Earl Grey Tea: What It is & Steps to Make It Properly

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Earl Grey is a black tea flavored with bergamot, a citrus fruit. It’s one of the most popular teas in the US. See how easy it is to brew a proper cup of Earl Grey, hot and iced.

Earl Grey tea in a white ceramic mug.

What is Earl Grey Tea?

  • Earl Grey is a black tea, usually Assam or Ceylon, flavored with bergamot, a citrus fruit from Italy that is grown throughout the Mediterranean. There’s caffeine in Earl Grey.
  • Earl Grey used to be made with bergamot peel, but now it’s mostly mixed with bergamot essential oil. Pricier Earl Grey is made with bergamot from Calabria, Italy.
  • Earl Grey is usually had with milk and sugar in the US but in the UK, it’s lemon and sugar that’s stirred in.
  • There are a few stories about where Earl Grey tea got its name, but most agree that the tea was named after Charles Grey, the second Earl of Grey, in the nineteenth century who was gifted the tea blend.

See how to make more teas properly like English breakfast tea, matcha, hojicha, and genmaicha.

Ingredient Notes

  • Earl Grey tea
    For high quality Earl Grey, get loose tea. If you want bagged tea, get tea sachets instead of tea bags. Tea bags contain the poorest quality tea.
  • Water
    Good tea depends on good quality water. The best way to make sure your tea tastes better is to boil filtered water instead of tap water.
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Steps to Make Hot Earl Grey Tea

Four photo collage showing steps to make hot Earl Grey tea.

For complete brewing guide, full ingredients, and instructions, scroll to the bottom.

  1. Boil water.
    Using an electric kettle with temperature settings to boil water for tea makes it easy to get the water temperature just right. Boil more than needed since you want extra to warm up the teapot.
  2. Warm up teapot.
    Pour some hot water into the teapot and swirl it around a bit. Discard the water.
  3. Put Earl Grey tea into the teapot and add hot water. Cover teapot and steep.
  4. Strain Earl Grey tea leaves and pour hot tea into a teacup.
    Optional: Add milk and sugar or lemon and sugar but not all three since lemon will make the milk curdle.

Tea Sommelier’s Tip: If you want a stronger cup of Earl Grey, brew more tea instead of steeping it for longer. Brewing it for longer can make your tea bitter and astringent.

Steps to Make Iced Earl Grey Tea

Cold brewed tea makes the best iced tea.

Two photo collage showing steps to make cold brew tea.
  1. Put Earl Grey tea and water in a pitcher or glass container. Cover and place in refrigerator to cold brew.
    Use cool or room temperature filtered water.
  2. Strain Earl Grey tea leaves and pour tea into a cup.
    Cold brewed tea is already chilled so adding ice is up to you. Optional: Add simple syrup and milk or lemon.

Expert Tips

  • Use loose Earl Grey tea instead of tea bags for a better quality cup of tea.
  • For a stronger cup of Earl Grey, add 1/2 teaspoon more of loose tea. 
  • Oversteeping can make your tea bitter. Keep an eye on the time or set a timer on your phone.
  • If you want to sweeten hot tea, you can use any kind of sweetener from sugar to date syrup, but for sweetening iced tea, always use simple syrup since it’ll be the easiest to mix into a cold drink.
  • Earl Grey tea can be brewed and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Keep it covered or airtight glass container or pitcher.
  • Loose Earl Grey tea, tea sachets, and tea bags should be stored in an airtight container away from light, odors, humidity, and heat.

Earl Grey Variations

  • London Fog
    A tea latte made with Earl Grey, frothed milk, vanilla extract, and sweetened with sugar.
  • Lady Grey
    Earl Grey with lemon and orange peel.
  • Red Earl Grey
    A variation that uses caffeine-free rooibos tea with bergamot oil.
  • Russian Earl Grey
    Earl Grey with orange peel and orange flavoring.

Questions You May Have

What does Earl Grey taste like?

