While it’s coffee I love in the morning, I usually keep it to one cup and drink tea for the rest of the day. Through all the different tea trends from green tea to matcha, one of my favorite teas is still a classic Earl Grey.
In this article, I’ll review some of the most popular brands of Earl Grey. I’ll also get into the leafy details of this classic tea—what it is, the variations, and what to look for in a good Earl Grey. If you want to go right to the shopping, follow the product links in the table below to see the current price and latest reviews on Amazon.
Numi is a family company based out of California that has quickly become known as one of the best producers of organic and fair trade tea. Indeed, if you are concerned about the possibility of pesticides in your cuppa, or worry about the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of tea production, Numi is a good choice. Their teas are certified fair trade, USDA organic, and non-GMO.
Their Earl Grey has a unique production process. The tea leaves are aged with organic bergamot rinds, which impart the signature citrusy flavor into the tea leaves. This is different than most Earl Greys which are flavored directly with oil.
The result is a very good cup of Earl Grey, on par with high quality loose leaf varieties that are hard to come by. This is my personal staple to take on the go when I can’t be bothered with loose leaf tea. Their method of allowing the tea leaves to absorb the flavor really works well, and it’s nice to know it’s a completely natural process with nothing artificial influencing the integrity of the product.
You can find some reviewers who find this tea lacking in flavor, so it’s possible that the production quality is inconsistent.
If you get a good batch, though, you’re in for an all-natural, organic and fair trade treat, and that’s why it’s my top pick!
- Certified organic and fair trade
- High-quality ingredients with a unique flavoring process
- Ethical and eco-friendly production methods and packaging
- Tasty and well-balanced
- May have some production inconsistencies from batch to batch
- More expensive than other options
Stash is a company based out of Oregon that makes a large variety of teas. They started out in the 1970s but have quickly gained a firm foothold in the specialty tea market.
This variety boasts a double hit of bergamot flavor over black tea. The bags come individually packed in foil-lined pouches.
Many tea drinkers do find this indeed has a noticeably stronger bergamot flavor. Many people find it decidedly more citrusy than many other Earl Greys. On the other hand, some people feel the stronger flavor simply brings it up to British standards compared with other North American Earl Grey teas! The British are quite particular about their tea…
The primary complaints with this tea are that the bags can be flimsy—the tag on the string can easily come off when taking the bag out of its envelope, or at worst, some people even experienced the bag breaking apart while steeping. Some people also found some inconsistencies in the flavor—I’m guessing their may be some counterfeiting happening so be sure to purchase from a reputable seller.
- Foil-lined envelopes
- Has strong bergamot flavor, up to British standards
- Bags are of poor quality
- Quality control and/or counterfeiting are possibly problems
- Bagged tea may compromise flavor and freshness
Twinings is a well-known name in tea. Their teas are widely available and affordable.
This is a classic Earl Grey with a blend of black teas and bergamot flavor. This particular product is sold from the UK. It comes in 2 foil-lined pouches each containing 50 bags of tea.
It’s worth noting that there seems to be a real difference in taste between the UK and US version of Twining’s Earl Grey. Tasters find this Earl Grey to be much more flavorful and stronger than the US version (which comes in a yellow box). Many people find this to be a great every day Earl Grey.
Some tea drinkers are dismayed by the fact that “bergamot flavor” as an ingredient is vague—does this mean oil or extract of bergamot, or could it possibly be a chemical flavoring?
If you prefer looseleaf, Twinings does make their Earl Grey blend in a loose variety, although I believe this would be the US “version” of their Earl Grey. Some drinkers note that other than the ability to control the strength, it tastes quite comparable to the bagged variety.
- UK version of Twinings Earl Grey is stronger than US version
- Very affordable
- Same blend is available in loose leaf
- May be too mild for some Earl Grey fans
- Ingredients are vague
- Pouches can be difficult to open
- Bagged tea may compromise flavor and freshness
Harney and Sons is a family-owned and operated brand from Connecticut. They produce a respectable variety of teas, including a line developed for the Historical Royal Palaces of England.
This Earl Grey is from the Royal Palaces collection, and indeed it looks like something you’d find at Harrod’s of London, with its regal, classical tea tin packaging. It’s a classic Earl Grey, with a blend of black teas and special Calabrian oil of bergamot for that particular flavor. The tea comes in silk sachets.
Many experienced Earl Grey drinkers proclaim this their favorite, with the quality of ingredients apparent in the taste. A number of people note that this tea is very aromatic but has a smooth flavor.
Some tea drinkers find that the flavor after steeping isn’t as strong as the aroma would suggest. Another drawback is that the silk sachets are not compostable.
It is a bit pricey which is why it’s my upgrade pick!
- Beautiful packaging, nice for gifts
- Simple, high quality ingredients
- Smooth finish
- Flavor does not match promise of scent
- Silk sachets are not compostable
- Bagged tea may compromise flavor and freshness
Bigelow is an American brand, created in the kitchen of a Mrs. Ruth Campbell Bigelow in the 1940s. Bigelow is a much-loved brand that relies on simple quality rather than any sort of flashiness that adds to the cost. The tea is grown in the USA.
This is a great, inexpensive pantry staple sort of tea that offers a reliably good flavor. These tea bags come in a box of individually packaged in foil-lined pouches to retain freshness. It’s a classic Earl Grey—just black tea and natural oil of bergamot.
Some tea drinkers complain that this Earl Grey is a bit too floral, while others appreciate its aromatic quality. This is a matter of preference, of course! Some experienced Earl Grey drinkers find this to be pretty run-of-the-mill, but the vast majority of reviewers of this tea recommend it with enthusiasm.
