Few teas carry a formidable weight around their name like Earl Grey tea does. Earl Grey. You know by the moment you finish saying it, you damn well feel a need to drink it. Understandable. It’s a fairly well-loved tea in the world, after all.
Earl Grey is categorised as flavoured tea, which means this type of tea is scented or flavoured with fruit, flowers, spices, oils, extracts, and natural or artificial flavours. Our hero right here, is known for its unique citrusy flavour which is a result of flavouring it with oil from the rind of Bergamot Orange, a fruit mostly grown in Italy.
As you can easily see, the name of this particular tea has English-ness written all over tea. But interestingly enough, it was not an English invention, however, you gotta give credit where credit is due, which is to say the English did a good job of popularising it. But it was the Chinese who were instrumental in developing this tea, well, truth is, they have always been fascinated by flavoured teas.
Ancient Chinese tea masters were always experimenting with teas to make them more exotic, largely to capture the attention of travelling merchants who could showcase them as fine purchases from the Far East. Talk about social media marketing but without media or social. Tough life, no? Anyway, these Chinese experts stopped at nothing, they mixed and mastered everything from fragrant jasmine flowers and wild rosebuds to bitter oranges and sweet lychee fruits.
One of the origin stories goes like this: It was a Chinese tea master who blended the first Earl Grey tea as a gift for Charles Grey, 2nd Earl of Grey and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1830 to 1834. According to the Grey family, the tea master used bergamot as a flavouring to offset the lime flavour in the well water on Earl Grey’s estate, Howick Hall, near Newcastle, England. (Too much planning went into this, yes). And, sometimes you know, women get to make excellent decisions as it has proven time and again in history. So, Earl Grey’s wife, Lady Grey, loved the tea so much that she decided to introduce it to her social circle. It became so popular with London society, she asked tea merchants in London to recreate it. And just like how butter chicken became an Indian dish invented in England, Earl Grey tea carried on with its new legacy.
How is Earl Grey made?
Any tea is flavoured or scented during manufacturing toward the end of the processing, usually once the tea leaves have dried. It could be done either by blending the finished tea with flowers, herbs and spices or by spraying or coating the finished tea with extracts, essential oils or flavouring agents during or after the drying process.
We know by now that Earl Grey is a black tea that gets flavoured with oil of bergamot. However, there is no one way to make Earl Grey tea, which explains why every Earl Grey tea can possibly taste slightly different from the rest. A bunch of factors come into play that determines the taste of a particular blend of Earl Grey.
Type of tea used: is it Ceylon, African or Indian; is it a single estate black tea or a blend of black teas from around the world - the flavour will vary accordingly.
Type of Bergamot: Is it synthetic or natural? In the case of natural, the flavour can vary according to the region it was cultivated in and how it was processed. Calabria, in Southern Italy, is home to 80% of the commercially grown bergamot, followed by France and Turkey.
Amount of Bergamot used: To go subtle or bold? This is where the craft and intuition of the tea master comes handy. One can choose to either go heavy on the bergamot flavour so as to match it with the sharpness of black tea, or in the case of a subtler base tea flavour, one might want to play along with the delicate flavour of the tea by opting a light bergamot flavour.
Earl Grey Benefits
So, a tea as complex and equally wonderful as this, it is natural to expect some solid health benefits from it as well? Disappoint not, Earl Grey is packed with a lot of health benefits!
Promotes Dental Health
Earl Grey tea is rich in catechins, which are antioxidants that can guard against oral infections. Also, fluoride, found in Earl Grey tea, helps protect teeth from carriers and prevents decay.
Earl Grey tea can help settle the stomach and lower inflammation of the gut, which helps ease constipation, haemorrhoids, bloating, cramping, and other afflictions of the stomach. Its antioxidant and antibacterial effects can also prevent infections and parasitic worms in the gut.
Relieves Stress & Anxiety
A warm cup of Earl Grey tea is the best thing you can have after a long, stressful day. The small amount of caffeine helps increase focus and clarity, without resulting in the caffeine high of coffee.
Earl Grey tea gives energy and boosts metabolism due to its caffeine content. Though lower in caffeine than coffee, tea can provide a great “pick me up” in the middle of the day, and is still mild enough to work as a relaxing beverage at the end of the night as well.
The key flavouring agent in Earl Grey tea is bergamot, which has citrus extracts that are known to support weight loss and faster metabolism. Also, the caffeine content boosts can help in fat burning.
*Research published in the Frontiers in Pharmacology journal shows that bergamot essential oil may help in preventing cancer. It has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of cancerous cells. More research is still required to conclude if Earl Grey, made from bergamot, can actually help in cancer.
Prevents Cold & Flu
It is believed that the bergamot in Earl Grey is particularly effective at preventing colds and the onset of flu. For that reason, it is very popular in winters, particularly in Europe, as it is seen as an autumn-winter beverage that can help fight fever.
Keeps You Hydrated
Apart from the fact that the tea is brewed with water, it is also high in potassium so it can help you stay hydrated and balance fluid levels.
Pretty impressive, huh? So, maybe it’s time to sip on this health potion and exploit the seemingly endless benefits it offers. So, head over here and grab some Earl Grey right away!