Earl Grey vs. English Breakfast: The Difference

Sips by Box and pink mug of English Breakfast or Earl Grey tea

Whether you’re in an English chalet overlooking the countryside or in a rocking chair on your front porch, nothing makes for a quiet morning like a cup of black tea. In fact, black tea is historically the breakfast tea of choice.

There are tons of black tea varieties (and varieties WITHIN those varieties), so which one should you drink to enjoy your quiet morning hours? Although your taste buds are sure to have their preference, English blends like Earl Grey and English Breakfast have traditionally filled this role for centuries.

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.

What’s the History of English Black Teas?

Earl Grey tea gets its distinctive name from the 2nd Earl Grey, Britain’s Prime Minister in the 1830s. Around this time, Earl Grey supposedly received bergamot-infused black tea as a gift from a friendly Chinese official.

This is likely just a tale, but nevertheless, black tea flavored with bergamot became increasingly popular in England. The Greys released the formula for the tea, although they did not register it – which leaves much unknown to this day.

On the other hand, English Breakfast tea has a different origin story.

Tea prices dropped in the mid-18th century, which meant that hostesses no longer needed to reserve tea for important events. Instead, the English began to drink tea all day, particularly around breakfast time. 

Historians are conflicted as to how exactly English Breakfast Tea originated. Countless stories involve the tea being invented in New York, but there is no hard evidence to support these stories.

Whatever the history, these two English teas have become breakfast staples. But do they have any real benefits?

4 Benefits of Black Tea

Since Earl Grey and English Breakfast are both black teas, they both offer the benefits of black teas. Read on to learn more about how these teas can help support a healthier you.

Rich in Antioxidants

Black tea is rich in antioxidants, which play an important role in keeping all of your body’s cells in good shape. Antioxidants can also help maintain your health and immune system health so that your body continues to function properly. 

Your body creates antioxidants naturally, but it’s always helpful to show yourself some love by giving your antioxidants an extra boost.

We recommend Ahmad Tea’s Earl Grey, which combines hearty black tea with delicious bergamot for an antioxidant-filled body booster.

May Support Heart Health

Specific antioxidants within black tea called flavonoids can support a healthy heart by using a two-pronged approach.

First, flavonoids can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is generally considered “bad cholesterol” because of some of its long-term consequences.

Some studies show that a diet that includes regular black tea can help us maintain healthy levels of LDL cholesterol. The good news is that you can get this effect no matter which black tea you choose.

Second, black tea may help keep blood pressure levels healthy. It’s well-known that stress can cause your blood pressure to get out of whack. In a day and age where stress is common and almost expected, do your body a favor by starting your mornings with some black tea.

Delicious Soda Alternative

We know it can be hard to quit sugary drinks. Not everyone feels the need to slow down on the soda, but some people have to mind their sugar intake due to health conditions or personal health goals.

If you’re trying to mind your sugar consumption, try substituting your daily soda for a cup of black tea. Black tea is incredibly flavorful. If you need to sweeten it, try using a little raw sugar or sugar alternative. Even a little bit of sugar in your tea is much less than the sugar that comes in preprocessed drinks.

Many people add milk and sugar to their black tea to liven up the taste. We love to see the creativity, and sweetened black tea is an excellent soda alternative.

Great Way to Wake Up

Black tea contains both caffeine and an amino acid called L-theanine. Caffeine is well-known for supporting alertness, and it’s a common part of the average American’s wake-up routine. 

Many people get their morning caffeine rush from coffee, probably because it’s a cultural staple and has one of the highest concentrations of caffeine. However, black tea contains an average of 47 mg of caffeine per cup.

Although it doesn’t contain as much caffeine as coffee, black tea may be a better morning choice because it also contains L-theanine. L-theanine works by supporting your focus and helping you relax, and your body absorbs it differently than the caffeine in coffee.

Coffee is great, but you can avoid the post-coffee jitters and crash by opting for a cuppa instead. We recommend a refreshing brew of Ahmad Tea’s English Breakfast to help you optimize your morning routine.

Earl Grey vs. English Breakfast

These teas have fascinating histories and incredible benefits, but how can you tell them apart? There are three main differences between these two traditional breakfast beverages.


You’ll notice the most difference in the flavor of these teas. Earl Grey tea is typically made with a black tea base, which can be any black tea. With over five varieties of black tea and no specific recipe, this tea’s taste can vary between manufacturers.

Earl Grey also includes a characteristic blend of bergamot, which gives the tea a citrus flavor that is hard to miss.

On the other hand, English Breakfast tea is always a combination of two black teas. Although Assam and Ceylon are the two most commonly used varieties, some manufacturers choose to use other black teas for their unique flavors. Whatever the case, the combination of two black teas always makes for a strong-tasting tea.

Caffeine Content

These teas may also have different levels of caffeine. Since English Breakfast tea is made strictly from black tea, its caffeine content should be high. However, Earl Grey is a blended tea, so it likely won’t have as much caffeine.

If you’re drinking tea for the caffeine, we’d recommend English Breakfast as your morning tea of choice. If not, it’s completely up to your taste buds!


One of the main differences is variance. English Breakfast tea might use different kinds of black tea, but it’s never blended with other teas or ingredients. It’s always presented as an English Breakfast tea.

However, Earl Grey has many different variants. Lady Grey is a type of Earl Grey that includes lavender or citrus for a more floral experience. French Earl Grey includes rose petals, and Russian Earl Grey includes citrus and lemongrass.

Some tea houses use green tea instead of black tea in Earl Grey for a lighter flavor. Others use rooibos tea for an Earl-Grey taste-alike wonderful for those trying to cut back on caffeine.

How to Enjoy

Simply pour boiling water over your tea bag and let steep for three to five minutes to enjoy your tea hot. Be sure not to let it steep longer because a longer steep results in a more bitter tea. Enjoy immediately, or chill it in the refrigerator for a cold glass of iced black tea. 

Whether you take your tea hot or cold, you can enjoy it black or add a little cream and sugar to create a delicious tea drink. This also helps dilute the caffeine if you’re trying to avoid it.

No breakfast tea is complete without breakfast! Butter up some toast with jam or make a thick stack of sizzling hotcakes to go with your tea. We find that a tart cup of black tea is a lovely complement to a sweet early breakfast.

Sum It All Up

English Breakfast Tea and Earl Grey are black tea blends based in a rich (albeit muddled) history. As black tea blends, these teas offer various benefits designed to keep your body happy and healthy. These teas can increase your focus, support a healthy heart, keep you away from sugary drinks, and even provide antioxidants.

The main differences between Earl Grey and English Breakfast Tea are their tastes, caffeine content, and variety. If you want to learn more about tea, visit our blog or take our tea quiz to let us know about your preferences so we can send a personalized box of tea to your door monthly.

Interested in trying these teas and others? Subscribers receive 4 teas chosen just for them in every box. Learn more about our tea subscriptions.

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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. 

* 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.


7 Ways to Reduce Stress and Keep Blood Pressure Down | Harvard Health 

The Best Teas to Drink for Your Health | Cleveland Clinic 

Caffeine Content for Coffee, Tea, Soda and More | Mayo Clinic 

 English Breakfast Tea: Are There Health Benefits? | WebMD

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