeeling, Assam, and Ceylon tea. Bergamot oil and bergamot peel give this blend its fragrant characteristic.
The best Earl Grey I ever had was a handcrafted artisanal tea blend from Steve Smith Teamaker. Steve was the founder of Smith Teamaker. Before that, he founded Tazo Tea, which he sold to Starbucks. Prior to that, he co-founded Stash Tea.
When I initially tried Smith Teamaker Earl Grey, dubbed ‘Lord Bergamot’ years ago, I was compelled to reach out to Steve to find out what made it so extraordinarily delicious. Smith said the key was using an all-natural bergamot oil from Italy. Italian bergamot oil is very expensive but is the preferred oil.
Of course – the Italians – when it comes to food you can’t mistake their passion for excellence! This makes the Earl Grey tea a tad pricey, but it’s definitely worth it.
Related: Enchanted Earl Grey Cocktail
The black tea base for the Smith Teamaker Earl Grey is a blend of Assam tea from India and Sri Lanka tea from the Dimbula and Uva regions. You won’t find Smith Teamaker Earl Grey in most stores. But you can buy Smith Teamaker Lord Bergamot on Amazon.
Earl Grey Tea
While the origins of Earl Grey are not as important as the tea itself, it's interesting to know. Earl Grey tea was named after Charles Grey, the second Earl of Grey and British Prime Minister in the 1830s.
The distinctive flavor of Earl Grey comes from bergamot oil. Bergamot is a Mediterranean citrus fruit. The bergamot fruit has a very generous rind and is prized for its fragrant essential oil by perfumeries and tea blenders. The black tea used as a base for Earl Grey is a blend and often comes from China, India, or Sri Lanka.
I discovered that some tea blenders use natural bergamot oil while others use artificial oil. Unfortunately, most are artificially flavored. When a natural oil is used it will say ‘oil of bergamot’ or ‘bergamot essential oil’. Natural bergamot has a subtle but intense flavor. And it’s not easy to find.
If the tea is artificially flavored it will read ‘bergamot flavoring’ or “bergamot flavor’. It’s definitely not the same as essential bergamot oil.
How to Make Earl Grey Tea
Brewing Guide for Black or Rooibos Tea Base
Traditional Earl Grey is blended with black tea, but there are many variations. Almost any type of tea, black, green or white can be used as a base for blending with bergamot scents.
- Bring filtered water to a boil - 212°F (100°C)
- 1.5 teaspoons (3 grams) loose Earl Grey or 1 sachet
- Pour hot water over leaves
- Steep 5 minutes
Makes 1 cup or 8 fluid ounces. You can either add milk and sugar or lemon and sugar.
Brewing Guide for White or Green Tea Base
- Bring filtered water to 175°F (80°C)
- 1.5 teaspoons (3 grams) loose Earl Grey or 1 sachet
- Pour heated water over leaves
- Steep 3 minutes
Makes 1 cup or 8 fluid ounces. You can add sugar or lemon and sugar. Do not add milk.
Earl Grey Tea Recipe
Related: Earl Grey Blackberry Jam Recipe
Earl Grey adds a nice citrus note.
Earl Grey Tea Caffeine
The exact amount of caffeine in a cup of tea varies depending on the type of tea brewed, green or black, and the amount of infusion time.
A cup of earl grey black tea contains about 40 milligrams of caffeine, which is about half the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.
Best Earl Grey Tea
How to choose the best Earl Grey is a common question since there are so many different brands of Earl Grey on the market. It's not surprising since Earl Grey is the most popular tea in the world.
You'll find several variations:
- Earl Grey White combines white tea leaves with bergamot
- Lapsang Souchong added for a smokey-style English Earl Grey
- Blue Cornflowers added for a bit of visual interest
- Earl Green is blended using green tea instead of the traditional black tea
- Lady Grey is another variation with cornflower and oranges
- A Russian Earl Grey adds citrus peels and lemongrass to the black tea and bergamot
- A London Fog or Earl Grey latte combines Earl Grey, steamed milk and vanilla
- Rooibos Earl Grey uses South African herbal tea as a substitute for the black tea
- Earl Grey Lavender tea for a French-style Earl Grey
Whichever blend you choose, natural bergamot is the scent of choice. The intensity of the citrus notes may vary from lightly aromatic to intensely flavorful from high-quality Italian bergamot.
All Earl Greys differ and the only way to know what you like is to taste for yourself. Try out many different blends. It took me many, many tastings before I found an Earl Grey that I really liked!
Earl Grey Tea & Bergamot Benefits
Bergamot is a Mediterranean fruit from the Citrus bergamia, a hybrid of lime and bitter orange. The fruit is similar to oranges in size but similar to limes in color with a very thick rind. Too bitter for eating the zest is used to produce the natural extract.
- The essential oil comes from the peel of the fruit and is used in earl grey tea.
- Bergamot zest is often used in cooking.
- The fruit is high in Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B1, B2, and Vitamin A.
- There are many folk remedies with bergamot oil, especially for skin and urinary tract complaints.
- The essential oil is used in skincare products, perfumes, and aromatherapy.
- Bergamot helps with digestion. One study found a phytonutrient in bergamot oil called bergamottin that is beneficial in protecting the stomach lining. Source
Where to Buy The Best Earl Grey Tea
Since my discovery of premium Earl Grey with real oil of bergamot, I’ve found a few other brands that also make Earl Grey blends. You may want to try some of them out too. Take your time, you will find your perfect blend.
I’ve only tried their London Earl Grey, but they have a variety of teas flavored with bergamot. The London Earl Grey is a premium black tea from China flavored with oil of bergamot. It comes as a full-leaf tea in individually wrapped bags.
They offer many varieties of Earl Grey both loose and bagged. Its flavor is made up of simple black tea flavored with oil of bergamot.
The White Anastasia Tea is a blend of white tea, orange blossom, bergamot, and lemon producing a lovely delicate tea. It reminds me of an oolong.
The Anastasia tea is a blend of black China and Ceylon teas with scents of bergamot, lemon, lime, and orange blossom. They use the essential oil of bergamot to scent their tea.
Makes a traditional Earl Grey blend made with premium Assam black tea and pure bergamot extract, which lends a citrusy twist to the tea. This is a full-bodied and robust tea, with a rich amber-colored infusion. They have a variety of teas flavored with oil of bergamot.
Makes curated tea blends and loose-leaf varietals crafted in small batches in Portland, Oregon. Lord Bergamot No. 55 is their signature Earl Grey.
The Earl Grey Citrus Black is a blend of black teas from India with the natural oil of bergamot fruit, a pear-shaped sour orange originally found in Italy. The dry leaf is delightfully fragrant. The tea is characteristic of a bright liquoring cup of tea. The fruity and fragrant citrus flavor of this tea also makes a great iced tea.