Earl Grey Tea – Health Benefits and Caffeine Content

Earl Grey tea, less commonly (and incorrectly) spelled Earl Gray is a mainstay of British tea culture. Arguably the most popular flavored tea in western countries, Earl Grey is named after Charles Grey, a former UK prime minister and member of the Whig party. Earl Gray typically and historically is a black tea that has been flavored with oil of bergamot, a species of orange with a distinctive aroma.

Health Benefits of Earl Grey Tea:

Earl Grey is a black tea, and black tea is known to have a number of health benefits, not the least of which is a potential to lower the risk of heart disease. Contrary to popular belief, black tea is just as rich as green tea in antioxidants. When the tea is oxidized, the antioxidants in the green tea, called catechins, are not destroyed, but rather, are transformed into new antioxidants called theaflavins and thearubigins.

However, the benefits of Earl Grey tea are not limited to those due to the base tea alone: oil of of bergamot also has potent health effects. Although bergamot oil has not been as extensively studied as the tea plant, there is some evidence from preliminary research that suggests that bergamot may have a neuroprotective effect, meaning that it can protect neurons in the brain from damage caused by toxic chemicals.

How much caffeine is in Earl Grey tea?

There is, unfortunately, no easy or clear-cut answer to this question. Earl Gray is widely regarded as a stronger-tasting black tea, but it is not true that all black teas are high in caffeine, nor is it even true that they are higher in caffeine than green or white teas. The caffeine content of tea is widely variable and depends less on the color of the tea (green, black, white) than on the proportion of leaf buds or tips, vs. mature leaves, present in the tea. “Tippy” Earl Greys, containing a higher proportion of leaf buds, are naturally higher in caffeine, whereas those made out of larger, more mature leaves, tend to be lower in caffeine.

People desiring a caffeine-free herbal tea in this style may wish to explore Earl Grey rooibos, which is rooibos, also known as South African red tea, which has been flavored with oil of bergamot. Such blends are naturally caffeine-free, and do not use any decaffeination process in their production, like decaf teas do.

Wild beragmot?

Although it is not used widely in commercial blends, there is a plant called wild bergamot, in the Monarda genus, which has an aroma strikingly similar to the bergamot orange, even though the plants are not closely related. Wild bergamot is native to North America, and is in the mint family, and makes an outstanding herbal tea on its own; it can be blended with black tea to produce a blend that closely resembles Earl Grey.

Choosing an Earl Grey Tea:

Earl Grey is highly variable due to the fact that it can be made out of different base teas, although it is always distinctive and recognized as a style of its own, due to the unique aroma of the bergamot oil. Historically, only black teas have been used as the base, but in recent times, green teas, and more rarely, white teas are used as the base. As discussed above, rooibos is used as a base in order to create caffeine-free blends.

The amount of bergamot used also varies widely. Some tea companies market “extra bergamot” varieties, and other brands sell blends that are lighter on the bergamot. There are also flavored Earl Grey teas available, which combine a base tea with bergamot in addition to other herbs or flavorings, including vanilla, lemon, and sometimes cornflower which is added for its blue color, prompting the name “Blue Flower Earl Grey” for these blends.

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