What Is English Breakfast Tea?

What is English breakfast tea, and what makes it different from other blends? Learn the answers in our guide for English breakfast tea lovers.

What is English breakfast tea

Not many cultures love their tea as much as the British. Their favorite blend is a black tea variety that can be enjoyed with milk, sweetener, or just on its own with hot water.

That tea is, of course, English breakfast tea. It can be found in kitchen cupboards throughout England and worldwide. But what is this tea, and how does it differ from other popular black teas? Read our quick guide to find out more.

Origins and Evolution of the Blend

English breakfast tea originated in the late 19th century when a Scottish teamaker called Robert Drysdale decided to create a strong tea that would pair perfectly with a hearty English breakfast. Tea drinkers enjoyed this drink and were given the moniker ‘breakfast tea.’ Perhaps it should be called Scottish Breakfast Tea instead, considering its history.

Reportedly, Queen Victoria tried the tea while visiting Balmoral in Scotland and was enamored with it. English breakfast tea does not have a set recipe, with variations on blends depending on the tea company. You might also be wondering, what is holy basil tea?

Ingredients of English Breakfast Tea

English Breakfast tea is usually a blend of black tea leaves that come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Most of the time, it will have a combination of Assam, Kenyan, and Ceylon blends. Very high-quality or expensive versions of it may also include Keemun tea. 

The blend of black teas in English Breakfast usually comes from India and Sri Lanka. Of course, a blend might also contain leaves from other parts of the world, such as Africa, China, and Indonesia.

After you brew the tea, you can enhance the flavor profile of the breakfast tea blend by adding sugar or other sweeteners, milk, or cream. Traditionally this drink would also be enjoyed with a sweet snack.

Flavor Profile of English Breakfast Tea

Strong and moderately caffeinated, an English breakfast-style blend is usually drunk in the morning and complements a traditional, hearty English breakfast. However, despite its name, fans also drink this tea during the working day. People describe it as having an oaky, intense flavor.

English breakfast tea with cookies
It’s usually drunk in the morning and complements a traditional, hearty English breakfast

English breakfast tea is not to be confused with Irish breakfast tea, which has a more malty taste. Read our guide comparing Irish versus English breakfast tea.

Tea drinkers on the go may appreciate having a cold brew version of this drink. You must budget for a longer prep time to make this cold brew breakfast blend. Still, it’s easy to make, and the iced tea version has a lighter flavor than the traditional brewing method.

Making Chai Or a Latte with English Breakfast Tea

You can also try making chai with English Breakfast tea at home. Combine cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves. Grind them in a mortar and pestle. Then, grind pieces of ginger too.

Boil these ingredients in hot water and add brown sugar and English Breakfast tea. If that’s not to your taste, you can also brew your English breakfast tea like you would make a latte. For this variant, you would fill your cup halfway with boiling water.

Put two bags to steep at the bottom of it since you’ll want the flavor to be noticeable through the milk. On the side, start steaming the milk. You can use a traditional espresso machine steamer to make it hot.

If not, you can do it in a French press or on the stovetop. 

Health Benefits of English Breakfast Tea

It may have health benefits for your heart by reducing your cholesterol levels. It also contains antioxidants and minerals like potassium, magnesium, folate, and more. Finally, it has flavonoids, which help reduce inflammation that leads to heart disease. 

Regarding caffeine content, a cup of English Breakfast can contain upwards of 47 mg per cup of black tea. Compare that to green tea, which usually has about 30 mg per cup. Thus, it’s easy to see why drinking tea in the morning is viewed as a viable alternative to coffee in the United Kingdom and further afield.

How to Brew English Breakfast Tea

You can brew this tea directly in the cup, or if you prefer, you can use a traditional teapot. Apart from the tea, all you will need is recently boiled water and whatever additions you plan to add to your cup of brewed English breakfast tea.


  • 1 teaspoon of English breakfast tea leaves per cup
  • Freshly boiled water
  • Optional: Milk and sugar to taste

1. Prepare Tea Bags or Leaves

If you have loose-leaf tea, you can load a teaspoon into a tea ball. Since loose leaves have room to expand in water, the flavor will tend to be of higher quality than bags. Still, it can take a bit more effort to prepare it that way. 

If you don’t have the time to prepare it for a long afternoon tea, tea bags will do. As a rule of thumb, match the number of tea bags you put to how many cups it will serve. Then, add an extra tea bag to the pot for extra measure.

2. Boil Some Water

For tea to brew correctly, you need near-boiling water. In a perfect cup of tea, you can see the colors instantly leak from the bag when it meets the boiling water. You can boil water on a stove or with a cheap kettle or you could go all out and buy one of these expensive tea kettles! If you’re using a teapot, a good rule of thumb is one teaspoon per cup, plus one extra teaspoon “for the pot”.

3. Pour Over and Steep The Tea

Bring your water to a boil and then wait a moment. Water at a boiling point may burn the tea leaves. Then, pour the water over your cup with a teabag.

Or, if you have a teapot, you can pour it there with a tea ball inside. Then, leave it steeping for three to five minutes. However, steeping for too long can make the tea taste bitter. So, remove the tea bag or tea ball and stir.

4. Strain Into a Cup

If you’re using a teapot, you can strain it into a cup. If you’ve made the tea directly in the cups, remove the leaves using a spoon or a small strainer.

5. Flavor With Milk Or Snacks

English breakfast tea pairs nicely with cakes, bread, and jams. In traditional British customs, you first pour the cream into your cup. Then, you’d add the hot tea.

Finally, combine it with your favorite sweetener or sugar, and enjoy!

Are you looking to have an afternoon tea? Then consider pairing your drink with sweets like cakes, bread, and jams. You’ll have the perfect cup of tea and the perfect refreshing meal.

Trying English Breakfast Tea

Earl grey tea in a glass cup
Early Grey is another popular British brew

English breakfast tea is a tea lover’s dream; a caffeinated herbal tea option that can help set you up for the day and has several health benefits. It’s a type of tea that can only be truly appreciated by trying it for yourself. Early Grey is another popular British brew.

To find out more, read our article comparing Early Grey vs English Breakfast tea.

FAQ About What Is English Breakfast Tea

Is English breakfast tea just black tea?

English breakfast tea is typically a blend of black teas and is often served with milk and sugar. The combination of teas vary, but it often includes Assam, Ceylon, and Kenyan teas.

What is special about English breakfast tea?

English breakfast tea is famous for its robust flavor and full-bodied taste. It’s also part of British culture and history. Queen Victoria was a famous English breakfast tea drinker.

Today, it’s widely drunk in the United Kingdom in coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and at home.


  • Cian Murray

    Cian Murray is an experienced writer and editor, who graduated from Cardiff University’s esteemed School of Journalism, Media and Culture. His work has been featured in both local and national media, and he has also produced content for multinational brands and agencies. Find Cian on muckrack.com.