What Does Earl Grey Tea Taste Like?

December 06, 2021
what does earl grey tea taste like

 

As one of the most well-known blends on the market, it’s no surprise that people are curious to know: what does Earl Grey tea taste like? With its unique flavor and “posh” sounding name, it's been a hot topic for centuries. So, let’s get into the taste of Earl Grey tea. 

 

What Is Earl Grey Tea?

Interestingly enough, no one is certain about the origin of Earl Grey tea. However, there are different versions of a particular story that seem to be the most universally accepted answer. This story and a few other exciting tales exist around the existence of Earl Grey tea. 

 

Origin of Earl Grey Tea 

Apparently, in the 1830s, a Chinese merchant made the tea blend as a gift for Charles Grey (the 2nd Earl of Grey) as a gift for saving his life. It’s said that Charles Grey rescued him from drowning. 


As a thank-you, the merchant flavored the tea with bergamot oranges and carried them off to England. After some time passed, the tea began to spread among merchants and quickly became popular. This theory is unlikely, being as though Charles Grey supposedly never traveled to China.


Another frequently told tale is that a Chinese mandarin created the tea blend to compliment Charles Grey’s well-water on his estate. The well-water had a lime-like flavor, so the man used bergamot in the tea to tone down the taste of lime. 


They loved the blend so much that Lady Grey (The Earl’s wife) served it whenever they’d entertain guests. 


Since the blend was so well-loved, they asked merchants throughout London if they could recreate it. Despite the uncertainty surrounding its origin, it’s clear that Earl Grey tea has roots in China.

 

Ingredients of Earl Grey Tea 

 

Now, to answer the question: what is Earl Grey tea? It’s an effortless blend of two ingredients: black tea and oil of bergamot. If you’re unfamiliar with bergamot oil, it’s a fragrant oil extracted from the rinds of citrus fruit. 


Although black tea is the traditional base for Earl Grey, you can make it with oolong, rooibos, green tea, and more.

 

What Does Earl Grey Tea Taste Like?

Despite Earl Grey tea having two simple ingredients, it has a very distinct and coveted flavor. 

 

Bergamot

Bergamot oil is the flavor that stands out most in this tea, separating this blend from the rest. Bergamot oranges are yellow or green (depending on ripeness) and are most notably grown in southern Italy. 


Studies have shown that these oranges are a cross between bitter oranges and lemons. They are known to be very aromatic and acidic. Many people describe the taste of bergamot as Meyer lemon with a floral, spicy edge.

 

Black Tea

The flavor of black tea is full-bodied; It’s nutty, earthy, and even fruity. You can compare it to an extremely light beer without the acidity. It has an intense but pleasant aroma. The flavor of your black tea strongly depends on its quality and origin. 


Lower-quality black tea tends to have a bitter, unpleasant taste without any depth. However, higher-quality tea is less bitter and lacks that undesirable aftertaste. 


The types of black tea used for Earl Grey can vary. It can be anything from Ceylon, Indian, or different blends from around the world. Interestingly, tea makers initially used bergamot oil in tea to disguise the taste of lower-quality tea leaves. 


Because of bergamot, when it comes to an Earl Grey blend, you may not be able to detect the difference in the quality easily. Despite that, we use top-quality Indian Assam tea for our Earl Grey blend.

 

earl grey

The Combination 

When bergamot oil is extracted and paired with a black tea base, the flavor is deep with a citrusy zing. Bergamot lifts the back tea to a whole new level, transforming it into a clean, bright, uplifting cup of tea. You can say the two are a match made in heaven.


Strangely, many people describe Earl Grey to taste like “froot loops.” This taste is likely due to the bergamot bringing out that fruity flavor.


In some blends, dried bergamot peel is added directly into the tea leaves. When tasting this type of blend, keep in mind that the flavor will be much more robust and spicier than tea made with extracted oils. 


Earl Grey tea goes down smooth and is incredibly soothing. Its distinct taste can be shocking for some; However, once you know the flavor profiles, you can ease yourself into it. Being as though it’s a fan favorite, it shouldn’t take long to acquire the taste. 

 

How to Prepare Earl Grey Tea

Preparing Earl Grey tea is a fast and straightforward process. We have a few tips on how to get the perfect brew using a teapot and kettle. 


First things first, it’s recommended that you use loose leaves instead of teabags. The quality of loose tea is typically much higher and is more flavorful. 

 

  • Measure your tea. The loose tea measurement should be one tablespoon of leaves into an 8 oz cup. 

  • Next, heat cold water (filtered if possible) in a kettle until its temperature reaches between 200 - 206 degrees F. 


Oxygen helps tea flavor develop, so the quality of the water you use can vastly change the flavor. This oxygen theory is supported by Twinings. 


If the water used for making any sort of tea is too hot, it may damage the leaves. An electric kettle that displays temperature would be ideal. 


  1. Next, warm up your teapot. Pre-heating your teapot allows the tea to unfurl and prevents a temperature drop. To do this, pour boiling water into your teapot and swirl it around. Once it’s warmed, you may discard the water. 

  2. Now, you can add your Earl Grey tea leaves to your teapot and pour over your fresh, near-boiling water. 

  3. Ideally, You should steep Earl Grey for 4 minutes. If you prefer strong tea, add more tea leaves rather than increasing your steep time. 

  4. Lastly, pour your strained tea leaves into a cup and enjoy! 


Earl Grey pairs great with citrusy desserts and savory foods like eggs, dairy, and spices.

 

How to Drink Your Earl Grey Tea

The US and UK seem to have very different opinions on how to drink Earl Grey tea. However, some people enjoy both methods depending on the occasion/ food pairings.

 

UK

In the UK, it’s preferred to drink Earl Grey with milk and sugar. People find this pairing to be comforting and delicious, especially in the morning with breakfast. However, the milk and sugar add entirely different levels of flavor to the tea. It tones down the citrusy taste, rendering it less bright and crisp. Despite that, milk and sugar is still the preferred method for many.


If you’re looking to go the US route, there is a “right way” to add milk to your Earl Grey. Warm your milk by adding hot water to your teacup. 


Once your teacup is warm to the touch, dump out the hot water. Next, you pour your milk into the teacup while your tea is brewing. This action prevents the milk from curdling.

 

US

In the US, they typically prefer Earl Grey to be bright and citrusy. In other words, milk is a big no for them. Instead, they say to simply add some fresh lemon or lemon zest (and maybe a pinch of sugar if you prefer). 


This is said to be the “right” way to drink Earl Grey, as you’re getting all the flavors without any dilution. Even Todd Chatteron, director of Coffee and Tea at New York’s Eleven, suggests milk dulls the flavor. This bright and rejuvenating version of the tea pairs excellent with madeleines. 

 

Conclusion 

Earl Grey tea is unique down to its mysterious origin, individual flavor profiles, and different drinking methods. Now that the central question (what does Earl Grey tea taste like?) was answered, you should find out for yourself through first-hand experience. 


At Dlish, we have an array of top-quality teas and beautiful gift boxes for people that enjoy exemplary tastes.


As for our Earl Grey tea, it’s top-quality and made with all-natural bergamot oil. Just add a little lemon zest, and it’ll be the tastiest cup of Earl Grey you’ll ever have. Give it a try!