Most of us start our day with our morning brew, whether in the form of organic loose leaf tea leaves in your favourite teapot or a single tea bag in your lucky mug. More likely than not, it is some kind of English breakfast blend that warms you up as you seek that caffeine boost to wake up.
Moreover, if you order a black tea in a café or restaurant most probably, you will be served with one of the many English breakfast tea blends available on the market. But is your English breakfast tea really English? And how much do you really know about the nation’s favourite brew?
By far, breakfast tea is the most popular tea blend nowadays in the UK. The traditional English breakfast tea includes some combination of Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas.
How much of each tea goes into making the blend differs from one English breakfast tea brand to another, but generally Assam tea is used as the base, with Ceylon tea leaves and Kenya's tea leaves added in different proportions to arrive at the desired taste.
Assam tea is the strongest of all three the tea varieties that go into the traditional breakfast tea blend, so stronger tasting blends usually mean a higher percentage of Assam tea when compared to milder tasting English breakfast tea blends.
Each of the three organic English breakfast tea ingredients brings something unique to the traditional English breakfast tea blend. In addition to strength, Assam tea provides a full-bodied tea experience, while Ceylon tea adds a richer and complex flavour and Kenya tea rounds the mix up with the distinctive dark colour of English breakfast teas.
While many tea brands stick with the original three English breakfast tea ingredients when blending English breakfast tea, artisanal tea brands have tweaked the recipe to provide a distinctive taste for their own English breakfast tea blends.
This could mean changing the ratio of tea types used in the mixture, or by substituting one of the three traditional ingredients for another tea or dropping one of the teas altogether.
At Chateau Rouge our award-winning organic English breakfast tea blend is made from 100% natural Assam, Ceylon and Rwandan teas. The same loose-leaf tea is used in our loose leaf tins and our pyramid tea bags tins.
Despite the obvious fact that all the teas used in blending an English breakfast tea are cultivated outside England, the name “English Breakfast” came to be associated with this strong black tea blend.
So why English? One story suggests one of the original English breakfast tea recipes was created during the Colonial era of the USA by an English tea merchant by the name of Richard Davies, and hence his customers started calling the tea blend “English” alluding to its creator.
Another story suggests that the term “English” was initially associated with all black teas coming into the USA as they were mostly imported from England. In the UK, it is Queen Victoria who is credited with the widespread consumption of this daily staple after falling in love with it during one of her tea tasting sessions.
For a fuller, richer flavour considers using an organic English breakfast tea blend. Add one teaspoon of loose leaves per person to your teapot (most of us now have teapots with a filter) and pour hot water right off the boil (95-100 C) into the teapot.
Allow infusing for 3-5 minutes, depending on how strong you like it. Do not leave the tea leaves to soak for a long time or the tea will become bitter.
One common misconception is that if you want a stronger cup of tea, you allow the tea leaves to infuse more. This only makes the tea taste bitter. If you would prefer a stronger drink, you can just add more tea, rather than stretching the infusing time. Finally, add milk and sugar to taste. Consider using natural raw honey instead of sugar as a healthier alternative to sweeten your English breakfast tea.
While both black teas are blends, the difference in taste comes from the base tea and the additional ingredients in Earl Grey. The base tea in English breakfast tea is Assam, while the base tea in Earl Grey teas is Ceylon.
The supplementary tea varieties in English breakfast blends usually are Ceylon and Kenyan, while in Earl Grey it varies widely depending on the mixture but it is typically some kind of Indian tea such as Darjeeling tea or Chinese tea such as Keemun tea.
Of course, the most noticeable difference is the addition of bergamot oil in Early Grey which gives the tea its distinctive taste. The stronger English breakfast tea is usually consumed with milk in the mornings, while the lighter Earl Grey tea is more commonly served as an afternoon tea and taken black without milk.
The amount of caffeine in an English Breakfast teacup or mug will differ according to the brewing time and whether you are using loose leaf tea or a teabag. In general, the longer you brew your tea, the higher the caffeine content, with a cup of tea brewed for one minute having 19 mg of caffeine compared to 31 mg of caffeine if brewed for five minutes. Using a tea bag will reduce caffeine content by approximately 10 per cent.
Due to the popularity of English breakfast tea, it has become a natural choice to include in many fine food gift sets and gift hampers. This is indeed a drink that you can enjoy all year round at any time of the day, iced or hot, it is guaranteed to deliver a warm feeling of satisfaction to your loved ones.
If you are preparing a customised foodie gift basket including an organic English Breakfast tea tin is a safe bet to accompany other sweet and savoury goodies such as organic fruit jams, dark chocolate bars, hot chocolate tins, savoury biscuits and French cheeses.
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Seán Farrell – Founder, Chateau Rouge