How to choose the best Earl Grey tea

by Bernadine Tay September 22, 2021

Imperial Earl Grey Best Earl Grey Tea

Brewing a steaming cup of tea is quintessentially British - even more so when brewing a cup of Earl Grey. This traditional British tea blend is a classic and is incredibly popular with tea drinkers all over the globe.

But for the best Earl Grey experience - how do you select the perfect blend?

There are many variations to choose from, which may make choosing the best one difficult.

So, in this article, we have explored the subtle differences between certain variants of Earl Grey tea, so that you can choose the tea best suited to you.


The origins of Earl Grey tea

Watch how Bernadine Tay meets Lord Howick, descendant of the 2nd Earl Grey at the ancestral home, Howick Hall in Northumberland, and learns more about the man who lent his name to this quintessential blend.

It's believed that Earl Grey tea was infused by a Chinese mandarin for the 2nd Earl Grey, Charles Grey (Prime Minister between 1830 and 1834), after complaining that the water at his stately home was impacting the flavour of his tea.

The mandarin added bergamot to the tea to offset the flavour of the water, which came from a spring that flowed through limestone.

Lady Grey, the wife of the 2nd Earl Grey, introduced the tea during her time as a political hostess in London, where it grabbed the attention of Jacksons of Piccadilly.

They asked for permission to sell it, to which Charles Grey agreed, and it's been a popular British blend ever since.


Earl Grey: Black tea with bergamot

Traditional Earl Grey tea contains a black tea base, which is then classically infused with bergamot oil or sometimes orange oil.

Bergamot (or the bergamot orange) is a citrus fruit that is around the size of an orange, with a colour similar to that of a lime, and that classic citrusy fragrance and taste. The natural oil of bergamot, taken from the rind of the fruit, is what gives Earl Grey tea those subtle citrus notes.

There are, however, different variations of Earl Grey.


Types of Earl Grey tea

From decaf Earl Grey to Imperial Earl Grey. Here are some of the most popular Earl Grey teas:

  • Decaf Earl Grey
  • Earl Grey infused with blue cornflowers
  • Earl Grey infused with lavender flowers or rose petals (French Earl Grey)
  • A blend of green tea and Earl Grey
  • A blend of rooibos tea and bergamot oil
  • Earl Grey with added citrus peels and lemongrass (Russian Earl Grey)
  • A blend of oolong tea and bergamot oil


And Imperial Earl Grey, which is our very own take on this traditional British classic. It is a blend of black tea and oolong tea, the finest bergamot and blue cornflowers.


Sourcing Earl Grey tea ingredients

Finding the best black tea

Loose black tea leaves

The black tea used can vary - from where it is sourced, to the flavours and aromas it creates. Naturally, the tea used will ultimately affect the flavour and aroma.

The most common black teas used as the base for Earl Grey are:

  • Assam.This tea is grown primarily in India, in the Assam region. It has a high caffeine content, with a malty flavour and rich, bold aroma.
  • Darjeeling.This tea is from the Darjeeling region in West Bengal, India. It is also an incredibly fragrant tea, with it often being likened to muscat wine, and is frequently called the "champagne of teas".
  • Chinese Keemun.This tea is produced in Qimen County in Anhui Province, China. It is gentle and light with hints of malt, cocoa and floral notes.


Whilst these are the most common, various other black teas such as Ceylon black tea can be used to create a different Earl Grey experience.

In our Imperial Earl Grey, we combine black tea with oolong tea - the gentle scents of oolong and bergamot stimulate the brain's emotional centre, inspiring calm and relaxation.


Choosing the best bergamot

Bergamot orange

Whilst it is the black tea base that gives Earl Grey most of its flavour, you should still consider the bergamot used.

Bergamot cannot be eaten fresh, unlike other citrus fruits. However, natural bergamot oil is often used in various foods, fragrances, lotions and, of course, is used to flavour Earl Grey teas.

Earl Greys that use natural bergamot produce the best flavour.

In our Imperial Earl Grey, we use carefully sourced, pure, natural bergamot oils. The combination of this finest quality bergamot with a smooth oolong tea gives Imperial Earl Grey its unique flavour profile that can’t be found elsewhere.


Earl Grey loose leaf or tea bags?

Below, we've listed out some of the most common arguments for choosing loose leaf over tea bags, and how our Imperial Earl Grey and other blends differ.

  • Loose tea leaves contain whole or partially cut leaves for a fuller flavour, whereas tea bags do not. At Quinteassential, we only use high grade, full tea leaves in our tea bags. 
  • Tea bags have a quicker brewing time than loose leaf tea. As our bags contain full leaves, the brewing time is the same for both. 
  • Loose leaves can be steeped again, whereas tea bags are one use only. Our tea bags can be steeped twice, thanks to the full leaves they contain - just make sure you steep them slightly longer on the second infusion. 
  • Loose leaves are more environmentally friendly. You can reuse our bags as a face mask or snip the bag open and scatter the spent leaves around your plants in the garden. Or, you can dispose of them with your food waste, as they are made from compostable corn starch and the string tag is made of organic cotton.


Deciding whether to have your Earl Grey loose or in bags doesn't have to be a difficult choice.

As you can see, choosing our Imperial Earl Grey means you can enjoy the full flavour in either the convenience of a tea bag or if you prefer taking in the vibrant colours and aromas as you scoop your tea into your pot.


Experience luxurious Earl Grey tea 

Imperial Earl Grey tea leaves

Imperial Earl Grey is our interpretation of the classic British Earl Grey recipe.

The unique factor of our handcrafted Imperial Earl Grey can be found in that we use only the finest oolong leaves, which are delicately scented with natural bergamot.

Luxurious orchid notes mingle with a soft citrus aroma, to add a unique texture to this traditional British recipe.

If you are looking for the best Earl Grey tea then this blend is, in our humble opinion, one you certainly need to try.

Click here to experience our luxurious Imperial Earl Grey tea.