What is English breakfast tea?
English breakfast tea just might be the quintessential black tea. It’s a particularly good option for people who are new to tea, thanks to its versatility and low price point. Maybe you take your tea with a heavy splash of cream. Or perhaps you like it plain on its own. Either way, English breakfast tea is a robust and hearty option to add to your tea repertoire.
The best English breakfast teas are highly versatile. They hold up well to milk and sugar, especially when brewed strong. The blend is high in caffeine, making it an especially good early morning tea to drink in place of coffee. Hence, the name breakfast tea.
The tea’s origins date back to at least the late 18th Century when the English empire truly was the empire on which the sun never set. During this era, the English sourced teas from colonies in Asia and Africa. The term “English breakfast tea” is typically used to describe a blend of black teas that were grown in India (specifically, the region of Assam), Sri Lanka, and Kenya. The countries of origin may vary from brand to brand—for example, more expensive brands may source teas from China.
Still, one thing remains the same: that rich and toasty flavor that’s perfect for rainy day weather. Urban legend has it that Queen Victoria was, at least in part, responsible for the tea’s popularity in England.
The distinct blend of teas was developed in Edinburgh, Scotland. After sipping on the tea while on a trip nearby, the queen loved it so much that she brought it with her to England, where it became a quick hit. It became so popular as a breakfast tea in England that when it made its way elsewhere, international tea lovers labeled it English breakfast tea.
Some people may confuse English breakfast tea with Earl Grey tea, as both are highly popular black teas served with milk and sugar. However, English breakfast tea has a much more neutral flavor than Earl Grey. The latter has a distinctive citrus note, as teamakers perfume Earl Grey tea leaves with bergamot essential oil. While both are excellent, it’s important to note the difference between the two.
How to make English breakfast tea
Brewing a cup of English breakfast tea is simple. While the blend was specifically developed to pair well with a splash of milk and sugar, it also stands well on its own. We recommend trying it both ways to get a feel for how you best enjoy it—this is especially important if you’re new to the tea world. Tasting English breakfast tea plain, as opposed to with milk and sugar, will allow you to develop a better understanding of the tea’s characteristic flavor profile.
While tea bags make for an easy, convenient option (especially when you’re in a hurry), loose leaf tea tends to be freshest. Tea bags may go stale a bit faster, but that’s nothing to worry about. English breakfast tea is a strong and full-bodied option that’s highly shelf-stable. However, selecting whole leaf teas is one of the best ways to ensure a decadent and rich flavor profile.
There are two main ways English breakfast tea can be served: piping hot or chilled over ice. This tea is traditionally served hot, though serving it iced also works well, particularly in the hot summer months.
If you like your tea hot, the easiest way to prepare it is using an electric kettle, preferably one that has temperature settings. Pour a little bit more water into the kettle than you plan to drink, to account for evaporation when the tea begins to heat up—then, heat the tea to 208 degrees Fahrenheit. Add your tea (whether it’s loose-leaf or in a tea bag) to a mug or teapot and pour the hot water over it.
The ideal ratio of tea to water varies, but adding two teaspoons for every eight ounces of water is a good rule of thumb. Once the tea has steeped for five minutes, it should be ready to drink. Be careful not to steep it for much longer, otherwise, your tea may be a bit too bitter. Strain out the tea leaves and add milk and sugar as desired. Enjoy!
Iced tea is just as easy. With iced tea, you have a couple of different options. One of the most common involves brewing a concentrated hot tea and diluting it with water before chilling in the fridge. Usually, about twice as much tea is added when brewing iced tea in this manner.
Additionally, a method similar to brewing cold brew coffee has become somewhat popular in recent years. Tea leaves or tea bags can be added directly to room temperature water and left to chill in the fridge for about 12 hours. Both methods yield a hearty, full-bodied iced tea that’s perfect for cooling down and quenching your thirst on a hot day.
Best English breakfast tea brands
If you’re sold on this simple yet refined tea blend and looking to stock up on English breakfast tea, we’ve got you covered. The following tea brands are some of the definitive best English breakfast teas on the market right now—we recommend trying a couple of different brands out to see which one works best for you.
