Exploring English Breakfast Tea

English Breakfast tea is very popular in England, but it is also enjoyed worldwide. More often than not it is available as an option when shopping for tea, so one might find it easy to dismiss it as just an average, common tea.

While popular, English Breakfast tea is not just any other tea. Aside from it being delicious, it is culturally important and has a long history. To start, let’s dive right into what exactly English Breakfast Tea is, then we’ll take a look at its history and how best to enjoy it.

What is English Breakfast Tea?

English Breakfast tea is a blend of different black teas. There is no one, exact recipe for how many different black teas need to be blended to make an English Breakfast tea. There is also no rule for where exactly the black tea leaves need to come from, though they commonly come from East Africa, Ceylon, and Assam.

How Did English Breakfast Tea Come to be?

English Breakfast tea was originally just known as breakfast tea. It is believed that a Scottish tea master came up with the original blend for a breakfast tea as a means to provide tea drinkers with a stronger blend of tea in the morning. Because it was made with morning consumption in mind, that tea master called his tea breakfast tea.

When exactly we started to call it English Breakfast tea is hard to say. One theory is that some time in the late 1800’s Queen Elizabeth of England visited Scotland and fell in love with breakfast tea. When she left to return to England, she brought a box of it home with her. Though we can’t say when exactly breakfast tea’s name changed, we do know this was when it was introduced to England.

English Breakfast Tea Today

In modern times English Breakfast tea is still commonly found in English kitchens. It is well loved for a large number of reasons. Taste, ease of brewing, caffeine content, and shelf life are just some of the reasons this tea has had such enduring popularity.

What Does English Breakfast Tea Taste like?

English Breakfast tea is a bold, full bodied tea. There are other breakfast teas out there, and English Breakfast tea is typically bolder than them. It is also a rich tea and somewhat milder than other breakfast teas.

There are several ways to enjoy English Breakfast tea. A lot of people feel this tea stands on its own just fine and prefer to drink it black. Others will add some milk and sugar to it, which works well with English Breakfast tea. Personally, I love to have mine black with a slice of lemon in it. The citrus adds a little brightness to this otherwise bold tea.

How Hard is it to Brew?

English Breakfast tea is very easy to brew. You can find this tea in pre-packaged tea bags or you can buy loose leaf tea. If you opt to use pre-packaged tea bags, you really don’t need any special tools at all. Simply boil water and add it to a cup, then steep the tea bag in the cup of hot water for three to five minutes. Remove the tea bag then add anything else you would like to your tea and enjoy!

If you do opt to use loose leaf tea, the process is essentially the same. The only difference is you will need a tea strainer to put your loose leaf tea into. The tea steeps in the cup of hot water in the tea strainer instead of a tea bag, so you will still steep the tea for three to five minutes.

Either of these methods will produce essentially the same cup of tea, they just come with a few small differences. Pre-packaged tea bags are very convenient and take the guesswork out of how many tea leaves you want to add to your tea strainer. However using loose leaf tea gives you more control over the flavor your tea by giving you the option to add exactly how many tea leaves you want.

Does it Have a lot of Caffeine?

English Breakfast tea has a reasonable amount of caffeine. A standard cup of this tea contains 42 mg of caffeine. By comparison, a standard cup of coffee is roughly 95 mg of caffeine. At first glance it might seem like that is a pretty big difference, and that you might keel over if you have that little caffeine to start your morning. However 42 mg of caffeine is still a reasonable amount of caffeine, and you do always have the option of adding another tea bag to your cup if you are more concerned about your caffeine intake.

What About Calorie Content?

English Breakfast tea, when drank black, has a whopping zero calories per cup. Adding milk, sugar, or anything else will of course change how many calories are in your tea. Black tea is a great option for a caffeine boost in the morning if you are concerned about your daily calorie intake.

How Long is English Breakfast Tea Good For?

If stored properly, English Breakfast tea can stay fresh for months. That being said, even if you do not store your tea properly, it likely still won’t go bad so much as it will get stale. It will change the flavor profile when you brew it, and it will make a weaker cup of tea, but it doesn’t technically expire.

Of course, if you leave your tea exposed to heat and moisture, there is always the chance that it may become contaminated. But your average tea bag left in a cabinet at room temperature should be fine to drink for months, even if it does eventually go stale.


English Breakfast tea is popular for several reasons, not least of all its bold, full bodied flavor. It is very easy to brew and there are several ways to prepare it, whether that is by adding milk and sugar or some lemon. It has a good amount of caffeine and stores well too.

It’s easy to see why this tea’s popularity has endured over the years. One final note is that this is a very accessible caffeinated beverage. It requires no special practice or tools to brew and is commonly found in most grocery stores. Try it with a slice of lemon!