Add Some Bergamot: Discovering Earl Grey

A long, long time ago, legend has it that Earl Charles Grey was shipping black tea and bergamot oranges in the same cargo. When the Earl’s ship finally arrived at port, it was found that the black tea had absorbed the essence of bergamot into a perfectly balanced black tea with light citrus notes. Earl Grey was born.

Perhaps one of the most storied, well known teas in history, Earl Grey is a testament to the way the flavors of tea and citrus can merge so perfectly. The robust complexity of black tea is mellowed out perfectly by the pungent, deep citrus notes of bergamot oil, derived from bergamot oranges. The flavor is one that is both deep and comforting, while still showcasing light, bright citrus notes. The name of the game with this tea is balance.

Two leaves and a bud CEO Richard Rosenfeld notes a bit of a love-hate relationship that tea drinkers have with Earl Grey. “I don’t like flavored teas—but the Earl Grey tea drinkers of the world are some of the most devoted, passionate tea drinkers out there. Earl Grey is like that; you either love it or you hate it.”

“Love it” is perhaps an understatement. “Earl Grey Fanatics” is more like it—at two leaves and a bud, we’ve slightly altered bergamot content in some past batches, and have suddenly received mass emails and calls from Earl Grey drinkers upset with the smallest of changes. It’s as if these tea fanatics have bergamot radar installed on their tongues, and alarm bells go off if they detect the slightest change in bergamot levels.

But what is it that’s so great about two leaves and a bud’s Organic Earl Grey that has fans so obsessed with the beverage—what sets it apart?

According to Richard Rosenfeld, it really begins with the “base” of black tea: “Most Earl Grey tea starts with a blending tea—we use high quality organic Ceylon black tea, and add organic bergamot on top of that.”

Because Earl Grey’s flavor is “cut” with bergamot, many Earl Grey teas can get away with using lower quality blending tea. Two leaves and a bud’s Earl Grey, however, features big black tea leaves from Ceylon, a very interesting tea growing region in Sri Lanka. With a mixed terrain of both mountains and sea-level tropics, Ceylon grows very distinctly different black teas—tea grown in the mountainous area is similar to an astringent Darjeeling, while the tropical tea growing areas of Ceylon produce a rich, robust black tea similar to an Assam.

Which kind of Ceylon black tea does two leaves and a bud use?

“We use both, in order to get the flavor we want,” says Richard. “Mixing the two black teas balances their flavor perfectly, so that the touch of bergamot we add can really stand out.”

Another interesting fact about Earl Grey—its many different varieties. Scour the Internet and you’ll find White Earls, Green Earls, Red Earls, and even a Lady Grey tea, which adds lemon peel and orange peel on top of black tea and bergamot oil.