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Breakfast tea: is this the best tea for the morning?
So often we think of tea as an afternoon beverage but increasingly people are discovering that it is preferable to coffee early in the morning and especially at breakfast. This is possibly because it is more thirst quenching when we feel somewhat dehydrated after a night’s sleep. Also, breakfast tea avoids the caffeine spike so often associated with coffee. The caffeine from tea is half the level of coffee and it passes more gradually into the body so its effect is more long-lasting.
Traditionally in the morning we have drunk teas blended with a high proportion of Assam. This northern Indian tea is expensive so most mass market blends contain little if any, using teas entirely from eastern Africa. Our English Breakfast is a lighter style as it has some Darjeeling tea which has a muscatel character. This has an even higher price premium. Irish Breakfast blends and our Good Morning! blend has a higher proportion of tangy Kenyan teas which add a little punch and a stronger character. ‘Builder’s brews’ tend to be strong, small leaf, quick brewing teas with a somewhat one-dimensional taste.
Two hundred years ago China Keemun teas were the most popular teas in Britain. These black teas were created especially for the long voyage to Europe, being much less perishable than green teas. They can be drunk with or without milk and have a captivatingly moreish, winey character. The ‘Burgundy of teas’ is an apt metaphor. Today these teas are still popular for those familiar with them, being brewed stronger when drunk in the morning.
Of course, we could drink the main constituent teas of good breakfast tea blends in a pure form. Single-origin teas such as Keemun are favourites but there are others well worth trying. Assam would be an obvious example. These full-bodied, malty teas are superb in the morning. For some, the lighter second flush Assam teas offer more fragrance. First flush teas are a little more astringent and even lighter whilst retaining the malty character for which Assam teas are famous.
Less known but also having a malty character but more earthy and creamy are Yunnan teas from south-west China. These teas are well worth exploring.
The tanginess and strength of Kenyan teas makes an unmistakable statement when drunk in the morning. Their large leaf orthodox teas give a well-balanced tangy vibrancy and a distinctively red hue to the liquor. The small leaf CTC (cut tear curl) teas for which Kenya and other East African countries are best known are best left for blends. These quick-brewing teas would be unbearably tannic if allowed to infuse sufficiently long to allow the more complex flavour components to pass into your pot.
Finally, other single-origin teas well worth trying in the morning are full-bodied Ceylon Dimbula teas from Sri Lanka. These have a certain floral character which typifies Ceylon teas and makes them most attractive to many committed morning tea drinkers.
Returning to blends other than English and Irish Breakfast tea I would recommend Russian Caravan, especially when made more strongly. This long established blend has a proportion of semi-oxidised oolong tea which lends it a distinctive aromatic quality.
It will be noted that all these blends and single-origin teas are black. If you are new to oolong teas then it may be worth trying oolong (black dragon) teas without milk for your morning cuppa. Their added complexity and aromatic, earthy qualities make them an interesting alternative to black teas.
Of course you could try green teas but for most people these teas, which have the lowest caffeine levels, may not offer the get-up-and-go qualities of higher caffeine black teas. The exception is Japanese matcha. This is a powdered tea therefore the whole leaf is consumed with consequently high caffeine levels.
I hope you will agree that there are many teas to consider in the morning other than English Breakfast and that well-chosen teas can be well suited to the morning just as other teas can be ideal for the afternoon.
See our teas tagged as being appropriate for the Morning.