A renaissance of New Tea Lovers would argue that the tea market should be demanding higher quality tea. On the other hand, mainstream attention Earl Grey and other blends give to tea is encouraging people to learn more about its art, so it may not be all that bad.
I drink a lot of tea; I’m building a tea company and connecting with tea people all around the world. The most amazing thing I’ve learned about tea is that it’s culture varies a lot from country to country. Tea blends have become an important part U.S. tea culture, its often the only way people get access to tea. I appreciate it for this reason and believe that if you like, drink it.
Earl Grey is made of real tea, but it is good to know the truth of how it’s made. It is a flavored black tea. Global distribution of tea is controlled by a very small network of processors, brokers, and wholesalers and their main goal is to increase margins as much as possible, which can also sometimes mean cutting the profits of the grower. To increase efficiency this system aggregates the tea leaves and then blends them with other teas to reduce inventory risks and to create a consistent product. What is left is tea of sub-par quality at a very low price. In order to increase the palatability of the leaves the processor will add flavors, in the case of Earl Grey oil of bergamot is added. These flavors can be either natural or artificial (artificial flavors cost less in general). Be mindful that your tea may not be the all-natural product that it is marketed as. More than likely the tea was distributed through a socially-unjust system and possibly processed with chemical ingredients.
Many people ask me about the health benefits of Earl Grey. Like any other black tea it contains compounds that are good for the body. Limited research on the nutritional content of tea shows that most health benefits from tea come from drinking a healthy variety of tea. All tea (White, Green, Oolong, and Black) derives from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Each tea’s process brings out different nutritional compounds in the leaves; some are great for blood pressure, cancer prevention, or weight loss. Drinking only one type of tea cannot magically improve to your health. This is great news because it means that you get to try all different types of tea.
My favorite part of tea are the diverse experiences you can have been connecting to its source; whether its Japan, China, Indonesia, or Hawaii. Each has their own interesting flavor and story that is often not told. The story of Earl Grey is very much worthy of respect and appreciation. If you want to be a true connoisseur you must learn to appreciate its culture in entirety. Drink what you like, embrace the peace, and pass it on.