Earl Grey Tea

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Updated: Sep. 17, 2015 

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About Earl Grey Tea | Varieties of Earl Grey Tea | Best (Top-Rated) Earl Grey Tea

About Earl Grey Tea

Loose-leaf Earl grey tea from Lipton. Public domain photo by Chamaeleon, Wikimedia Commons.
Earl Grey tea is a black tea flavored with oil from the peel of the bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia). The tea is named after Charles Grey, a prime minister of the UK who was a member of the Whig party.

Most Earl Grey tea is made, as it was historically, with black tea, typically a Ceylon. Recently, as green and black teas have increased in popularity, green and white varieties have also become available. This style has even inspired Earl Grey rooibos, a caffeine-free herbal blend produced by substituting rooibos for tea.

Earl Grey tea has a strong and distinctive aroma that renders it easily recognizable as its own style, regardless of what variety of tea is used as a base. Many different varieties of black tea are used as the base for this tea. The amount of bergamot oil used also varies widely, ranging from blends where bergamot dominates the aroma to teas with only a hint of bergamot.

Earl Grey tea is a favorite of Captain Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The bergamot orange

Cross-Section of a Bergamot Orange, © Jacopo Werther, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Although tea enthusiasts generally know that Earl Grey is flavored with the Bergamot orange, deeper knowledge of this variety of orange is not common in the world of tea. The Bergamot orange is likely a hybrid of Citrus limetta (Mediterranean sweet lemon) and Citrus × aurantium (Bitter orange), which is itself a hybrid.[1]

This orange is mostly cultivated in south Italy, mostly concentrated in a very small stretch of land in Reggio Calabria. Other regions of production include Ivory Coast, southern France, and Antalya Province of Turkey. For Earl Grey tea production, the peel of the orange is pressed and the essential oil extracted; this oil is then used to flavor tea.

The fruit flesh itself is used in marmalade, and the juice is used for medicinal purposes, but not drunk as a beverage.

"Wild bergamot", Monarda sp.

Flowers of Monarda didyma. Photo by Nellswiki, licensed under CC BY 3.0.
The bergamot orange is not closely related to the "bergamot" plants (Monarda sp.), "wild bergamot", "Oswego tea", or "bee balm", which are all native to North America and in the mint family. These plants, however, have a very similar aroma, and make excellent herbal teas.

These herbs can also be blended with black tea to yield a flavored tea closely resembling Earl Grey tea. The variety on the right, Monarda didyma, is sometimes called Scarlet Bergamot for its scarlet blooms. This species was used as a substitute for black tea following the Boston Tea Party.[2]

Health benefits and concerns unique to Earl Grey tea

Earl Grey is a black tea and thus has similar effects on health to other black teas. However, oil of bergamot also has other bioactive properties and may have other health benefits. Although it has not been extensively studied, some preliminary research shows that it may have neuroprotective effects, protecting the brain against damage caused by a chemical known to damage neurons.[3] Like other citrus though, it may cause photosensitivity. Bergamot also contains one of the compounds responsible for grapefruit drug interactions, so it may also cause similar interactions.

References:

1. C.T. Federici, M.L. Roose, R.W. Scora, RFLP Analysis of the Origin of Citrus bergamia, Citrus jambhiri, and Citrus limonia, Acta Horticulturae (ISHS), 535, pp. 55-64, 2000.


2. Foster S, and Johnson R, Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine, National Geographic, Washington, DC, 2006. (p. 34-35).


3. M.T. Corasaniti et. al., Cell signaling pathways in the mechanisms of neuroprotection afforded by bergamot essential oil against NMDA-induced cell death in vitro, British Journal of Pharmacology, Vol. 151, No. 4, pp. 518-529, June 2007.

Varieties, Kinds, or Types of Earl Grey Tea

Best Earl Grey Tea

The notion of the "best" Earl Grey Tea is subjective, because different people have different tastes. We present the most often-rated and highest-rated teas in this category, and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

Most Often-Rated Teas

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Earl Grey

Brand:Twinings
Style:Earl Grey Tea
Region:?????
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Teabag
42
33 Ratings
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Earl Grey

Brand:Bigelow Tea
Style:Earl Grey Tea
Region:Blend
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Teabag
38
18 Ratings
No image of this tea

Aged Earl Grey™ - Bergamot Black

Brand:Numi Organic Tea
Style:Earl Grey Tea
Region:Assam, India
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Teabag
57
8 Ratings
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English Afternoon

Brand:Ahmad Tea
Style:Earl Grey Tea
Region:Blend
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Teabag
18
7 Ratings
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Earl Grey

Brand:Ahmad Tea
Style:Earl Grey Tea
Region:Blend
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Teabag
26
6 Ratings

Top-Rated Teas

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English Tea No. 1

Brand:Ahmad Tea
Style:Earl Grey Tea
Region:Blend
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Teabag
90
4 Ratings
No image of this tea

Earl Grey French Blue

Brand:Mariage Freres
Style:Blue Flower Earl Grey
Region:Blend
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
87
3 Ratings
Picture of Earl Grey

Earl Grey

Brand:Kusmi Tea
Style:Earl Grey Tea
Region:China
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
86
3 Ratings
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Aged Earl Grey™ - Bergamot Black

Brand:Numi Organic Tea
Style:Earl Grey Tea
Region:Assam, India
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Teabag
57
8 Ratings
Picture of Earl Grey Bravo

Earl Grey Bravo

Brand:Adagio Teas
Style:Blue Flower Earl Grey
Region:Sri Lanka / Ceylon
Caffeine:Caffeinated
Leaf:Loose
53
4 Ratings

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