To be familiar with Earl Grey tea, you don’t need to be an avid tea drinker. You only need to know the name to know what Earl Grey is. If you’ve never had this tea before, did you ever get curious about Earl Grey tea and its origins?
Earl Grey tea is the name of black tea flavored with bergamot. Though its exact origins of naming and blending are unclear, its market prominence through Twinings in the 1800s is well-known. Nowadays, it’s a tea that pleases novice and seasoned tea drinkers alike.
If the tea is so popular, how come no one knows how it started? Keep reading to explore the possible theories for this tea and how Twinings elevated it to mass consciousness.
There’s no debating that Earl Grey is a British creation, but there’s no concrete evidence about how it was named. The most popular theory suggests that it was named after Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey and prime minister of England in the 1800s.
The Oxford English Dictionary also tried to trace back how the name “Earl Grey” came about, with varying results. One of their user-suggested theories suggests that “Earl Grey” may have referred to Henry, the 3rd Earl Grey and Queen Victoria’s Secretary of State in 1884, instead of Charles, the 2nd Earl Grey.
And if we’re just referring to the mixture of black tea and bergamot, such evidence goes even further back to 1824. References to adding bergamot oil to lower-quality black tea were found during that time, though the mixture didn’t have a name yet.
Regardless of which theory you believe regarding its name, one thing’s certain: Earl Grey tea is a British creation. And thanks to Twinings’ mass marketing efforts, the tea made its way out of Britain and into other countries, especially the United States.
Earl Grey will initially taste like any other black tea – bold, malty, and slightly earthy with a hint of astringency. But that flavor quickly gives way to a citrus profile with a touch of lemon and floral. That lemon flavor is from the bergamot oil.
You can enjoy Earl Grey as is or add a drop of milk to make the flavors more mellow. You can also add sugar if you prefer sweeter beverages. Or, if you want the citrus flavor to become more pronounced, add a drop of lemon.
And then there’s a beverage called “London Fog.” It uses Earl Grey tea as its base and is pretty much a tea latte; it uses vanilla syrup to sweeten the tea and is topped with steamed milk.
Brewing Earl Grey tea doesn’t require any special steps; you prepare this tea just as you would with others. Start by heating your water – you can use either boiling water or water heated to about 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’re using loose-leaf tea, use 5-6 grams of tea for every 12 ounces of water. If you’re using tea bags, use one or two bags, depending on your desired strength.
Once your water is hot, pour it over your tea and let it steep for about 2-3 minutes. Brew it for two minutes if you prefer your tea on the gentler side; for more robust cups, let it steep for the full three minutes. Avoid going over three minutes, or you risk making a bitter cup.
From there, you’re free to enjoy your cup of Earl Grey tea as is. Or you can add some sugar and probably a splash of milk. If you want to try your hand at making London Fog, now is the time to add your vanilla syrup and steamed milk.
Most loose-leaf teas can be re-steeped a second time; five minutes should be enough. Tea bags, however, don’t work well for second brews. Remember this if you feel like making a second cup.
Because Earl Grey is just flavored black tea, it contains the same amount of caffeine as any other black tea: about 40 to 120 milligrams. If you’re wondering why the numbers are so different, that’s because the steep time and water temperature affect the amount of caffeine released.
If you’re worried about caffeine, try to use slightly cooler water; let the water sit for a few minutes after boiling it before pouring it on your tea. You can also steep it for less time or use fewer leaves. Make sure you’re not sacrificing taste and quality when adjusting your brewing parameters.
Even though Earl Grey is flavored with bergamot oil, the tea shouldn’t have any carbohydrates on its own. That means people with carbohydrate restrictions can enjoy Earl Grey as much as they want without any consequences.
This figure changes whenever you add sugar and milk, however. Though still negligible at about 4 grams per teaspoon of sugar and about 2-3 per teaspoon of milk, those numbers can add up with every cup you make.
Earl Grey tea on its own doesn’t contain any calories, so you can drink as much of this tea as you want on a calorie-deficit diet. However, adding sugar, syrup, or milk can quickly change that. For example, a 12-ounce mug of London Fog made with regular milk contains up to 230 calories!
If you want to indulge in some milky Earl Grey, consider using lower-fat milk or milk alternatives. A 12-ounce serving of London Fog made with almond milk is only 100 calories, while a cup made with skimmed milk has 140 calories.
Black tea lasts for about a year as long as it’s stored in an airtight container. If not, you have about three months to use it before it starts going stale. There’s nothing wrong with brewing stale tea leaves, but it will definitely impact the flavor.
If you have a lot of Earl Grey tea and don’t think you can finish it in a year, consider vacuum-sealing it in an opaque bag. The lack of air extends its freshness timer, and storing it away from light ensures it doesn’t have unintended reactions. If you can’t vacuum-seal the tea, keeping it in an airtight, light-proof container should suffice.