Back in the 17th century and for most of the 20th century earl grey tea meant a simple black tea blended with the oil of the bergamot orange. But since the late 1990s and into the 21st century the global demand for more variety has lead to a great deal of experimentation and the creation of some strange new forms of earl grey. Much of this change started with the health foods / ‘be green’ trends that swept the United States in the wake of the fast food backlash. It’s also worth mentioning that the standardized tea bag is slowly losing steam compared to old fashioned loose tea leaves inserted directly into hot water. This is one trend that serious tea drinkers such as myself can appreciate. Tea was meant to be drank with the herb bits still floating around, not from an industrialized tea bag soaked cup.
While browsing my favorite tea sites I came across a ‘double bergamot earl grey tea’ which promises twice the citrus flavor. In my youth, I used to try to see how dark I could get a cup of earl grey, I would soak multiple tea bags in one cup and squeeze them with a spoon to extract the full flavor but now fellow flavor lovers won’t have to go through such a grueling process — just purchase a double flavored blend! It’s no secret that earl gray is often drank with milk to give it a creamy taste which is why it was only a matter of time before someone came along with ‘Earl Grey Cream Tea’, a blend that has an artificial, but convincing, creamy taste built right into it! No more fooling around with the milk saucer required!
One of the more interesting recent variations of the venerable classic is ‘Earl Grey Green Tea.’ This is the blend most people in tea drinking circles object most fiercely to. For centuries earl gray was defined as a black tea blend so how can a green tea claim the title? I’m not as concerned with definitions as I am with great tasting tea so my advice to readers is to ignore the naysayers and go out and enjoy yourself a cup of earl grey green today. Green tea is considerably healthier than processed black tea so for those trying to make some healthy living choices, this is a no brainer. With the spread of the health foods craze, organic products have gained in popularity so it’s no wonder that many brewers now offer organic earl grey tea. The difference between regular and organic may not be significant but the price difference is also mild so be sure to try both and go with the one with the best aroma. Almost all tea and varieties now come in standard and decaffeinated versions. While the decaffeination process does entail an additional chemical process, it does rid the tea of one of its most controversial ingredients. The choices available to the average tea consumer today are astounding. I’ve only covered a few of the exotic earl grey blends now available but there are many more. If you find any other interesting varieties be sure to name them in a comment below.