The British and American concept of ‘Breakfast Tea’ is said to stem originally from a marketing strategy: advertising a new blend of black teas designed as an alternative to established "afternoon" tea brands. Practically, of course, there was little difference between the two styles, but Breakfast Tea has nevertheless become one of the most familiar types of black tea in the west, and is now drunk at all times of the day, all over the world.
But Breakfast Teas are also a product of industrialization: a mix of black tea leaves from colonial-style plantations, carefully blended for consistent flavor and shipped in masse to a grocery store near you. As with other mass produced teas, they often fail to deliver on flavor, and instead offer potent bitterness with a side of astringency. These shortcomings are typically remedied with milk, sugar, spices, or even artificial flavorings. Is there a better option?
A Better Tea
Truth be told, the mediocre examples with generic “Breakfast Tea” labels are only a common example of black teas with bold flavor. There are, in fact, many better quality alternatives with satisfyingly rich flavor and much less bitterness.
Premium Breakfast blends are also sold loose, and may include higher quality, “tippy” tea leaves, picked in the spring, that add sweetness and complexity to the brew. In China, the well-known Keemun tea is often dubbed the ‘original’ English Breakfast, as one of the earliest black teas to be exported to England. Though Keemun possesses all the familiar notes of a modern British black tea, the relatively temperate climate of Qimun County, Anhui slows the growth of the plant. This gives this Chinese version a sweeter and less astringent flavor than typical blends featuring Assam or Ceylon teas from India and Sri Lanka.
If you’re looking to cut the milk or sugar from your breakfast tea, single origin black teas from traditional Chinese regions are easy to brew, without bitterness or astringency. In China, where dairy products are uncommon, these black tea styles have been cultivated and refined to taste good even without additives. Try the golden spring buds of Gold Thread Reserve for a rich, malted texture and flavor notes of brown sugar and molasses. Or inhale the honey-like aroma of our bug bitten Formosa Red Assam, Mi Xiang and taste bold fruity notes in every sip.
A Better Brew
Loose leaf options may have better flavor, but they lack the convenience factor of familiar tea bags. Great tea leaves don’t make better tea if they’re shoved to the back of the cupboard. What’s the best way to make these incredible flavors an easy part of your daily breakfast routine? Does it really need to be harder than dousing a tea bag with boiling water?
If the convenience of tea bags is important to you, stick with what works. For better tea leaves in a familiar package, try our Golden Monkey, First Pick Tea Bags. The spring harvested black tea inside is one of our favorite morning options, thanks to its naturally sweet flavor with hints of cocoa. We selected it for our limited line of tea bags, as the ‘First Pick’ leaves of this tea ensure that it will never become bitter, no matter how long the bag is left in your mug.
Unfortunately, tea bags will never offer the full range of options available in loose leaf form. For further exploration, a simple straining system like our Glass Infuser Mug can make it easy to brew any tea, and take advantage of the opportunity for multiple infusions of the same leaves.
Alternatively, a small brewing vessel like the one in our Competition Brewing Set can offer a chance for a short tea routine and a moment to yourself in the morning. (Try adapting the steps from this guide for an evening tea routine to get started.) Brewing great tea doesn’t require a complicated process, but a moment of focus can enhance both the experience and the flavor.
Let us know in the comments below what you like to drink in the morning! Do you stick with a bold black tea blend or sip something completely different with breakfast?
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