What is Irish Breakfast Tea?

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There are several different countries that have their own breakfast tea. Irish Breakfast tea may not be as well known as others such as English Breakfast tea, but it is special in its own right. It is a tea with its own history and its own special flavor. Before we start looking into it, we should explore what these breakfast teas in general are all about.

What is Breakfast Tea?

All breakfast teas are similar while each of them are still a little different from each other. Each of them are strong, full-bodied black teas. There are three different countries with Breakfast teas, England, Ireland, and Scotland.

While the name implies that Breakfast teas are supposed to be enjoyed in the morning, there is no rule or taboo that says these teas can not be enjoyed at any time of day. In fact, these teas are commonly consumed throughout the day.

What Makes Irish Breakfast Tea Different?

Irish Breakfast tea is a blend of different black teas. There is no rule that says exactly what black teas need to be blended to make Irish Breakfast tea, the most common blend is Assam and Ceylon teas. While it is a black tea, Irish Breakfast tea is well known for its deep red color once it is brewed. As far as flavor goes, it is a very rich tea with a malty flavor.

By comparison, English Breakfast tea isn’t quite as strong as Irish Breakfast tea. It typically has some Chinese black tea in it on top of Ceylon and Assam teas. Scottish Breakfast tea is stronger than Irish Breakfast tea and may contain tea from China, Africa, and Indonesia as well as the Assam and Ceylon teas found in Irish Breakfast tea.

Irish Breakfast Tea Origins

Tea was initially a luxury in Ireland and was often only enjoyed by the wealthy. It wasn’t originally grown in Ireland but was imported. At that time in the 18th century the East India Tea Company had a firm hold on the tea trade. If you wanted tea, you were most likely going to be buying it from them.

In the 1800’s a merchant named Samuel and his son decided they had enough of the high prices imposed by bigger tea traders. They imported thousands of chests of tea directly to Dublin instead of purchasing tea from a big tea trader like the East India Tea Company. By ordering tea directly without involving other companies, the prices of tea was drastically reduced making it more accessible for the average Irish citizen.

How to Brew Irish Breakfast Tea

Irish Breakfast tea is not particularly difficult to make and doesn’t require any special tools or unique skills. Start by bringing a pot of water to a boil on your stove. Add the boiling water to a teapot along with one teaspoon of loose leaf tea per person. Allow the tea to steep for three to four minutes then serve.

Traditionally, Irish Breakfast tea is served with milk and a lot of it. What’s interesting though is the way the milk is added. The milk isn’t added to the tea after it is poured, the milk is added to the cup and then the hot tea is poured over it. Originally, this was done because the fine china cups that were traditionally used were too fragile to have hot tea added to them.

The average cup of Irish Breakfast tea is filled one third of the way with milk. Of course you can add as much or as little as you like when you make your own tea, but that is the recommended amount traditionally used.

Even though people moved away from using fine china cups for their everyday tea consumption, they continued to add milk to their cups before adding their tea. Though it started as tradition, it is now recommended that you add milk to your cup before you add tea so that the milk heats more evenly.

Caffeine Content

Tea has a pretty wide range of caffeine content, but on the whole it tends to have much less caffeine than coffee. The average cup of coffee has about 90 mg of caffeine while the average cup of tea has about 30 mg of caffeine. Irish Breakfast tea is a little bit higher than that average with about 40 mg of caffeine per cup.

Part of the reason Irish Breakfast tea has a higher caffeine content is the way that it is brewed. Caffeine is absorbed from tea leaves faster at higher temperatures. Some tea leaves, like green tea leaves for example, are a little less hardy and can not be brewed with boiling water or it can cause the tea to become bitter. The tea leaves also can not be brewed for too long or it can affect the tea’s flavor.

Irish Breakfast tea on the other hand is brewed for significantly longer than other teas and it is brewed with boiling water. The leaves are sturdy so the boiling water does not ruin the tea’s flavor, and because they are sturdy and steep longer the water has more time to absorb caffeine from the tea leaves.


Tea is the most popular drink in Ireland, and Irish Breakfast tea is the most popular of those teas. In fact it is even estimated that the average Irish citizen drinks roughly 1300 cups of tea a year!

Irish Breakfast tea has a unique, malty, full-bodied flavor that isn’t found in other Breakfast teas. It also has a deep red color despite the fact that it is a black tea. Traditionally, this tea is enjoyed by pouring it over one third of a cup of milk. Considering how much Irish Breakfast tea the average Irish citizen drinks in a year, it’s safe to say this tea is worth trying!