English breakfast tea is a tea blend which is designed to pair with the traditional English breakfast, which includes a range of very heavy, hearty foods. This tea tends to include strong, robust varieties of tea which blend together to create a full, rich flavor. Many English tea companies produce an English breakfast blend, and this tea is typically readily available in markets, in both loose and bagged form.
The varietals of tea used in English breakfast tea blends vary, but Assam, Ceylon, and Keemun teas are popular, along with some Kenyan teas. These teas are well known for producing robust teas which tend to be dark and strong, especially when brewed on the long side of the brewing window for black teas, which is around three to five minutes. When brewed, English breakfast tea has a very distinctive scent, which many people say reminds them of warm toast and honey, and it pairs well with cream and sugar.
The traditional English breakfast is no small potatoes, literally. It includes a wide assortment of meats and pastries, along with several vegetables, and ample amounts of condiments. Black tea can be beneficial for digestion, which might be useful after eating a classic English breakfast, and it also helps people wake up and get ready for the day. This tea blend is often high in caffeine for this very reason.
The origins of English breakfast tea are a bit obscure. Tea proved to be a big hit in England and in the rest of Europe when it was introduced from Asia, although as a general rule, only the upper classes could afford to drink the beverage. English breakfast may actually have its origins in Scotland, where legend has it that a tea purveyor named Drysdale came up with a blend he labeled as “Breakfast” in the mid-1800s, to make it clear that the tea was meant to be paired with the morning meal, perhaps. At any rate, the concept of a “breakfast” blend caught on, and in addition to English breakfast, it is also possible to find Irish breakfast tea, which has a different feel and flavor.
Brewing English breakfast tea isn't rocket science. Ideally, you should use loose leaf tea, because it tends to be of higher quality, resulting in a better flavor and less of the tannins which make black tea so bitter. The tea leaves can either be thrown into a pot or placed into a strainer, depending on one's taste, and ideally the pot or cup the tea is being brewed in should be warmed with a quick swill of boiling water before boiling water is poured over the tea and allowed to steep for three to five minutes. Do not steep tea longer to make it stronger, as this will only result in a bitter tea; just use more tea leaves for a stronger tea.