Earl Grey tea is one of the most popular English teas, and has been around since likely the 1800s. It was named for the second Earl of Grey, Charles Grey, who was England’s prime minister at the time. You might have heard of it, or seen it for sale in cafes or tea shops, but what does it taste like?
Earl Grey tea has a flavor that’s been described as floral and slightly citrusy. A lot of people flavor the tea with bergamot oil, and some blends use orange peel in with the tea leaves. It can be enjoyed with milk, or with lemon and honey.
What Does Earl Grey Tea Taste Like
Earl Grey tea is a black tea, and any tea bases will do when preparing the blend. Ceylon or Assam are two common black tea bases that are found in the preparation of Earl Grey tea.
When the bergamot is added, it is usually bergamot from Italy. Many tea enthusiasts say that the best bergamot for Earl Grey tea comes from Calabria, Italy.
The prime flavoring of Earl Great tea is bergamot. A close comparison to this citrusy fruit is another: bergamot has been compared to Meyer Lemon in tanginess and floral notes. The main flavor profile of Earl Grey tea is that of bright citrus.
There are floral tastes in Earl Grey, and a slight herbaceousness. When Earl Grey tea is being made, the leaves undergo a process of oxidization. This process changes the entire chemical makeup of the leaves. The end result is a stronger, more bold flavor.
Some have compared the flavor, being that it is sweet and fruity, to the cereal Froot Loops. The orange, floral taste can also be compared to orange blossom water, only much less bitter.
Unless you drink the tea black, which some enjoy doing, you will likely want to pair the tea with some additional flavoring.
A lot of tea experts claim that milk will dull the flavor of black teas like Earl Grey, and that it is best paired with lemon. This is very much a matter of opinion. Some may enjoy the slightly less crisp flavor, and prefer the creamier, comforting taste. Oftentimes, this is considered the “American way” to drink Earl Grey.
However, if sharpness is your ideal, flavoring the tea with lemon is the way to go. This will enhance the bergamot tastes, and keep the drink feeling fresh.
The scent of Earl Grey tea is pleasant, slightly sweet, and boldly tangy. You can detect the fragrant bergamot when you sniff un-brewed Earl Grey, and that scent will carry through in the brewing process.
Lady Grey is a trademarked variety of Earl Grey tea, and it in itself has variations. Cornflower Earl Grey is much more floral, as it includes cornflowers. Citrus Lady Grey leans harder on the citrus notes, as the name implies. It has been enhanced with Seville oranges.
Earl Green Tea
Occasionally, oolong leaves or green tea may be used in the process of making the blends. When this is done, it is referred to as Earl Green tea. Earl Green tea also forgoes the oxidization process. The resulting flavor is light, aromatic, and slightly more grassy. When served with honey, the matcha-like taste is deliciously ‘natural’ in taste.
A favorite of tea shops, London Fog refers to Earl Grey tea that has been steamed with vanilla syrup and milk. The creamy, comforting flavor is smooth and very sweet. It is reminiscent of pastries and is often served alongside them. There is also London Fog ice cream, which takes these rich flavors and turns them into a frozen treat.
French Earl Grey
When roses are added to Earl Grey tea, it is called French Earl Grey. French Earl Grey tea has the beautiful, somewhat sweet, very floral flavors of rose petals. The citrus blends elegantly with the soft rosy tones, and it can be served with milk or honey. This blend is especially popular in Australia.
Earl Grey Crème
Earl Grey Crème refers to earl grey tea that has had black tea, lavender, or vanilla added. It may also have been given extra bergamot flavor. What it has been flavored with will alter the taste. Lavender particularly pairs well with the floral and herb notes in the tea.
Russian Earl Grey
Deliciously sharp and citrusy, Russian Earl Grey has been enhanced with citrus peels and lemongrass. This makes it almost refreshing in how deep the citrus notes are. The flavor is sweet and tangy while remaining complex and interesting.
Smoky Earl Grey
A specific variation on Earl Grey tea is Smoky Earl Grey. Produced by Fortnum & Mason, the tea ups the bergamot flavor that already exists in the blends. On top of that, the blend is combined with Lapsang Souchong and Gunpowder tea. Gunpowder is where the ‘smoky’ flavor comes from.
The flavor of this tea is smoky, rich, and slightly spicy. The deeper, herbal flavors are complex and even slightly bitter.
As A Flavoring
Earl Greys a popular flavoring in pastries, since it is deliciously floral and tart. It can be found in chocolates or cakes, especially as a flavoring in icing. Some pastries, like eclairs, might have a creamy filling that has been made with Earl Grey tea.
The flavoring is added by adding loose tea to melted butter or hot cream, before straining the leaves out. For some applications, such as the flavor in a cake or cupcake, the ‘wet ingredient’ component may be a cup of brewed tea without additional sweeteners.
Earl Grey tea might also be used in savory sauces, helped by the tangy flavor it carries. This will add complex citrus and slight bitterness to sauces.
Earl Grey tea is an iconic tea with a longstanding history. It can be enjoyed in any number of ways, including with lemon or with milk and sugar. It is one of the most popular black tea blends for a good reason: it is delicious.
Earl Grey tea is sharp in flavor, with a strong presence of bergamot in every sip. You may also detect floral notes and a distinct sweetness. It can be made or bought into different variations, like sweet and creamy London Fog, or floral, rosy French Earl Grey.