The Battle Of Irish vs English Breakfast Tea

Irish vs English Breakfast Tea

Wondering what type of breakfast tea to drink? We give you the lowdown on Irish vs English breakfast tea. Which variety will come out on top?

Tea has been around for aeons. Since 2737 BC, according to Chinese legend. Nowadays, it’s a popular hot beverage.

Every 24 hours, over 159 million Americans sip on a cuppa. There are more than 1,000 varieties of tea.

The most common classifications are black, oolong, white, and green tea. When we narrow things down to Irish vs English breakfast tea, which comes out on top?

Let’s begin with a definition.

What is Breakfast Tea?

A black tea drink that’s more often than not consumed with milk. Sugar as well, if that’s your preference.

Hot tea is comforting and warming, so it’s no wonder global tea revenue is expected to grow each year by 6.9% until 2023.

Now, in terms of the tea leaves themselves, Assam, Kenyan, Ceylon, or Chinese could mean. They sometimes come from Indonesia, as well.

Breakfast tea is usually a blend. The result is a full-bodied cup of tea, that can be richer, lighter or more aromatic, depending on the ratios.

What’s the flavor profile of each type?

  • Assam tea: hailing from India, this one is robust and malty with an intense, bright color
  • Kenyan tea: African in origin, it’s a full-bodied and earthy option
  • Ceylon tea: winging its way from Sri Lanka, you’ll find this variety light and fragrant
  • Chinese tea: this Asian variation – usually Keemun – is mild, deep, and earthy
  • Indonesian tea: often from Java or Sumatra, the flavor is bold with moderate caffeine

These days, breakfast blends are consumed at any time of the day. Not just with your cereal or Full Englis, but being generally high in caffeine does still make it the ideal choice for that morning jumpstart.

As a cheeky little side note, breakfast tea is probably the most mixable when it comes to whizzing up a cocktail. It works well with aged spirits such as whisky and cognac; gin and vodka as well.

And it holds its own with spices. Chai tea anyone?

Now for the Irish vs English breakfast tea head-to-head.

English Breakfast Tea

Irish vs English Breakfast Tea
Cup of english tea with milk.

This well-known hot drink consists of a mixture of strong black teas. There’s no fixed ratio or recipe.

Different tea manufacturers use their own blend to include leaves from Assam, Kenya, Ceylon, China, and Indonesia. There are tons of combinations.

Sipping on English breakfast tea is a centuries-old British custom. It’s thought that Catherine of Braganza from Portugal brought the beverage to England when she married King Charles II in 1662.

Afternoon tea was customary at first. But by the mid-18th century, a stronger version was being drunk at breakfast too.

The style of blend has its origins in New York. Rewind to 1834: British immigrant Richard Davies started a tea company in the Big Apple. There, he marketed a fusion of Chinese and Indian black teas as English breakfast tea.

To this day, the general flavor profile is strong, malty, and full-bodied. But of course, each tea company produces breakfast tea with a different taste. It depends on their own specific blend.

Irish Breakfast Tea

irish tea vs english tea
An Irish-style tea break with soda farl and jam

This type has its roots in Ireland, with Samuel Bewley. Back in the mid-18th century, Irish breakfast tea was the drink of the wealthy.

It was expensive and only available to people with money. You could call it a status symbol.

Why you may ask? Partly because tea was grown in far-flung continents. And only a handful of small firms such as the British East India Company controlled its movement across the ocean.

Shipping costs were subject to weighty tariffs as well. Enter Samuel Bewley.

In 1935, he decided to directly import 2,099 chests of tea from Canton in China to Dublin. That risky and bold move paid off.

The middleman was cut out, a workable supply line was established, and tea costs fell. Fast forward to the 19th century and tea had become a popular drink across all classes in Ireland.

But what does it taste like?

The variety is predominantly Assam tea. So it leans towards a more robust, rich, and malty flavor.

But remember, depending on the brand you purchase, some types may include loose leaf tea from Ceylon, for example. Or Kenya. Or both.

Whatever the blend, drink it strong with plenty of milk. While we’re talking breakfast tea, let’s not forget to mention the Scottish variety briefly.

The lesser-known cousin tends to be the strongest of the three. It’s thought to have originated with a tea master by the name of Drysdale.

He saw a need for a heartier version of English breakfast tea and made it his mission to create a new blend. Since then, modern tea enthusiasts in Scotland have produced an even stronger type to cope with the country’s soft water.

Taste-wise, it’s woody and can be smoky too. And it’s heavy on Assam.

The Final Word on Irish vs English Breakfast Tea

Tea is the second most popular drink globally, with water coming in first. There are a lot of tea drinkers out there.

And many different types, from black to herbal tea. What’s the deal in terms of Irish vs English breakfast tea?

Both are black tea blends with their roots in history. The truth is, they can be quite similar, depending on the brand you buy.

One manufacturer’s Irish breakfast tea could be the same or similar to another’s English breakfast tea. As a general rule, Irish breakfast tea has a strong Assam component, making it the richer, maltier choice than English breakfast tea.

It comes down to the flavor profile you prefer. Rich, malty, aromatic, delicate, earthy?

We invite you to try a selection of breakfast tea blends and choose your favorite.

Irish Breakfast Tea Pros and Cons

Thumbs up


  • A strong tea
  • Can be drunk with milk and sugar
  • Heavy on the malty Assam component
Thumbs down


  • Less delicate and aromatic than its English sibling
  • Not as strong as Scottish breakfast tea
  • High in caffeine


  • Laura Evans is a sucker for the smell of freshly ground coffee beans and won't say no to a steaming mug of amber-hued Thai tea.