Earl Grey Tea: History, Benefits, and How to Brew a Better Cup

Earl Grey Tea: History, Benefits, and How to Brew a Better Cup

Infused with bergamot oil essence and refreshing citrus, this aromatic black tea has a rich history, incredible health benefits, and irresistible taste. Originating in the 1800s, Earl Grey tea has stood the test of time to become one of the most beloved tea blends enjoyed around the world. Earl Grey strikes a perfect balance between comforting black tea and delicate floral flavors. So even if you’ve never warmed up to classic black teas before, you’ll fall in love with Earl Grey as it’s one of the best flavored teas perfect for any mood or season!

Here’s everything you need to know about Earl Grey tea, from its curious history and unique flavor to some surprising health benefits and caffeine content. Plus, you’ll get a breakdown of exactly how Earl Grey tea is different from other black tea blends like English Breakfast or Lady Grey, how to brew the perfect cup of Earl Grey, and some delicious Earl Grey tea-infused recipes.

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SHOP EARL GREY TEAS

Discover the best earl grey teas as rated by Sips by's 600,000 tea-loving Members. From loose leaf earl grey tea to bagged earl grey tea, these are the best earl grey teas from different tea brands around the world. Find your favorite earl grey tea, from lavender earl grey to earl grey cream, with the caffeine you need to jump start your day. No matter the type of earl grey you're searching for, Sips by has options you'll love, whether you drink your earl grey black or you make a London Fog.

Black Tea

SHOP BEST EARL GREY TEAS

WHAT IS EARL GREY TEA?

Earl Grey tea is a flavored black tea infused with bergamot oil citrus, creating a surprisingly light floral aroma. Earl Grey is traditionally made with black teas from China such as Keemun and is flavored with fragrant bergamot oil from cultivated citrus trees in Calabria, Italy. Because this black tea has such a mild and approachable character it’s become a true crowd-pleaser for tea lovers around the world.

While classic Earl Grey is simply crafted with these two ingredients, many modern varieties have experimented with different combinations. Now, you can find several types of Earl Grey tea inspired by the classic brew.

    • Cream of Earl Grey is an Earl Grey with vanilla and notes of lavender that’s inspired by a London Fog.

    • Lady Grey is a classic black tea blended with extra citrus or blue cornflowers for a lighter Earl Grey experience.

    • Earl Red trades black tea for rooibos with bergamot oil for a sweet yet tart sip.

    • Russian Earl Grey combines Earl Grey with real pieces of orange and lemon peel mixed and lemongrass in for an extra fragrant punch.

    • French Earl Grey is Earl Grey infused with bright flowers like rose, French blue cornflowers, jasmine, hibiscus, or lavender.

    • Earl Green swaps black tea for green tea with notes of bergamot for a lighter cup of tea with less caffeine.

Any of these Earl Grey varieties can be enjoyed equally hot or cold and are delicious sipped on their own or enhanced with milk, sugar, honey, or lemon!

HISTORY OF EARL GREY TEA

Earl Grey tea is a quintessential British tea, with roots that go back over 200 years. The story - or one of them - goes that this classic blend of tea was first created for tea enthusiast Earl Charles Grey, a British Prime Minister from 1830-1834 who is most famously known as the author of the Reform Bill of 1832 and the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. In the early 1800s, he tasked a Chinese tea merchant with creating the perfect tea blend to suit the spring water from his estate at Howick Hall, which contained noticeably high levels of lime. To counteract the acidic flavor, the tea merchant started with a popular blend of black teas and simply added bergamot oil, which comes from the rind of the Italian bergamot orange fruit.

His wife, Lady Mary Elizabeth Grey, was naturally a prominent political hostess who often entertained London’s high society with the family’s specially crafted Earl Grey blend. It became so popular in these inner circles that she was eventually asked if it could be sold to others.

