I drank Earl Grey tea throughout college, and in those days, I believe even Twinings used real bergamot oil, an essence with allegedly medicinal properties extracted from the peel of citrus-like fruit of trees found around Bergamo, Italy.
Bergamot oil is what makes Earl Grey; unfortunately, most Earl Grey teas now use artificial bergamot flavoring which is quite transparently not the real thing.
According to Harold McGee, this use of artificial flavoring is probably due to economics (actual bergamot oil is relatively costly) and the spoilage factor (oil can go rancid, and most regular teas are subject to a very long shelf-life).
According to Bill Todd, the use of such water-soluble flavorings is additionally undesirable because they can support increased microbial growth.
Ive tried T&Hs Earl of Oolong and Earl Grey Double Bergamot, and they were fine, but today I was in the mood for a more powerful punch of real bergamot oil, so I got a pouch of Earl Grey Triple Bergamot. Slightly acidic tongue feel, perfumed and floral with licorice notes, this is the flavor I longed for, the real taste of bergamot oil. Although I usually dont put sugar into my tea, I found that a little sweetness brings out and complements the flowery flavor of this tea.
I blew through a pot in minutes. Its good stuff.
Todd & Holland
7311 West Madison Street
Forest Park, IL 60130