So without further ado, here are the best English breakfast teas you can buy right now.
You definitely can’t go wrong with Teapigs English breakfast tea. This blend of black teas sourced from Assam, Sri Lanka (or Ceylon, as it’s often known in the tea world), and Rwanda comes in at $25 for a box of 50 tea bags. That’s 50 cents per tea bag, making this tea an excellent, high-quality option for a relatively affordable price point.
Customer reviews note that this tea is a bit on the bitter end. We recommend adding a dash of milk and sugar to curb some of the bitter tannins in this blend. Lemon and honey are also nice additions, which play well with the pungent notes of the tea.
This Brooklyn-based tea company has been serving up some of the highest quality teas in the United States since 2006. All of Teapigs’ teas are available in tea bags. Unlike many other tea bags though, Teapigs uses whole leaves in their tea bags. This combines the convenience of a tea bag with the high quality and fresher flavors of loose tea.
If 50 cents per tea bag seems like a bit much, then Ahmad London English Breakfast tea might be the way to go. With Ahmad, you can get twice as many tea bags for just a little under $10, making this tea blend the perfect option for somebody new to the world of teas and not quite ready to spend a fortune on their breakfast tea.
Ahmad’s English breakfast tea consists of the traditional blend of Assamese, Sri Lankan, and Kenyan teas. If you prefer to drink your tea straight up—without milk or sugar, that is—Ahmad is also an excellent option. Since it has a milder flavor profile, it works well on its own and you won’t have to worry about over-steeping and winding up with a bitter and astringent brew.
Davidson’s Organics prides itself on being a “leaf-to-cup” tea company. The company is vertically integrated and works closely with its tea farms in India to ensure consistent, high quality in every mug of its tea. Like all of the company’s teas, their English breakfast tea is 100% organic. It’s also a great starter tea for those interested in sipping on a decadent loose tea.
16 ounces of Davidson’s Organics English breakfast tea will cost you just $15. For loose leaf tea, that’s a steal—for convenience’ sake, you may also want to stock up on a package of empty tea bags.
Dating back to 1706, Twinings offers a classic English breakfast tea blend. English breakfast tea is one of the company’s most popular tea offerings—and for good reason too. Sourcing their teas from five regions across the globe (Malawi, Kenya, Assam, China, and Indonesia), Twinings serves up a truly eclectic and cosmopolitan English breakfast tea. Perfect with a splash of milk and a spoonful or two of sugar, this is one of the most authentic English breakfast teas you can find. Additionally, Twinings offers a decaffeinated option for you to enjoy any time of day.
The company has a history almost as rich as a cup of their English breakfast tea. Founded at the turn of the 18th Century, Twinings started in a coffee house on The Strand in London. A little over a decade later, it evolved into the city’s first tea shop. More than 300 years later, the company has expanded significantly, and its teas remain popular throughout England and the rest of the world.
Among the pricier options on the list, Harney & Sons is also one of the most flavorful and unique. Packaged and shipped out of Millerton, New York, Harney & Sons’ English breakfast tea is sourced from China. As this is a loose tea, it’s a bit more full-bodied than most bagged teas. Harney & Sons also offers a box of 20 tea bags for a slightly higher price per ounce.
The blend consists mainly of Keemun tea, a well-known Chinese black tea. Unlike most of the other teas on this list, Harney & Sons’ English breakfast blend is best without milk and sugar. This is because Keemun teas, like most other Chinese black teas, are traditionally served without any additives. It also has stronger floral undertones than other blends of English breakfast tea.
Still, it’s packed with robust, malty notes that are a perfect way to start your day. It’s also got more than enough caffeine to replace your daily mug of coffee and wake you up early in the morning.
This is one English breakfast tea you’ll want to try. It’s extremely versatile and pairs well with milk and sugar or even a squeeze of lemon juice. Taylors of Harrogate has been in the tea industry since 1886. Like Twinings, it’s a ubiquitous purveyor of teas in the United Kingdom, making this a particularly authentic option. This blend of teas from India and East Africa is also notable for its refreshing flavor profile. As a result, it works particularly well for tea lovers looking for an iced tea option.