However, the exclusive Earl Grey blend didn’t hit the widespread market until a few years later. Twinings, a popular British tea company, branded their own Earl Grey blend and it - figuratively and literally - began to fly off the shelves, it’s popularity eventually extending to the United States during the Industrial Revolution.

types of lady grey tea
lady grey tea
types of black tea

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EARL GREY TEA?

Did you know that Earl Grey tea is one of the healthiest black teas you could be sipping on? While this delicious tea blend will grace the sipper with a plethora of health benefits, here are the best reasons why drinking Earl Grey tea is good for you!

    • Stress Relief The bergamot oil essence present in all Earl Grey tea blends will instantly relieve stress and reduce anxiety through its aromatherapeutic properties. Limonene and alpha-pinene are also natural components in extracted bergamot oil that will be naturally soothing to the sipper.

    • Dental Hygiene Want to impress your dentist? Drinking Earl Grey tea means that you are naturally getting important catechins and fluoride which are good for your teeth and will help you fight oral infections.

    • Metabolism Because most varieties of Earl Grey tea often have additional citrus added in the form of bergamot, lemon, or orange peels, research shows that the ingredients combined with the thermogenic effects of drinking Earl Grey help speed up your metabolism.

    • Fight Colds As a black tea blend infused with several healthy ingredients, Earl Grey tea is naturally full of powerful antioxidants, especially in the bergamot oil, that will boost your immunity and help you fight pesky colds and the flu.

    • Heart Health Drinking Earl Grey tea over a period of time can benefit your heart health as black tea has been linked to lowering blood triglyceride levels and cholesterol levels, preventing issues like heart disease from developing. Learn even more about the health benefits of drinking black tea.

    • Reduce Inflammation Feeling sore? The bergamot oil in Earl Greys have natural analgesic properties and works wonders as an anti-inflammatory for muscles, headaches, and general body pain.

    • Skincare Did you know that tea can play an important part in your skincare routine? Different types of tea can give you great skin, and black teas help fight damaging free radicals with antioxidants which in turn can protect and heal your skin from acne, eczema, or psoriasis. Next time you're feeling like some self-care, add a cup of Earl Grey to your routine!

    • Energy As a black tea, Earl Grey is an energy booster as it usually contains just enough caffeine to perk you up without the negative side effects of coffee.

    • Digestion Earl Grey tea is one of the best teas for improving digestion. If your stomach is feeling upset, drinking a cup of Earl Grey tea is known to help relieve painful indigestion, colic and nausea as it is a natural antispasmodic.


earl grey tea

ENGLISH BREAKFAST TEA VS EARL GREY

So, what’s really the difference between Earl Grey tea and other popular blends like English Breakfast? They are both traditional British teas with a black tea base, but they each have a few key differences that set them apart from each other.

EARL GREY

The best Earl Grey teas are traditionally a blend of Assam, Darjeeling, and Keemun black teas with a hint of bergamot oil essence. Bergamot falls somewhere between a lemon and orange with a hint of grapefruit in taste. This tea will have a soft yet robust flavor base that pairs well with the complex citrus. It depends on the blend, but most Earl Grey teas will typically have the same health benefits derived from black tea and citrus.

ENGLISH BREAKFAST

English Breakfast tea was crafted later in the 1800s by Robert Drysdale, a Scottish tea merchant. The main difference from Earl Grey is that English Breakfast is an unflavored blend of black teas. English Breakfast tea is likely to be stronger and have more caffeine content than Earl Grey, hence the name and why it is usually sipped in the morning. It has a hearty, malty flavor that perks you right up with its robust character and pairs well with milk and sugar.

Unlike Earl Grey, you will not find variations of English Breakfast that experiment with other types of tea or ingredients as the blend must be made with black teas such as Assam, Ceylon, Kenyan, or Keemun to retain its characteristic rich flavor. We recommend Ahmad Tea's English Tea No. 1 or their classic English Breakfast.

Now that you tea lovers know the difference, it leaves the real question: Are you team Earl Grey or English Breakfast?

