Earl Grey tea is one of the most distinctive and well known types of tea on the market. It is a flavored black tea, something which doesn’t typically excite tea consumers, but for whatever reason Earl Grey has consistently been one of the biggest selling tea types for over 100 years now.
The History of Earl Grey Tea
It is a flavoured black tea (a little more on that below) that is named after Charles Grey, also known as Viscount Howick. Grey lived from 1764 to 1845 in the United Kingdom, of which he was the Prime Minister between 1806 and 1807. His tenure was short-lived but important, as it was his government that oversaw the abolition of slavery in the UK and the Reform Act of 1832, which was to have a huge impact on British politics.
But despite those revolutionary movements, it’s the tea that he is now most famous for. This is particularly odd when you consider that he had no hand in the creation or sale of this tea. It seems that a tea maker simply decided to make a unique blend and then name it after the politician. He was likely one of the first to taste it after he received a gift from the makers, but beyond this, he played no role in its creation or development.
So, he was a great politician who made a big impact, but he’s remembered for a tea that he had no involvement in whatsoever. That’s history for you.
The Flavoring in Earl Grey Tea
Earl Grey is flavored with bergamot oil. The tea itself is usually a blend of black tea. There are no specific guidelines as to what varieties of black tea should be used and most manufacturers use several cheaper varieties, much like you would find in commercial teabags. The ones who use higher quality single plantation teas tend to make a mention of this in the product name, such as Earl Grey Darjeeling from TeaPigs.
What is Bergamot?
Bergamot is a citrus fruit. It seems that many consumers mistakenly believe it to be a flower or herb because of it’s strong aroma and taste, but in actual fact it is a variety of orange commonly grown in Italy and parts of France. They use the rind of the orange as opposed to the flesh, as this is where the concentrated, potent oils can be found. A similar process is used to make concentrated orange squash, as the oils found in the rind are basically a super-concentrated version of the ones found in the fruit.
Earl Grey Benefits
The benefits of Earl Grey tea are just the same as the benefits of any other tea. The bergamot is the only addition and while there is enough of it to strongly impact on the taste and aroma of the tea, there’s not enough to have any major impact on the nutritional benefits.
This means that Earl Grey is just as healthy for you as any other black tea. It is loaded with antioxidant and regular consumption can help to decrease your chances of developing a host of diseases. However, excessive consumption can lead to many more problems than excessive consumption of regular black tea.
In one case, a man who drank four litres of the tea a day was said to develop muscle cramps, pin and needles and involuntary muscle spasms. Bergamot may also trigger some of the same drug-interaction issues as grapefruit as it can reduce the absorption of certain pharmaceuticals.
Earl Grey Creations
This tea has been used to create all kinds of weird and wonderful things over the years. Its unique flavor lends a delicate taste to cakes and cookies and it can even be used as an ingredient in savory goods.
Early Grey gin is one of the most popular combinations right now as drinks manufacturers look to take advantage of the world’s ongoing obsession for Earl Grey and the recent upward trend in gin sales. It has also been added to other alcoholic drinks, but Earl Grey and alcohol just seems to produce that unique, quintessentially British taste that consumers seek.
Earl Grey Caffeine
Because the type of black tea used in Earl Grey can differ greatly, the caffeine content can range from brand to brand. Black tea typically has around 50mg per cup, but the type of tea, the amount used and the length of time that it is left to brew will all change this number.
There are also preparations of Earl Grey that use white tea and even green tea. These will have naturally lower amounts of caffeine, but if you want something that is completely caffeine free then you need a decaf version. If it’s more caffeine that you want then just leave the tea to steep for a little longer, but keep in mind that the longer it steeps the more tannins will be released and the bitterer it will taste. If you over-steep a tea like this then no amount of sugar or milk can counteract it. Speaking of which…
Should you Drink Earl Grey with Milk?
If you like to drink black tea with milk then you should add milk to your Earl Grey tea as well. You drink it like any other black tea, as opposed to a green or herbal tea. However, the inclusion of bergamot and the fragrance and taste that this releases makes this tea far more palatable when drunk without milk.
If you want to cut down your milk intake but you struggle to drink black tea without it, then try switching to Earl Grey. With a little honey or sugar and the right blend you may find the solution you have been looking for.
You can also try it with almond milk, soy milk and pretty much any other milk that you want. The milk really just adds a delicate touch of sweetness and creaminess and takes some of the bitterness away, so you won’t really notice a huge difference between cow’s milk and soy milk.