What is English Breakfast Tea?

Thursday, 13 June 2019  |  The Tea Makers of London

What is English Breakfast Tea?

Our classic English Breakfast tea is from one of the largest tea exporters in the world, Sri Lanka. Read all about the tea's history and explore how the nation's favourite tea finally ends up in your cup alongside your very English breakfast!

A Brief History of English Breakfast and Tea Etiquette

English Breakfast tea and tea etiquette comes with its many tales of mysterious beginnings.

Some believe that the influence of sipping tea with breakfast derives from Queen Anne during the late 1600's.  Others believe that the famous breakfast tea blend was invented in Scotland (known then as 'Breakfast Tea'), and from there, it became popular throughout the 19th century through Queen Victoria's favouring, when it was marketed as 'English Breakfast' tea.  And, there are some who believe the blend was invented in the United States when British tea merchant, Richard Davies, implemented the comforting brew in American culture, in the late 1800's.  

However the tea phenomenon came to grace our palates, we do know that before and during the early 1900's, the British drank and imported black and green teas from China.

Before the East India Company was established (in mid 1830's), tea at the time was expensive. It was only an upper class luxury that began replacing the customary practice of drinking ale during breakfast times, as it increased in popularity. Over the years, as tea imports from India and Ceylon were increasing and significantly cheaper prices to that of the tea from British tea gardens, poorer people also started drinking tea. It was not long until drinking tea was implemented into everyday British culture, at breakfast times and during the day.

From then on, it is no surprise that drinking tea has also become a social practice, particularly when it comes to dining for afternoon tea with friends and family.

This is where tea etiquette is very important! Dine like the British upper class and follow these rules at your next tea party:

  • Always greet with a friendly handshake
  • Whilst seated, place purse on your lap or behind your back, against your chair back
  • Unfold your serviette on your lap
  • Spoon placement - the spoon always rests behind the cup and is never left in the cup
  • Whilst sipping, always look into your tea cup and never look over it
  • English Breakfast tea should  be served with milk or thinly sliced lemon. If your guests require sugar, ensure they put the sugar in first, then followed with tea and milk. Note, never put milk and lemon together!

TEA EDUCATION: Did you know that 'low tea' was in fact enjoyed by the aristocracy, and it was the working class who had 'high tea'?

The terms come from Queen Victoria's reign, where low tea was served on low plush sofas and low tables, similar to today's coffee tables. High tea was served on high chairs at a table. It is over the years that high tea has been adopted to sound upper class, when originally, it was the latter.

What is the production process of English Breakfast tea?

Originally, the English Breakfast blend was made from Indian and Chinese black teas.  However, over the years, Assam, African and Ceylon teas are blended to provide this authentic and smooth national brew, for tea drinkers alike in the mornings.

The Ceylon Tea industry celebrated 150 years this year and they know a thing or two about making a great cup! You can read more about the celebration in our other blog post.

The tea process begins with getting the best raw material, in this case, the succulent tea leaves and buds. The tea farmers then take them through a robust production process – which is a form of art, as well as science.

- The Process

The leaves are carefully withered, rolled and fermented. During the process of rolling, this is where the oxidation and fermentation takes places in black teas.

With contact to air, the tea leaves’ chemicals (flavonols) oxidise and form molecules (polyners) which help determine the character of the tea. The distribution of the polyners influences the strength, colour and briskness of the tea.

The process of fermentation follows, when the leaves turn copper-red brown and the tea’s unique fragrance starts to unfurl. This length of time is dependant on the variations of tea, but in Ceylon’s humid climate, this generally takes up to four hours. This ensures the liquor is strong and flavourful.

The leaves are then carefully dried in conditioned hot air; this makes the cell fluid stick to the leaves, giving them the dark brown colour you see before brewing them.

The finished loose leaf tea is then sorted by hand, delivered to The Tea Makers of London and then carefully placed in your cupboards!                           


The Tea Makers' English Breakfast

No, we are not biased when we say our English Breakfast Tea blend is simply divine, because it simply is!

Our exquisite, full-bodied breakfast tea blend beautifully captures the originality of traditional English Breakfast tea by offering a delicate balance of strength and flavour with an intrinsic smoothness.  We chose 100% pure orthodox (term referred to traditionally made teas) Ceylon teas for this blend because of its robust and full-bodied strength. With that warm caramel aroma and amber coloured hue, we know we provide the luxurious loose-leaf English Breakfast tea experience.

May we recommend, for maximum flavour and experience:

  • Boil water at 100°
  • Add 3-4g (1 teaspoon) of leaves to 200ml water
  • Let the tea steep for 3-5 minutes
  • Optional: add lemon or milk
  • Use our stylish Zenshi Double Walled Glass Cup

Our English Breakfast Tea also comes in practical biodegradable tea bags; to make your smooth experience as smooth as possible!

TEA EDUCATION: Tea cups did not always have handles! Chinese bowls actually influenced the first European teacups, and so were first made without handles. It was not until the mid 1700's that a handle was added, to prevent ladies at low tea from burning their fingers.


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The Tea Makers of London