IS EARL GREY TEA CAFFEINATED?

The exact caffeine content of Earl Grey tea will depend on each blend and how the specific leaves were grown, processed, and brewed. Nowadays, you can even find Earl Grey teas made with different types of tea like green or white teas, or even pick up decaffeinated options. However, a classic cup of black Earl Grey tea steeped for the recommended amount of time will generally have around 30-60 mg of caffeine per cup. Black teas generally have more caffeine than other teas, but still significantly less than coffee which reaches up to 200 mg per cup. With so many different variations, you can learn more about the caffeine in different types of tea.

BEST EARL GREY TEAS

If you want to try out Earl Grey tea for the first time or even if you’re a connoisseur looking for your next favorite brew, we made a curated list of the best Earl Grey teas including the most popular varieties to help you narrow down your search. Take a look at these tried and true tea blends and sip for yourself!

Any Earl Grey tea can be enjoyed on its own but it’s also delicious when served with food. Because it pairs so well with different types of food, Earl Grey is one of the most popular teas to drink during an Afternoon Tea.

The versatility of Earl Grey tea doesn’t stop there, however, as it’s also delicious when infused in food. Earl Grey tea is the foundation of a London Fog, a delicious tea latte that is made with Earl Grey tea, steamed milk, and vanilla syrup - or you can substitute lavender syrup instead for a sweet, floral balance to the citrus. If you’re in the mood for something lighter, try making an Earl Grey Palmer for a refreshing drink on a warm summer afternoon.

Try more Earl Grey teas with your own Sips by Box.


STORING EARL GREY TEA

When stored properly, tea can retain its original flavor and nutritional benefits for up to two years. The less fermented and more broken tea leaves are, the faster they expire. As a result, tea bags will generally expire faster than loose leaf tea because they usually contain broken leaves and tea dust that lead to the deterioration of the tea’s flavor.

The key to keeping your Earl Grey tea from expiring too soon, and maybe even to extending the freshest flavor of your tea beyond the expiration date, is proper storage. Loose leaf Earl Grey tea, tea sachets, and even individually wrapped tea bags should always be stored in a dark, cool, and dry place in airtight containers. This will also protect your tea from getting wet (until you want to steep it!) so it doesn’t develop mold.

PREPARING EARL GREY TEA

To brew a better cup of Earl Grey tea, make sure to check your tea package first for instructions specific to your tea because different varieties might have different ideal brewing temperatures and steeping times. However, here are a few general steeping tips to keep in mind that will help you brew the perfect cup of Earl Grey tea every time!

HOW TO BREW EARL GREY TEA

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

  • Kettle or pot to heat water
  • Earl Grey loose tea leaves, sachets, or bags
  • Teapot with filter, teacup, or your favorite mug with an infuser

STEP ONE: HEAT THE WATER

  • 205℉-212℉ // Soft boil

Pro Tip: Use freshly drawn cold filtered water for the best tasting cup!

STEP TWO: MEASURE THE TEA

  • Generally use 1 rounded tsp or 1 tea bag/sachet per 8 oz. (1 cup) of water

Pro Tip: Add tea leaves to an infuser that lets them open fully, or you can put them straight into the teapot and use a strainer when you're pouring a cup!

STEP THREE: STEEP THE TEA

  • 3-5 minutes

Pro Tip: Don't let your tea steep for too long! It's best to strain your leaves or take your sachet/teabag out when the time's up so you aren't left with a bitter cup. Taste your tea after the recommended steeping time and then decide if you’d like it to steep a little longer.

Pro Tip: Cover your tea while it steeps to keep all the heat and aroma in the steeping vessel, allowing the leaves to relax and unfurl.

STEP FOUR: ENJOY!

Earl Grey tea is traditionally enjoyed plain or with lemon, but it's also delicious and creamy when served with milk, a teaspoon of honey, or a bit of sugar.

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