What type of tea is English Breakfast?
English Breakfast is a black tea. This means that the tea leaves are completely oxidised. This oxidation happens just after picking, the same sort of natural process you see if you leave a banana on the side having taken the skin off. Oxidation turns the leaves from green to black, giving that traditional dark, copper colour associated with black tea.
But just being a black tea doesn’t make it an English Breakfast.
Tea grown in different parts of the world, and therefore different climates, can taste quite different. So to make English Breakfast it’s normal to blend different origins together to create a unique taste which fits the bill.
What does English Breakfast Tea taste like?
Before deciding where to source your tea it’s important to know what you want your blend to taste like. Whilst there are of course thousands of different combinations out there which all make for different English Breakfasts, there are some general principles that apply across the board.
First up is strength. A good English Breakfast tea should be strong and rich. Nice and punchy. But of course it should be really refreshing. It’s the perfect blend to wake up to for these two reasons, but also can be drunk all day long.
Of course in the UK English Breakfast also needs to stand up to milk, which can quite often wash out some lighter teas.
What’s in English Breakfast tea?
When we’re creating new blends we always start from the same place - what should this blend taste like? It’s an obvious principle, but it’s often forgotten. When Drinkers drink it, what are they expecting it to taste like? How do they want to feel?
This process naturally leads you to different areas of the world when sourcing tea for different blends - all because the different climates make for different tasting tea.
To ensure we have strength there is no better place than Assam in North East India. The conditions here make for rich and malty black tea which is going to deliver on strength and stand up to a glug of milk really well. Plus it’s going to give a lovely colour when it’s brewed.
Then we have the refreshment side. For this we blend in a Ceylon tea. Tea grown in Sri Lanka is widely regarded as refreshing and smooth and like Assam, also takes milk really well. It rounds out our English Breakfast blend perfectly - balancing the gung-ho nature of a straight up Assam.
This Assam and Ceylon combination for English Breakfast is hugely popular across many brands - each using different estates and different grades of leaf - from dust to full on rolled whole leaves.
The Best English Breakfast tea.
Clearly we think ours is the best. But we recognise that tea is hugely personal. Hence there is really no “best English Breakfast”, but there is plenty of rubbish out there to avoid. Here’s a run down of what to look for.
Rolled Whole Leaves
For us you should look no further than rolled whole leaves. These are larger leaves which are traditionally processed to lock in as many essential oils as possible. Because of their traditional processing methods they benefit from having the best selection of leaves from the estates. These larger leaves hold the richest flavours and have less bitterness than the dust which is used in standard tea bags.
To be clear - you won’t find proper rolled whole leaves in paper tea bags. The leaves are both too big to fit inside and even if they did there is no room for them to absorb water, expand and release flavour into the cup.
To get a true English Breakfast flavour it’s essential to have that strong, refreshing taste. Note that doesn’t mean bitterness. Often confused with strength, bitterness comes from too much tannin in the cup of tea.
We’ve already said that the best tea for English Breakfast comes from Assam. For us if you don’t see “Assam” on the ingredients list then you should steer clear. Nothing else comes close.
Quite often you’ll see the phrase “100% Black Tea” listed as the ingredients of a Breakfast blend. This isn’t a good sign. It allows the origins of the leaf in the blend to change from season to season - not just between local estates which is absolutely fine, but across into different countries too. Countries with different climates that often produce different flavours of tea. We always compare this idea to wine - you wouldn’t buy a nice bottle of red if the ingredients listed “100% Grapes”. Because of the regional flavours - tea is just the same.
A Word On Tea Bags
Perhaps the last thing you’re thinking about when buying tea bags is - “how much tea is inside this bag?”. But the amount of tea in the bag is going to have a direct effect on how it tastes.
Traditionally a standard British teabag had 3.125g of tea in it. However due to rising costs some of the bigger companies have started to reduce this.
Sadly the premium brands can unfortunately be the pretty shocking offenders too. We’ve seen as little as 2g of leaf per tea bag before now. This of course isn’t going to do the job for anyone (no matter how nice the tea) unless you’re brewing in an egg cup.
Lastly. You can have the best tea in the world, but if you don’t brew it correctly you’re not going to get it to taste just right.
Head on over to our brewing guides to check on the best way to brew.
So there you have it. Think rolled, whole leaves, quality tea and delicious malty flavour. You can’t go too far wrong. There are definitely some basic rules for a perfect English Breakfast - but after that it’s completely up to you.
Got a thirst for more tea knowledge? Find out who wins in the battle between Loose Leaf or Tea Bags, or impress your friends with exactly how to make a proper cup of tea. You’re welcome.