Monday, March 31, 2008

English Breakfast

English Breakfast tea is my all-time favorite. It is always a black tea blend, and it is meant to be prepared with milk and sugar. Black tea rests best with me in the mornings (probably because of the caffeine!). And, really, there's just something about the name "English Breakfast" that says "If you're drinking this in the morning, you are doing the right thing."

The heart of any meal named an "English breakfast" is bacon and eggs. Yet, you'll find that no matter how you prepare a cup of English breakfast tea, it won't taste like bacon and eggs! Apparently, it was so named because it was/is specifically blended to go well with an English breakfast, and to be prepared in the style of the English. An entertaining, informative article on the subject can be read at Ask Mr. Breakfast.

Mr. Breakfast claims that "When blended with milk, [English Breakfast tea] produces a comforting aroma eerily similar to warm toast and honey." I can't say I've had that experience, but I am aware that different English Breakfast teas have slightly different tastes, and thus scents. Tea in general is a comforting thing, but moreso the English Breakfast tea. And it's all about the preparation:

Warm milk is a source of comfort and security for babies. I believe that the addition of milk to a warm cup of tea does something to soothe a person's deep unconscious by bringing him back to that day when milk could solve all problems.

Sugar is cheering. It makes you happy. It gives you energy. The tea doesn't have to actually be sweet - in fact, too much sugar will confuse your taste buds, and you won't get the full flavor of the tea itself!

So we have, in one cup, the following:

  • Caffeine, to keep you awake for your responsibilities of the day.

  • Warm milk, to calm your nerves and prepare you for your day.

  • Sugar, to provide a bit of instant energy, a "spark" as you go in to work or as you begin your daily responsibilities.

  • Tea, to hydrate and refresh you, to give you that five minutes of breathing time before you rush off to work (or to clean the house, or make breakfast for the kids)

I think you'll agree that this is a pretty amazing combination to have in one cup. This is really what you need to start your day, every day! Here are some very basic instructions for the new English Breakfast tea-drinker.

  • Water temperature: Boiling! Not boiled, not almost-boiling. Really, really hot.

  • Use a regular size mug or tea cup - nothing too big for this first cup, so the proportions of milk and sugar won't be off.

  • Put an English Breakfast tea bag into the mug and pour the boiling water over it, leaving about an inch of space at the top of the mug.

  • Let it steep at least 4 minutes. It shouldn't get too bitter, and the sugar and milk will help any over-steeping that happens, so don't be afraid to make it dark!

  • Remove the tea bag. Stir in 1-2 teaspoons of sugar. I like less sugar; others like more. If you are using a smaller tea cup, I would definitely go with less sugar. You can always add more later if you think it needs it!

  • Milk: This is a toughie for me. I don't actually know how much milk I pour in! Generally I pour in milk until the tea is the "right" color, but that is subjective. I did about two minutes of internet research and couldn't find a lot of opinions. So experiment. Pour in enough milk for the level of liquid to rise about 1 centimeter. Swirl it with a spoon and take a sip.

At this point, consider the strength of the tea, the sweetness, and the taste of the milk. If you aren't enjoying the taste, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • I prefer some brands of English Breakfast tea over others. Stash is the kind I drink most often. It might be worth it to experiment with different brands, though I haven't done a lot of experimenting myself. I found one I liked and stuck with it!

  • If you are new to tea, feel free to overdo the sugar and the milk. In fact, English Breakfast might be one of the most friendly teas for new drinkers.

  • I use real sugar. Here I'm going to be a snob and say you should too! If you are diabetic or cannot consume sugar for health reasons, I have no recommendations for you - would you experiment and let me know if there is still a way to enjoy this tea? Of course, some people forego the sweetner altogether, and I think if the milk were done right it would still be a satisfying cup.

  • I use whole milk. Not cream. Not skim. 2% I have used before with only mildly disappointing results. Here my snobbishness comes through again - please, please use whole milk! You have to be able to taste it in the tea!

Order Stash English Breakfast Tea online!

Please tell me about your experience with English Breakfast tea, and if you have any additional comments (especially if you are a bigger snob than me!) - theteasnob at


Sir Brian The Manly said...

Good heavens...who knew so much could be said about tea?

Amber said...

And I thought I tried to keep it short!

April said...

Thank you for this!

Jonah Faulkner said...

What's particularly wrong with 2% milk as opposed to whole milk? I drink my Tazo brand English breakfast tea with 2% milk and unprocessed sugar. :)
What should I try instead?

AshasMom said...

I really enjoyed this article. I'm lactose intolerant, so I will try almond milk in mine. Thanks for the info!

mark splinter said...

Ha! The tea snob had to do an internet search about adding milk? Sounds like a typical snob....

Aangrox007 said...

My Boyfriend likes milk in his tea, I've never tried it... However I think he should probably heat up the milk first because it curdles when you add the cold whole milk to the tea. I'm lactose intolerant though, so I'll drink it with vanilla almond milk for an extra twist - haha. Gonna try it! Thanks for this!

Berry Berry said...

Always been kinda scared to try English Breakfast being how intimidating the name is, however this article definitely gave me the greenlight! Lol

Mario Carbajal said...

Hey, I thouroughly enjoyed reading your post, very fun. I really enjoy black tea myself, came in to see if I was preparing it correctly and you´ve confirmed that I am. I sometimes use natural honey to sweeten this drink, you should try it, highly recommended.

Unknown said...

A a girl who has been drinking tea since before she could walk, I can confirm that it doesn't curdle