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Earl Grey: flavor highlights
Easily one of the most iconic beverages out there, Earl Grey tea is synonymous with a full-bodied, refreshing cup of goodness. Yet, a little bit of research will show you that there isn’t just one magical recipe or form to this famous tea. In fact, an Earl Grey can be fashioned out of any type of black tea, black tea blend, or even green tea, provided it is flavored with oil of bergamot. Oil of bergamot – a citrus fruit with sweet-sour notes varying between orangey and lemony – is what gives Earl Grey tea its classy, delectable flavor. Imagine a cup of strong black tea infused with uplifting floral and citrus notes, and you’ll know why Britain – and the rest of the world – has been addicted to Earl Grey for 200 years.
A little history
Though Earl Grey tea is inseparably linked to British tea drinking traditions, its origins are in fact older – and further east. Chinese tea masters have since time immemorial crafted beautiful flavored teas by incorporating fragrant flowers and savory fruits into their tea leaves during the processing stage. The 2nd Earl of Grey, who also served as the Prime Minister of the UK in the early 19th century, was the lucky recipient of one such specially crafted brew prepared by a Mandarin tea master. As the story goes, the tea master scented the tea with oil of bergamot to offset the lime-rich well water in Earl Grey’s Northumberland Estate. The resulting flavored tea was an instant hit in Earl Grey’s household, followed by London society, followed by the rest of the world that continues to relish it today.
Earl Grey tea makes a “rich and full bodied” brew, with a “nice bouquet of notes”. Classic black tea versions blend “strong, invigorating” flavors with “a gentle bergamot essence”. They are “delicious hot with a little honey”, perfect for an early morning cuppa. Modern Earl Grey teas often feature green tea bases (or black and green tea blends), which make the tea “delicate”, “more complex and interesting”. Green tea based Earl Greys are generally milder, and considered “ideal for a relaxed Saturday afternoon”. Floral additives such as jasmine or lavender are often added to make the tea more “nuanced” and “fragrant”.
A cup of strong black tea based Earl Grey can be paired with milk, cream and vanilla to soften it. You can also try Earl Grey variants that feature lavender, jasmine or orange peel. If you’re looking to primarily relish a subtle bergamot flavor, try Lady Grey or green Earl Grey tea.