Earl Grey is undoubtedly one of the most famous teas, especially in western countries. It is a popular afternoon tea and can be paired with different types of food. The variety in consumption techniques has made it even more widespread. You can drink it hot or cold, make lattes, desserts, or even savory dishes with this tea.
It has a black tea base with a bergamot oil mixture. The blend is citrusy and aromatic. Even though it became known worldwide as a British tea, the black tea base comes from South Asia, and the bergamot is native to the Mediterranean. This global mixture resulted in the black tea and bergamot blend becoming the distinct Earl Grey taste.
Even though the taste is quite sharp, it is not overpowering and matches well with other food. If you ever wondered what earl grey tastes like and how to drink earl grey, you’ve come to the right place.
History of Earl Grey Tea
While the history of Earl Grey tea remains debatable, we know that this tea was named after Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl of Grey. He was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1830 to 1834, notable for abolishing slavery and child labor.
But mixing fruits with tea was a known practice in China, not the West. One of the most popular theories is that the Earl saved the drowning son of a Chinese tea blender. In gratitude, the blender named his famous black tea concoction after him; however, since there’s no way to know that the Earl ever visited China.
Another story says that the water in Charles Grey’s house had a different taste, and blenders create a tea that would suit the unusual water. This theory also remains unproven, but it’s more plausible. His wife, Lady Grey, was fond of the tea, so English tea blenders started recreating it. The famous tea company, Twinings, started selling it for the first time.
What Does Earl Grey Taste Like?
Since Earl Grey is a black tea, it has a strong flavor. The citrus addition makes it taste quite fruity and floral. But not overly sweet and saccharine. Most people describe the taste as refreshing and sharp but not overpowering.
Earl Grey uses bergamot, citrus, found in the Mediterranean. The best bergamots for Earl Grey are thought to be grown in Calabria, Italy. For those who do not know the taste of bergamot, Earl Grey is similar to a tea with lemon and grapefruit taste. Instead of citrus juice, this tea blend uses bergamot peel.
To make the bergamot oil, one needs to use citrus peel or skin. The oil is mixed with the black tea to create the Earl Grey we are familiar with. However, those who make their tea blends put the dried bergamot peel directly into the tea for a more robust flavor.
Caffeine Content in Earl Grey
The caffeine amount of Earl Grey differs from brand to brand. However, there are some general caffeine content estimations. If you’re a person who likes the Earl Grey taste but can’t have too much caffeine, there are some suitable alternatives for you. The caffeine in the tea comes mainly from the black tea base.
The caffeine content in Earl Grey depends on the tree processing and the blend technique. If the Earl grey has a black tea base, blending it with bergamot oil requires 40-100mg of caffeine in one cup. This is a similar caffeine amount as black tea.
The blend with a black tea base and bergamot rinds have 20-40mg of caffeine per cup. The last type of blend is black tea base, but instead of bergamot, it has herbs, flowers, and rind mix. This blend also has less amount of caffeine, similar to the second one. There is a Decaf Earl Grey that has only has 2 to 10mg caffeine in every cup.
Types of Earl Grey
The popularity of Earl Grey led to different variants of the tea. Many similar tea flavors follow the original note of Earl Grey. The changes are in the blending technique, and these teas use an alternative to bergamot. Though the teas have slightly different blends, the taste is similar to Earl Grey.
Perhaps the most famous one is Lady Grey, named after the Earl’s wife. This tea is a mixture of the original Earl Grey, blue cornflower blossoms, and lemon and citrus peels. This creates a more floral taste.
Another famous variant is the Red Earl Grey made of black tea, bergamot, and rooibos. There is the Russian Earl Grey that blends the original with other citrus peels. Earl Green is becoming popular as it has a green tea base and baozhong blend instead of the standard black. There are different types that blend in lavender, spice, rose or other flowers, and citrus.
How to Drink Earl Grey?
Earl Grey is easy to make as the brewing technique is similar to other teas. It is a popular tea for afternoon snacks and is paired well with sweet food. First, boil water on the stove or kettle. Then, put the boiled water in a teapot or your cup and put the tea leaves in.
For every cup, use one teaspoon of tea leaves or one teabag. Some professional blenders suggest using tea leaves instead of tea bags for a better taste. Earl Grey’s steep time is three to four minutes. Don’t steep for too long as it might become bitter.
While people suggest that you drink Earl Grey plainly, you can add milk or lemon and sugar to your taste. A popular Earl Grey drink, London fog, is the perfect companion on winter days. It is a latte tea made of steamed milk, vanilla syrup, and the Earl Grey blend.
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Pairings with Earl Grey
The British like to drink their Earl Grey with lemon and sugar, which enhances the citrusy flavor of the blend. In America, people drink it with milk and sugar. Many suggest not using milk with black tea as the flavors tend to clash, dampening the original tea flavor.
Earl Grey is a fantastic companion with food, especially desserts. Since the tea itself is a bit sweet but not overpoweringly saccharine, you can pair it with similar types of desserts. Madeleines are the best match as they are citrusy and not overly sweet, just like Earl Grey.
Scones, another not-too-sweet dessert, pairs well with this tea. You can try savory dishes as well. Orange beef and Mandarin Duck tastes fantastic with Earl Grey as the dishes use tea and citrusy flavors. Earthy food like red meat and dark chocolate also works well with this tea
Buying Earl Grey
Where can you buy earl grey tea? Well, you can get Earl Grey tea from most grocery shops as they are pretty popular. There are many varieties available, and the quality depends on the brand. You can buy from the tea company’s website or retail websites as well.
If you want to try out different types of Earl Grey to find out which one you like most, you can try tea samplers. When buying Earl Grey, most recommend purchasing the loose-leaf packet rather than the tea bags. While tea bags are more accessible to steep, loose-leaf offers a bolder taste.
For those who prefer a strong taste, look for Ceylon, Assam, or Kenya black tea base. For the ones who like lighter black tea, bases from Darjeeling and Nilgiri are more suitable. If you want a rich black tea taste, Keemun and Yunnan bases offer more intensity.
Storing Earl Grey
Knowing the techniques of buying and storing Earl Grey is vital because buying from a reputable source ensures that it stays fresh for a long time. They also tend to come with blending-packaging information and storage instructions.
Earl Grey mainly uses an oxidized black tea base which has a long shelf life. The green tea base lasts less time than black tea. Flavored teas, in general, do not retain their original taste if it is left unused for a while. The tea leaves tend to lose their flavor or become stale.
To store Earl Grey, place it in an airproof container and put the container in a dry, chill, and dark place that has no light. The container should be separate and don’t place it near coffee and spices as they can affect the Earl Grey leaves. Flavored black tea leaves are easily stored for six months to a year before they start going stale.
Earl Grey tea has a taste that never goes out of style and matches with everyone’s palate. The black tea with bergamot blend creates a citrusy and strong flavor but doesn’t overpower your taste buds.
This balanced taste has made it one of the favorite teas during teatimes, brunches, and afternoon parties. Knowing how to drink Earl Grey properly is crucial because if you don’t use it or steep it rightly, it can taste nasty.
If you like the flavor combination, you can try out different recipes with Earl Grey tea. Consuming and buying, and storing it correctly is crucial because the tea can go stale and lose flavor.