english breakfast tea

The history of English Breakfast Tea

It’s practically impossible to talk about English cuisine and English culture without talking about tea.

The British love tea more than maybe anyone else on the planet, having woven it tightly into their entire culture and their entire national identity. Not only that, but they helped to spread tea culture all over the world when they expanded the United Kingdom – helping to turn India into one of the world’s leading producers of top-quality tea and exporting it all over the planet.

At the same time, it’s difficult to imagine any British tea being more iconic man your traditional English breakfast tea. Strong, hearty, and full-bodied this tea has quite a bit of caffeine in every cup and is certainly one of the most popular types of black tea you’ll find anywhere on the market today.

To learn a little bit more about everything that English breakfast tea has to offer, and why you might want to fold it into your daily morning routine ASAP, we’ve put together this quick guide.

Let’s dig right in!

What is English Breakfast Tea, Exactly?

The earliest history of English breakfast tea is a little bit muddy, but most historians agree that it is a tea blend first pioneered by a Scottish tea merchant and manufacturer in the late 1800s.

This Scottish man, a Robert Drysdale, was said to have been looking for an alternative to his morning coffee when he stumbled upon this exciting blend of black tea options.

The traditional version is usually made with Chinese tea, though every now and again even stronger Indian tea leaves are added into the mix, flooding the body with caffeine and energy without the dip or crash that traditional coffee beverages inevitably cause.

One of the true defining features of English breakfast tea is that it can be made from so many different kinds of tea leaves (black tea leaves) from China and from India but it should be constructed in such a way that the taste is almost universal across the board.

Another interesting little tidbit about English breakfast tea is that many claimed the best options available are actually made from dried, broken tea leaves as well as tea fannings and even tea dust. You have a hard time finding anyone willing to say the same thing about traditional green tea, that’s for sure!

How Much Caffeine Do You Get in a Mug of English Breakfast Tea?

When you get right down to it, the overwhelming majority of modern English breakfast tea options are looking for two things in specific – a consistent flavor and aroma profile that is very strong and very bold as well as sky-high caffeine levels to give you the jump and jolt you need to get started in the morning.

As a general rule, you should expect your average cup of English breakfast tea to contain anywhere between 30 mg and 60 mg of caffeine per serving. Sometimes you’ll find English breakfast tea with a slightly higher caffeine level than that, but very rarely will you find English breakfast tea that doesn’t offer at least 30 mg of caffeine in every individual serving.

Recently there have been a number of “decaffeinated” English breakfast tea options introduced to the market. And while these tea options definitely feature the same kind of flavor and aroma profile of the traditional beverage, the lack of caffeine stops them from being legitimate English tea but instead more of an approximation that tastes great but does not have the kick so many are after.

Highlighting the Different Types of English Breakfast Tea

As we made mention of earlier, it’s unique that the traditional English breakfast tea was actually pioneered by a man from Scotland – but it turns out that there are three different major “variations” of this cultural favorite throughout the United Kingdom.


The overwhelming majority of traditional English breakfast tea options are going to start off with base tea leaves from China, almost all of them of the black variety. The English really started to heavily import Chinese tea during the early 17th century, ramping things up throughout the 18th century, and then tapering off a little bit through the 19th century during the Opium Wars when an embargo was put in place.

In the 19th century the English started to turn to India for their black tea needs, oftentimes blending Indian tea with Chinese tea to get close to the traditional English breakfast tea flavor profile that they had become accustomed to.


Irish breakfast tea is incredibly strong but also has a very red appearance with a maltier flavor that’s quite a bit distinct from English breakfast tea. The caffeine levels in this kind of breakfast tea are little bit higher as well, leading to even more energy with Irish breakfast tea.


Scottish breakfast tea is often described as the richest and heartiest of all three options, but many believe this to have a lot less to do with the specific tea leaves that are selected and instead has a lot to do with the water that is used in Scotland.

Compared to England and Ireland Scottish water is very soft, allowing for the tea to more evenly diffuse when it has been steeped properly. This is going to produce a much more robust, much more upfront, and much more potent cup of tea almost every time – taking English breakfast tea to the next level.

Touching on the Biggest Benefits English Breakfast Tea Offers

There are a lot of benefits you’ll get out of drinking English breakfast tea on a regular basis, with the most significant benefits clearly outlined below.

  • (Almost) Instant Energy Without the Crash of Coffee

The most obvious benefit of drinking English breakfast tea is that you’re going to be flooding your body with almost instant energy, without the caffeine crash that you get with coffee that has been topped up with a bit of sugar.

The energy stimulants you’ll get out of English breakfast tea are slightly milder than what you get with coffee but are also much longer-lasting so that you get the kind of all-day energy that your after without peaks and valleys.

  • Flood Your Body with Antioxidants

You are also going to be able to flood your body with antioxidants and key flavonoids that help you to look and feel a lot younger. You’ll be able to push back against the aging process, restore your health and wellness, and feel more energized thanks to these key biochemicals.

  • Evens Out Blood Sugar Levels

Evening but your blood sugar levels (particularly if you are overweight, prediabetic, or suffering from diabetes) is of huge importance – and a lot of people aren’t all that keen on controlling your blood sugar levels with modern medicine and chemical cocktails cooked up in pharmaceutical laboratories.

The fact that English breakfast tea contains almost no calories and zero sugar is huge for those that want to better control their blood pressure levels to be sure.

  • Improves Your Immune System

Your overall immune system response is going to be greatly improved with regular consumption of English breakfast tea as well. Those antioxidants and flavonoids we highlighted earlier play a big role in this department, too.

You’ll be armoring your body against illness and disease while helping to more effectively fight back against any of the illnesses, infections, or diseases you are already contending with.

  • Supports Bone Density and Strength

English breakfast tea has high levels of phosphorus and magnesium in it, to huge building blocks when it comes to supporting strong and resilient bone structure. You’re also going to enjoy some pretty impressive circulatory benefits when consuming English breakfast tea on a regular basis that go a long way toward supporting bone density and strength, too.

  • Fights back Against Cancer and Kidney Stones

The research necessary to best understand how English breakfast tea is able to fight back against cancer and kidney stones (as well as a myriad of other diseases and illnesses) is still quite young, but the early indications point to this kind of tea being a very promising all-natural supplement to modern medicine.

  • Tips and Tricks for Brewing Better English Breakfast Tea

Making the perfect cup of English breakfast tea takes a little bit more time and effort than you might assume, but as long as you follow the tips and tricks we highlight below you should find the process a lot easier than you might have expected it to be.

  • Water Temp is Key

For starters, you’ll want the water temperature that you are going to steep your English breakfast tea in to be anywhere between 205°F and 210°F. This is just below the boiling point of water (212°F) and is critical if you don’t want to burn or boil out the essential oils that are such a big part of the special nature of this tea.

  • Steep Time is Essential

Secondly, you want to make sure that you aren’t steeping your cup of English breakfast tea for any longer than between three and five minutes. Beyond that point you start to see some serious diminishing returns and the oxidation of the tea as it hits the air is going to lower the quality of each cup considerably.

Steep quickly and consumed quickly to get the most out of everything English breakfast tea has to offer.

  • Milk and Sugar to Taste

English breakfast tea is delicious enough all on its own, but if you are going to add milk and sugar you’ll want to make sure you are doing so very judiciously. A drop of milk and a pinch of sugar goes a long way towards transforming this tea into something spectacular – but be sure you don’t go overboard.