Earl Grey Tea: Benefits, History & How To Brew It

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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 this classic 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, from its curious history and unique flavor, to some surprising health benefits, and if Earl Grey has caffeine. 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, and some delicious Earl Grey-infused recipes.

Sips by is a personalized tea discovery subscription. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Members receive 4 teas chosen just for them in every box. Learn more about our tea subscription service.

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Discover the best Earl Grey blends as rated by Sips by's 700,000 Members. From loose leaf to bagged, these are the best Earl Grey from brands around the world. Find your favorite Earl Grey tea blend, from lavender to earl grey cream, with the caffeine you need to jump start your day. Whether you drink it black or you make a London Fog, Sips by has options you'll love.

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WHAT IS EARL GREY TEA?

Earl Grey tea is a black tea flavored with bergamot oil citrus, creating a surprisingly light floral aroma. It's traditionally made with black tea leaves from China, such as Keemun, infused with the fragrant oil of the bergamot orange fruit from Calabria, Italy. Because this black tea has such a mild and approachable character, it’s become a true crowd-pleaser around the world.

While traditionally 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 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 cornflower blossoms for a lighter flavored tea.

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

    • Russian Earl Grey combines Earl Grey with real pieces of orange and lemon peel mixed and lemongrass 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 flavor and 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 is a quintessential British tea, with roots that go back over 200 years. The story - or one of them - goes that this classic blend was first created for tea enthusiast Earl Charles Grey, a British Prime Minister from 1830-1834. In the early 1800s, Charles Grey tasked a Chinese tea merchant with creating the perfect blend to suit the spring water from his estate at Howick Hall, which contained noticeably high levels of lime. To counteract the alkalinity, the merchant started with a popular blend of black tea and simply added bergamot oil from dried bergamot orange rinds.

His wife, Lady Mary Elizabeth Grey, often entertained London’s high society with the family’s specially crafted Earl Grey black tea. It became so popular in these 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, its popularity eventually extending to the U.S.

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WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF EARL GREY TEA?

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

    • Stress Relief The oil of bergamot present in all Earl Grey's varieties instantly relieves stress through its aromatherapeutic properties. It's limonene and alpha-pinene components also naturally soothe the sipper.

    • Dental Hygiene Want to impress your dentist? Drinking this tea naturally gives you important catechins and fluoride which help fight oral infections.

    • Metabolism Because most varieties have additional citrus fruit added, research shows that these ingredients combined with the thermogenic effects of drinking Earl Grey help speed up your metabolism.

    • Fight Colds As a black tea blend, Earl Grey 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 Regularly drinking Earl Grey 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? Bergamot oil has natural analgesic properties and works wonders as an anti-inflammatory for muscles, headaches, and general body pain.

    • Skincare Different types of tea can give you great skin, and black tea helps 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 splash of Earl Grey to your routine!

    • Energy As a black tea, Earl Grey contains just enough caffeine to perk you up without the negative side effects of coffee.

    • Digestion If your stomach is feeling upset, drinking Earl Grey tea is known to help relieve painful indigestion, colic and nausea as it is a natural antispasmodic.

ENGLISH BREAKFAST TEA VS EARL GREY

So, what’s the difference between Earl Grey 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 tea leaves with a hint of bergamot oil essence. These teas will have soft yet robust tasting notes that pair well with the complex citrus. 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 is that English Breakfast is an unflavored blend. English Breakfast tea is likely to be stronger and have more caffeine content than Earl Grey, hence the name. It has a hearty, malty flavor that perks you right up and pairs well with milk and sugar.

Unlike Earl Grey, you will not find as many variations of English Breakfast that experiment with other types of tea or ingredients, so that it retains 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?



DOES EARL GREY TEA HAVE CAFFEINE?

The exact caffeine content of Earl Grey tea will depend on each blend and how the specific tea leaves are grown, processed, and brewed. Earl Grey teas made with different types of base tea like earl green or white teas, will effect the caffeine content. However, a classic black tea base will generally have around 30-60 mg of caffeine per cup. Black teas generally have more caffeine than other types, 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!

One of the most popular teas to drink during an Afternoon Tea, Earl Grey is also one of the most versatile. It's 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 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.

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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.

The key to keeping your Earl Grey tea from expiring too soon, and maybe even to extending the freshest flavor beyond the expiration date, is proper storage. Loose leaf Earl Grey, 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 best brew Earl Grey tea, make sure to check the 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 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 a tea 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.

Want to try something different for breakfast? Check out this Earl Grey Acai Smoothie or even a warm bowl of Tea-Infused Oatmeal!

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

SHOP BEST BLACK TEAS

Discover the best black teas as rated by Sips by's 700,000 Members. From loose leaf to bagged, flavored black tea to unflavored black tea, these are the best black tea blends from different brands around the world. Find your favorite black tea, from English breakfast to chai to Darjeeling and Assam, with the caffeine you need to jump start your day. No matter the type of black tea you're searching for, Sips by has options you'll love, whether you drink your black tea with lemon or add milk.

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About Sips by: We’re a female-founded and led startup that makes discovering tea fun, personalized, and affordable. The Sips by Box is the only multi-brand, personalized tea subscription box. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Based out of Austin, Texas, we are adept at savoring a hot mug even when it’s seasonally inappropriate. 

1 comment

Very interesting article. I am an avid Earl Grey tea drinker and tea lover. Another option is double bergamot Earl Grey. That is my all time favorite tea.

Darlene

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