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The Amazing Science Behind Earl Grey Tea

Jana shares caffeinated stories with readers who love tea and coffee.

Earl Grey tea

Earl Grey tea

Earl Grey is a wonderfully aromatic tea that was first mentioned in 1824 but it could possibly be much older. Today, many tea lovers adore this unique brew for its captivating scent and taste. The latter can be described as a blend of floral, bitter, and citrus notes that is quite unlike any other tea. So, what is the secret behind Earl Grey’s amazing taste?

The Secret Is Bergamot Oil

In order to give Earl Grey its signature flavour, tea makers add a small amount of bergamot oil to normal black tea. The process of creating the bergamot oil is fascinating and later in the article, we’ll cover a quick rundown of this in case you are interested!

What Is Bergamot?

Native to Italy, bergamot is a citrus fruit that kind of looks like a wrinkled lemon or lime! Some call it an orange but once you bite into it, you might change your mind. There is none of the tart sweetness one might expect from an orange. Instead, bergamot tastes very bitter and foodies view this fruit as inedible (and rightfully so). Luckily, the flesh of the fruit is not what tea makers are after! The part of bergamot that finds its way into your tea cup is the rind. Or more specifically, the oil of the rind.

Bergamot fruit

Bergamot fruit

How Bergamot Is Prepared for the Tea Market

The key ingredient in Earl Grey is bergamot essential oil. It takes hundreds of bergamot fruit to produce a small amount of oil, which makes it one of the most expensive ingredients ever to be used to flavour teas.

Different tea companies use different ways to use bergamot in their products. Some scent the tea leaves with the oil while others create a powdered mix of bergamot and other citruses like lime and orange. Instead of flavoring the leaves, this dried bergamot extract is added directly to tea bags that are filled with black tea leaves. However, only a minuscule amount is needed because by then, the concentrated powder is immensely strong in flavour.

Although Earl Grey products taste relatively the same, there are many different recipes out there. The more expensive the brand, the larger the quantity of genuine bergamot oil will be in the recipe. Cheaper brands sometimes do not use bergamot at all. To keep its prices low, the company will rely on artificial flavours to mimic the aroma of Earl Grey.

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How to Make Earl Grey Tea

Ah, there is nothing better than a deeply malty Earl Grey. Perhaps you make a mean cup of Earl Grey already. But for anyone who wants to make their first cup of this satisfying brew, there is really no need to worry about complicated steps.

To make Earl Grey correctly is really simple. Simply follow the steps below and afterward, while you sip on this delicious cup of tea, you can also read all about the health benefits of Earl Grey!

  1. Boil enough water for your cup.
  2. Add the tea bag.
  3. Add the water and stir the bag a little.
  4. Allow the tea bag to steep for 3 minutes (longer if you like it stronger).
  5. Remove the tea bag.
  6. You can also add milk and sugar to taste.

The Benefits of Earl Grey Tea

There are claims that regularly drinking Earl Grey can fight off the common cold and even cancer. Sadly, there is no research to support these claims. However, this doesn’t mean that scientists haven’t found any health benefits linked to drinking Earl Grey, especially when done on a regular basis. Some experts have found evidence that this tea might support heart health, lower bad cholesterol, and assist with weight loss and calming the mind.

The Drawbacks of Earl Grey Tea

The only major red flag with this tea is the caffeine content. Like all other black teas, Earl Grey contains a substantial amount of caffeine and when taken in large amounts, it can lead to headaches, anxiety, insomnia, and jitters.

When this tea is consumed in uncommonly huge amounts, it can also cause painful muscle cramps. However, if you consume a cup or three a day, there is no reason why you should experience any of these symptoms (providing that you are not drinking other sources of caffeine as well).

Bonus Facts

  • Traditionally, this tea is drunk without milk.
  • It is not a standalone tea; it falls under the category of flavoured teas.
  • When green tea is used instead of black, Earl Grey is called Earl Green.
  • The ancient Chinese might have been the first to invent bergamot-scented tea.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Jana Louise Smit

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