One note about this tea is that it tends to be very widely available, which is why I consider it the best supermarket brand.
- Foil-lined packaging retains freshness
- Grown and made in USA
- Simple ingredients
- May be too floral for some people
- Bagged tea may compromise some freshness compared to looseleaf
The Republic of Tea is another American brand, which was started by the original founders of the clothing retailer, Banana Republic. They are based out of California but source the tea from around the world.
This Earl Grey is made of Ceylon black tea and natural oil of bergamot. It comes in round sachets packed in an attractive tin. You can also buy bulk-sized packages of the tea bags.
Many people find this to be their favorite Earl Grey, and are familiar with it from Panera restaurants. A few commenters note that this variety is great for making a London Fog, as the strong flavor can stand up well to the addition of milk and sugar.
Some buyers have found the taste inconsistent from package to package, so quality consistency may be an issue.
- Nice packaging, good for gifts
- Round sachets may allow for better flavor circulation during steeping
- American brand
- Strong flavor is good for making London Fog or other variations with additives
- Bags may compromise freshness, especially as they are not individually wrapped
- There my be manufacturing inconsistencies
The History of Earl Grey Tea
With such a distinctive, strong name, you may assume there’s a story behind the tea. And of course, there is! However, nobody’s entirely sure which is the correct story.
Most of these stories point to a Charles Grey, who was the second Earl Grey, and Prime Minister of England in the late 1830s. Some stories say that he received a gift of tea flavored with bergamot oil from a Chinese government official. Other stories say the tea was the result of the effort of his household to cover up the taste of minerals in their estate’s water.
Whatever the truth, it seems that the tea originated sometime in the mid-1800s, and it has become one of the most popular tea flavors around the world.
What’s in a Cup—Variations and Flavors
Traditionally, Earl Grey tea is a black tea flavored with bergamot oil, pressed from the rinds of bergamot orange, a fruit grown primarily in Italy.
There are many variations of Earl Grey, including:
- Green, White, or Rooibos Earl Grey, which use green, white, or rooibos tea leaves rather than black
- Lady Grey, which includes cornflower petals or Seville orange peel bits
- Russian Earl Grey, which includes citrus peels, lemon grass, and other additional elements
- French Earl Grey, which includes rose petals
- Double Earl Grey, which uses more bergamot oil for a greater citrus taste
The shared aspect of all of these varieties of Earl Grey is the bergamot oil. The bergamot lends a slight citrus note, although I find most cups of Earl Grey to be distinctly floral more so than citrusy. Traditional Earl Greys made with black tea usually have a creamy vanilla, nutty flavor. Some even describe this as malty, depending on the black tea that’s used.
Most cups of Earl Grey are fairly light in color and flavor, and pair well with additives like milk and sugar or honey. I love a drink called a London Fog, which blends steamed milk and a bit of vanilla sweetening syrup with Earl Grey.
Here’s a tutorial on how to make a London Fog using your espresso machine’s steamer.
Tea is mostly a matter of taste. Your favorite might be different from mine, or your friend’s. Perhaps you prefer the simplest Earl Grey—just tea leaves and bergamot, or maybe you like the addition of other flowers. But if you want quality tea, there are a few constants to keep in mind.
Tea bags are very convenient, but may compromise freshness. If you do prefer bags, note how the bags are packaged—foil-lined pouches will offer the best freshness, while a box of loose, uncovered bags may go stale or lose flavor quickly.Loose leaf tea is usually fresher and will give you a truer flavor in your tea. You’ll need a good tool for steeping, like this for cups or a travel tumbler that makes steeping loose tea feel as nearly quick as popping a bag into your mug.
I have actually found it hard to source readily available loose Earl Grey tea; most loose leaf teas tend to be novel blends rather than a classic ones like Earl Grey. Therefore, most of the teas in this review are bagged, but still very good!
Fair Trade and Sustainability
Tea is an agricultural product, which takes land, resources, and labor to produce. It can be hard on the farmers and the environment. Conventional tea growers often use pesticides, and those residues can show up in your tea cup. You may want to look for some testament to the producer’s effort to mitigate these impacts. Look for designations such as “Fair Trade Certified” and certified organic.
Also consider the packaging. Tea bags in individual sachets are convenient but generate a lot of waste; be sure to recycle and compost when you can.
The classic Earl Grey should have just black tea leaves and oil of bergamot, bergamot extract, or be “infused” with bergamot. The term “flavor,” such as bergamot flavor or natural flavors, is vague and usually indicates that some sort of chemically enhanced flavor is used.
Most of the variation in flavor from one brand to the next comes from the particular blend of black teas they use and the quality of these leaves, the quality of the bergamot oil, and the freshness of the tea.
What’s My Cup of Tea?
We humans have been brewing tea for centuries. But it’s important to remember that tea is an agricultural product that can take a toll on the environment and the people growing.
Luckily, you can find teas that take these concerns to heart and make an effort to lessen their impact. Numi is one of those brands, and in addition to their earth friendly bona fides, their exacting production and high quality ingredients also make an excellent cup of Earl Grey. I love the malty flavor of the black tea, followed by the delicate bergamot citrus notes. The “Earl Grey” floralness is not overpowering; it’s a well-balanced tea.
Expect to pay more than your average supermarket brand, but you can usually find it for a decent price considering the quality.
What’s your favorite Earl Grey? Let us know in the comments and happy sipping!