Earl Grey vs. Orange Pekoe : What’s the difference?

Tea drinkers often find themselves choosing between various tea blends, each with its unique flavor profile and cultural significance. Two classics that frequently stand out in this tea dilemma are Earl Grey and Orange Pekoe. Let's explore what differentiates Earl Grey from Orange Pekoe tea.

earl grey tea with milk and raspberries on a table

The Origins of Earl Grey and Orange Pekoe tea

Earl Grey takes its name from Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Legend has it that a Chinese diplomat presented him with this aromatic blend, and it quickly gained popularity.

On the other hand, Orange Pekoe refers to a grading system rather than a specific tea blend. It designates a high-quality tea grade, with whole-leaf and no additives. Originating from India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya, Orange Pekoe teas showcase the terroir and craftsmanship of these regions.

Flavor Profiles of the Famous Black Teas

Earl Grey's distinctive feature is its infusion with bergamot oil, extracted from the citrus fruit native to Southern Italy. The result is a fragrant and citrusy aroma that complements the robustness of the black tea base. Earl Grey tea is often praised for its balanced and sophisticated flavor. Its flavor makes it a favorite among those who enjoy a touch of citrus in their tea.


Orange Pekoe tea, in contrast, has a more straightforward flavor profile. While it may lack the aromatic complexity of Earl Grey, Orange Pekoe's charm lies in its purity. The full-bodied, malty notes of the black tea leaves shine through, providing a comforting and classic tea experience. It's a timeless choice for those who appreciate the pure essence of high-quality black tea.

Orange Pekoe Black Tea box  with loose leaf tea beside   Earl Grey tea box with loose leaf tea and bergamot beside

Cultural Significance of the Black Tea Classics

Both Earl Grey and Orange Pekoe have made their places in tea culture, but they often represent different traditions. Earl Grey tea's association with British aristocracy and elegance aligns it with afternoon tea rituals and refined social gatherings. The aromatic allure of bergamot adds a touch of sophistication to these occasions.

Orange Pekoe, on the other hand ,is deeply rooted in the tea-drinking traditions of former British colonies like India and Sri Lanka. It has become a staple in morning routines and everyday life, celebrated for its simplicity and versatility. 

In the eternal debate of Earl Grey vs. Orange Pekoe, the choice ultimately boils down to personal preference. Whether you seek the aromatic elegance of bergamot-infused black tea or the pure, unadorned richness of high-quality whole-leaf black tea, both options offer a delightful tea-drinking experience. So, next time you find yourself pondering over the tea selection, let your taste buds guide you through this captivating journey of flavors and traditions.

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