You often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but have you ever thought about its beverage counterpart?
Breakfast tea blends are some of the most popular black tea varieties worldwide, although many customers have told The Tea Centre that they don’t know exactly what a breakfast tea is. What makes an English Breakfast different from an Irish Breakfast? Why are they called breakfast teas? Australian Breakfast is a thing?
Well, turn on the kettle and prepare to read and steep—our tea-loving experts have broken down everything you need to know about these ubiquitous morning cuppas below!
What are breakfast teas?
At the most basic level, a breakfast tea can be defined as any black tea variety that uses leaves from multiple, international, tea-growing regions and is blended with a certain country or region’s cultural taste in mind.
How did breakfast tea come about?
Let’s start with busting a popular misconception about breakfast teas; the blends are not named after the tea leaves’ country of origin. English Breakfast is not harvested in England and Scottish Breakfast is not from Scotland. In fact, English Breakfast wasn’t even invented by an Englishman!
It all began in the late nineteenth century when drinking tea in Western society was still largely considered an afternoon activity. Seeing a profitable opportunity to create a stronger brew that could be marketed as “perfect for breakfast-time,” one Scottish tea maker called Robert Drysdale began working on a blend that would later be known as English Breakfast.
The blend produced a malty brew that happened to pair perfectly with the more-ish baked beans and black pudding that make up the traditional English ‘fry-up’ breakfast. To ensure his breakfast tea could be manufactured all year long (and also used leftover leaves), Drysdale blended loose leaves from tea estates around the world, including Sri Lanka, India, and China. This is the same reason why contemporary breakfast blends differ in origin between different tea manufacturers depending on where they are situated in the world.
So how did a breakfast tea blended by a Scotsman and made using tea from around the world become known as ‘English’? The answer lies with Queen Victoria, who tried Drysdale’s blend on a visit to Balmoral Castle in 1892 and enjoyed it so much that she took it back home. She then made it so sought-after in England that it became known in popular culture as an English Breakfast tea.
You may hear Americans claim that an emigrant to New York created the first English Breakfast tea—this is only partly true! Indeed, Robert Davies started selling an “English Breakfast tea” in 1843 that became wildly popular in New York City. However, this blend was was unknown in the United Kingdom at the time. Davies’ tea is also not the blend we associate with the English Breakfast teas of today.
Seeing how popular English Breakfast tea has become, other tea makers hopped on the bandwagon and started making breakfast teas that they thought suited their own region’s taste. This is where common blends such as Irish Breakfast, Scottish Breakfast, and Yorkshire Blend come from.
What are the different types of breakfast teas?
English Breakfast: the original breakfast tea’s made ingredient was Keemun leaves’ from China. However, due to historical changes and the British reliance on colonial plantations going into the nineteenth century, most English Breakfast blends today are made using Indian and Ceylon tea leaves.
Irish Breakfast: the next breakfast tea to come along was made for Irish tastes at a time when Assam tea was at the height of its popularity in Britain. For these reasons, Irish breakfast is particularly robust and champions the Assam leaf’s distinctively malty flavour.
Scottish Breakfast: Often considered the strongest breakfast tea. This full-bodied brew will most likely feature tea leaves from India and Kenya, where tea plantations were established as recently as 1903.
Yorkshire Blend: named by the flagship tea company who first created a blend to offset the high mineral content in the Yorkshire water supply, Yorkshire Blend uses leaves from Sri Lanka and was first introduced in the 1970s. While originally brewed in Yorkshire, this blend is now popular across the globe.
Australian Breakfast: given how young the Australian tea industry is in comparison to those in England, Ireland, and Scotland, the Aussie Breakfast tea blend is not standardised and can differ greatly between different tea manufacturers. However, rest assured that The Tea Centre’s version is one of the best! Featuring an aromatic blend of Ceylon, Assam, and Darjeeling tea leaves, our Australian Breakfast blend boasts an egalitarian flavour that’s enjoyable in backyards big and small across the country.
What breakfast tea is best for me?
Given many breakfast teas were popularised for reasons as idiosyncratic as what a certain queen fancied or what a town’s water supply tasted like, you definitely don’t have to be English to enjoy English Breakfast or Scottish to enjoy the Scottish equivalent.
The Tea Centre’s best advice is to let your taste buds be your guide! If you prefer a daintier morning brew, the sunny profile of the Yorkshire Blend is the one for you. For those after a caffeine-kick, a Scottish or Irish Breakfast may be preferable. As for a tea that evokes the nostalgia of early mornings with Mum and vegemite toast? Australian breakfast all the way!
You can shop The Tea Centre’s range of delightful breakfast blends here. Happy sipping!