This is a follow-up to my previous post about the history of Earl Grey tea.
Types of Earl Grey Tea
Earl Grey tea has long been a favourite of mine. Recently, I’ve been trying a few different types of Earl Grey and discovering just how much variety there is in this one blend. Earl Grey teas vary based on two main parameters: the type of black tea used as a base and the amount of bergamot oil used. Additionally, many vendors add extra elements to their Earl Grey blends.
Take Narien Teas’ Earl Grey, for example. Narien use tippy Chinese black teas (rather than the blend of lower-quality Indian black teas used commonly in Earl Grey tea) and hand blend the tea with pure bergamot oil. Blue cornflowers are added in for visual interest (I’m not sure, but I don’t think the cornflowers affect the flavour at all).
Or consider Lupicia’s Earl Grey Grand Classic, which blends bergamot oil with smoky Lapsang Souchong tea and longan fruit. Before she tried this Earl Grey, Bec swore she hated Earl Grey tea. This blend, along with Narien’s blend, managed to convert her into a bona fide Earl Grey tea fan.
Other variations haven’t worked for me quite so well. I picked up some Earl Green tea from McIver’s Coffee & Tea earlier this year and have been quite disappointed with it. As Mary Lou and Robert Heiss write in The Story of Tea, successfully blending green tea with bergamot is challenging, because both the tea and the fruit are astringent. I guess McIver’s didn’t get it quite right.
Some other well-known variations on Earl Grey include ones embellished with rose petals (French Earl Grey (Adore Tea have one of these)), lavender (Teas Etc offer this as a blend) and Lady Grey a Twinings invention, is a related blend made by blending lemon and Seville orange with classic Earl Grey tea.
Tips on Buying Earl Grey Tea
Buy Tea Online – Firsthand advice on the best websites for buying tea
Unfortunately, the tea used in most supermarket blends of Earl Grey tea is of abysmal quality. Granted, most of the tea found in supermarkets is poor quality – but Earl Grey blends are particularly likely to contain low quality tea. This is because the bergamot is often such a dominant force in the blend that it masks the poor quality of the tea.
When I buy Earl Grey tea, here are the two things I look for:
Natural bergamot oil: Synthetic flavourings are common in many supermarket Earl Grey blends. Look out for merchants who use natural bergamot oil.