The bergamot in Earl Grey gives the tea lightly sweet citrus notes which balances the full body of the black tea.

Is there caffeine?

There is caffeine in Earl Grey tea since it’s made with black tea.

I don’t have loose tea, how many tea sachets or tea bags can I use instead?

Use 1 tea sachet (contains about 1.5 teaspoons of tea) or 1 tea bag (contains 1 teaspoon of tea).

Why should I warm up the teapot to make tea?

Warming up the teapot is a step all tea professionals take to ensure the tea is brewed properly. It keeps the boiled water hot so that there isn’t a big temperature drop while steeping the tea.

Is Earl Grey tea a real tea?

Yes, Earl Grey is a real tea. Since the black tea in Earl Grey comes from the camellia sinensis plant, it is a real tea. Only tea made from the tea leaves of the camellia sinensis is considered real tea.

Iced Earl Grey tea in a cup.

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Step-by-Step Earl Grey Tea

Author: Jee Choe
Get easy steps to make hot & iced Earl Grey tea properly.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 2 mins
Steep Time 5 mins
Total Time 7 mins
Course Drinks
Yield1 serving

INGREDIENTS
 

INSTRUCTIONS
 

  • Boil water.
    If using an electric kettle with temperature setting, set it to 208°F. Boil a little more water than needed so that it can be used to warm up the teapot. Filtered water is best.
  • Warm up teapot.
    Pour hot water into a teapot, halfway, and swirl it around a bit. Discard the water.
    Warming up the teapot is an extra step that all tea professionals take the time to do, so that when the tea steeps, the water temperature won't drop drastically.
  • Put Earl Grey tea into the teapot and add hot water. Cover teapot and steep for 5 minutes.
  • Strain Earl Grey tea leaves and pour hot tea into a teacup.
    Optional: Add milk and sugar or lemon and sugar but not all three since lemon will make the milk curdle.

NOTES

How to Make Cold Brew Earl Grey Iced Tea

  1. Put Earl Grey tea and cool or room temperature water in a pitcher or glass container. Cover pitcher and place in refrigerator for at least 12 hours. Stir to make sure tea get dampened by the water and isn’t sitting dry on top of the water surface. Use filtered water for a better tasting iced tea. 
  2. Strain out Earl Grey tea leaves and pour tea into a cup. Ice is optional since the tea is already chilled.

Brewing Guide

Hot Earl Grey Tea
  • TEA: 1 ½ teaspoons Earl Grey loose tea or 1 tea sachet
  • WATER: 1 cup (8 oz.)
  • WATER TEMPERATURE: 208°F
  • STEEP TIME: 5 minutes
Cold Brew Earl Grey Iced Tea
  • TEA: 1 ½ teaspoons Earl Grey loose tea or 1 tea sachet
  • WATER: 1 cup (8 oz.)
  • WATER TEMPERATURE: Cold water
  • STEEP TIME: 12 hours in the refrigerator

Tips

  • Both hot and iced Earl Grey tea can be had without sugar or milk.
  • Use loose Earl Grey tea instead of tea bags for a better quality cup of tea.
  • For a stronger cup of Earl Grey, add 1/2 teaspoon more of loose tea. 
  • Oversteeping can make your tea bitter. Keep an eye on the time or set a timer on your phone.
  • If you want to sweeten hot tea, you can use any kind of sweetener from sugar to date syrup, but for sweetening iced tea, always use simple syrup since it’ll be the easiest to mix into a cold drink.
  • The American way of drinking Earl Grey is with milk and sugar. To drink Earl Grey like the British, add lemon and sugar. 
  • Earl Grey tea can be brewed and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Keep it covered or airtight glass container or pitcher.
  • Loose Earl Grey tea, tea sachets, and tea bags should be stored in an airtight container away from light, odors, humidity, and heat.

NUTRITION

Calories: 1 | Carbohydrates: 1g | Sodium: 12mg | Potassium: 3mg | Calcium: 7mg
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