This is another option that’s highly popular in the UK. Likewise, Tetley’s English breakfast tea is an excellent option for tea newbies, as it’s got a toasty, authentic flavor profile. Tetley has been in the tea game for nearly two centuries now. Their English breakfast tea is proof that—at some point in those 200 years—they figured out just the right blend of Indian and African teas to use.
This tea has an especially malty flavor, thanks to the high proportion of Assam teas in the blend. A tasty classic, Tetley’s English breakfast blend pairs well with milk and sugar for this very reason.
Tazo is to tea what Starbucks is to coffee. Based in Portland, Oregon, Tazo is a bit of a newcomer to the tea industry, especially when compared to the British mainstays above. Still, the company’s popularity skyrocketed in the late ’90s, after it was purchased by Starbucks. A consistent, relatively high-quality blend, Tazo is perfect for newcomers who’d like to develop an appreciation for English breakfast tea before making any huge investments. Full-bodied and flavorful, Tazo’s English breakfast tea has just the right amount of flavor (and caffeine!) for you to ditch the Starbucks coffee and go for the brighter, more invigorating option.
If you’re looking for a simple, high-quality option, Stash’s English breakfast tea bags are a great option. Stash uses foil-wrapped tea bags, to keep the tea sealed away and protected from air. This way, the company ensures that your English breakfast tea is convenient to brew, but won’t go stale as fast as other tea bags.
There’s one other thing we love about Stash: they offer their English breakfast tea in both caffeinated and decaffeinated options. Stash has you covered if you want to enjoy a mug of tea late at night but don’t want the caffeine rush that comes along with it. And even though the decaf option lacks caffeine, it certainly doesn’t lack in flavor. This is a satisfying option with a malty, toasted flavor profile that’s tasty both ways.
PG Tips claims to be “England’s No. 1 tea,” and they just might be onto something. With a blend of black teas from Assam, Sri Lanka, and Kenya, this is a great example of an authentic English breakfast tea. Unlike the other English breakfast teas on this list, you’ll want to note the shorter brewing time. It takes just three minutes to get a tasty mug of PG Tips’ English breakfast tea.
Additionally, PG Tips’ English breakfast tea is Rainforest Alliance Certified. This means that you can drink this cup of tea and rest easy knowing that the tea was harvested ethically.
This tea is a popular American brand that packs a punch. Having served tea lovers for more than half a century, Bigelow is a trusty option at an affordable price. With their foil-wrapped tea bags, rest assured that this English breakfast tea is packed full of flavor. If you drink it iced, this is a particularly good option for Southern-style sweet tea. Whether it's hot or iced, Bigelow offers a reliable, antioxidant-filled English breakfast tea.
Vahdam uses single-origin Indian tea for its English breakfast tea, making this a particularly unique option. If you want a nice loose leaf option, Vahdam is the way to go. The company’s product is a little bit on the expensive end, at about $1.75 per ounce. It’s well worth it, however, as you can brew more than 200 cups of tea with the standard 16-ounce bag.
Plus, if you have any interest in brewing kombucha, this tea will come in handy. Vahmad notes that their English breakfast tea is a good fermentation base for homemade kombucha. Customers also seem to enjoy using this tea for their kombucha.
This brand claims that their English breakfast tea is the “perfect pick-me-up.” That’s because Choice Organics’ English breakfast tea has a moderately high level of caffeine. If you need something to wake you up in the mornings—or get through late nights of work—this is the brand for you.
Customers commend this brand for its exquisite flavor, as it lacks the bitter notes of some lower-quality options. It’s also a great option if you prefer the convenience of tea bags, as the brand’s foil-wrapped tea bags prevent it from going stale after a short time.
Whether you’re new to tea or a longtime tea lover, you’re sure to find an English breakfast tea you enjoy among all these options. The above teas make for an excellent addition to any tea cabinet, so be sure to stock up now! And be sure to get some rich, flaky cookies—ahem, biscuits—ready to serve alongside your favorite brew.