Is English Breakfast tea the best breakfast tea in the world?
Breakfast blend is such an important tea that every tea merchant offers it. However, many offer specifically an English Breakfast Tea. What makes this blend so special and how does it differ from Irish Breakfast, Scottish Breakfast, and indeed, what other single-origin teas could be drunk at breakfast?
English Breakfast tea is typically a blend of Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas designed to cut through fatty foods such as an English breakfast so the measure of a good English breakfast blend might well be ‘how good is it with bacon and eggs’, or even bacon, eggs and sausages or bacon, eggs, sausages and mushrooms. Perhaps add fried bread, black pudding and baked beans! How big is your appetite? But how many of us have this as a start to our day on a regular basis. As a child I had a cooked breakfast every day whether it was bacon and poached egg on toast or scrambled eggs or even kedgeree. But then I didn’t drink tea at all! Now a cooked breakfast is an occasional treat.
English breakfast tea should have a little lightness. It’s not as dark and tannic as Irish Breakfast blend, so our English Breakfast has a little Darjeeling which makes it a traditional, yet lighter style than some.
Irish Breakfast typically contains Kenyan teas and can even contain teas from Indonesia. Our Good Morning! blend is close in style to an Irish Breakfast and gives a stronger, more robust cup than our English Breakfast blend.
Scottish Breakfast tea tends to be high in Assam and is intended to match well the softer water typically present north of the border.
Breakfast teas are brisk, in that they have necessary astringency. They therefore require a little milk. I would recommend whole milk or semi-skimmed, if you must. The creaminess of the milk compliments the richness of Assam teas which is the common denominator of all good breakfast blends. Mass market breakfast blends tend to remove or reduce to a minimum the proportion of the blend that is Assam as this is an expensive tea compared to those from East Africa.
English Breakfast tea originated, like all blends, due to the need to create a consistent flavour from one purchase to another. Before such blends became common, consumers drank China black teas such as Keemun at breakfast. The most famous of these is Mao Feng, made from larger, more mature leaves. Keemun is known as the ‘Burgundy of teas’ for its rich, winey character. Before teas from other countries became available Keemun teas were immensely popular in England. This goes back to the earliest days of importing tea in the 17th century. At that time it was soon discovered that green teas didn’t travel well on long voyages by sea. As supply from China became restricted due to their embargo of their teas Empire teas from India and Sri Lanka became available as colonisers planted new gardens in India such as in Assam. Later Ceylon teas became available and then East African teas in the 20th century. Today many Breakfast blends comprise teas sourced soley from East Africa.
Should you wish to explore the constituent teas that make up an English Breakfast blend I would suggest that you start with an Assam. This is rich and malty with a certain creaminess and good astringency. Ceylon teas, especially Dimbulas are full-bodied with a floral character. Kenyan teas are tangy, having plenty of astringency. The Darjeeling in our English Breakfast blend is noted for its light muscatel character. Atypically, unlike the other constituent teas in the blend it should not be drunk with milk.
So is English Breakfast blend the best breakfast blend in the world? Well, that would be for your taste to decide but it is the most popular blend by far. Once you have found your favourite (which I would like you to conclude is ours!) try some of the wonderful single origin teas that make up English Breakfast. It may well be a tea journey that you find difficulty in stopping. But then travelling is often more enjoyable that the arrival!
See our English Breakfast Loose Tea.