Breakfast may or may not be the most important meal of the day but it’s safe to say that for countless people around the world the breakfast time pick-me-up is the most important drink of the day.
If you live in the United States, for example, your morning beverage of choice is likely to be coffee. If you live in the United Kingdom, on the other hand, there’s a good chance that you’ll select tea to help you get off on the good foot.
The aptly named breakfast tea, not surprisingly, is the preferred choice for many who choose tea as their morning beverage, though it’s not clear exactly how it came by its name. Because it employs blended black teas there are two likely theories. One is that black tea is perceived (perhaps not so accurately) as having more caffeine than other types and is thus more suited for early morning drinking. The other notion is that the robust full-flavored nature of black teas provides a taste profile not unlike coffee and is also well-suited to adding of milk, cream and sugar.
Of the three main types of breakfast tea, English Breakfast Tea is probably the most popular, followed by Irish Breakfast Tea and Scottish Breakfast Tea. There are no clear guidelines as to what types of tea constitute each of these blends and an informal survey of a few popular brands shows that the exact makeup of each varies widely.
English Breakfast Tea is likely to contain a blend of Assam and Ceylon tea and may include Keemun, a black Chinese tea with a faintly smoky flavor. Blends do vary, however, from one merchant to the next. Revolution Tea’s English Breakfast is made up of Ceylon and Assam while Adagio Teas offers one that is apparently straight Keemun. Twinings’ blend contains Ceylon, Kenyan and Indian teas (presumably Assam), while Taylor’s of Harrogate mixes Ceylon and African teas.
Assam tea tends to be the dominant component of Irish Breakfast Tea, but again, exact blends will vary. Adagio mixes Ceylon with Assam while Harney and Sons go with all Assam. Popular Irish tea merchant Barry’s Tea uses Assam mixed with Kenyan for their Irish Breakfast. When it comes to Scottish Breakfast Tea, not surprisingly, the situation is similar. For example, Revolution’s Scottish blend contains Assam, Keemun and Indian Nilgiri, while Taylor’s make a Scottish Breakfast that appears to be exclusively Assam.
Which can all be rather confusing, especially considering that there are also more obscure breakfast blends like China Breakfast, Welsh Breakfast, American Breakfast and French Breakfast, the latter of which contains only Ceylon tea.
With all of this in mind, the best bet for anyone seeking a suitable breakfast tea is simply to ignore the names, focus on the exact makeup of each blend and let your taste buds be your guide.