English Breakfast Tea: What It is and Steps to Make It Properly

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English breakfast tea is one of the most popular teas in the world and it can be brewed hot or cold. Get step-by-step directions on how to make this black tea properly, from a certified Tea Sommelier.

English Breakfast tea in a mug.

What is English Breakfast Tea?

  • English breakfast tea is a blend usually made up of 2-3 different black teas. The blend of teas in an English breakfast tea can vary but it’s traditionally made using any combination of Assam, Ceylon, Keemun, or Kenyan black tea. English breakfast tea with Keemun is usually more expensive.
  • This tea is specifically made to be had with milk and sugar. It’s bold, full-bodied, and strong. There’s caffeine in English breakfast tea.
  • The most common story of the origin of English breakfast tea is that it was created by Scottish tea merchant Robert Drysdale in the late 19th century in America. Robert wanted a more affordable tea option and created his own using a blend of inexpensive black teas.
  • English breakfast isn’t the only breakfast tea but it’s definitely the most popular. There’s Irish breakfast tea which uses more Assam in the blend and Scottish breakfast tea, which is stronger than English breakfast to counteract the soft water in Scotland.

Make more teas properly like Earl Grey, matcha, jasmine, sencha, and chamomile.

Ingredient Notes

  • English breakfast tea
    Loose English breakfast tea is my go-to instead of tea sachets or tea bags since it’s better quality and it’s easy to adjust the amount of tea per cup.
  • Water
    I always use filtered water for making tea instead of tap since the tea tastes better with higher quality water.
  • Milk and sugar
    English breakfast tea is meant to be had with milk and sugar although it can be served without either.
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Photo Credit: williams-sonoma.com

The super chic Guy Degrenne Salam Insulated Teapot is made of porcelain and keeps tea warm with its removable felt-lined stainless steel cover.
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Steps to Make Hot English Breakfast Tea

Four photo collage showing steps to make hot English breakfast tea.

For complete brewing guide, full ingredients, and instructions, scroll to the bottom.

  1. Boil water.
    Using an electric kettle with temperature settings to boil water for tea makes it easy to get the water temperature just right. Boil more than needed since you want extra to warm up the teapot.
  2. Warm up teapot.
    Pour some hot water into the teapot and swirl it around a bit. Discard the water.
  3. Put English breakfast tea into the teapot and add hot water. Cover teapot and steep.
  4. Strain English breakfast leaves and pour hot tea into a teacup.
    Optional: Add milk and sugar.

Tea Sommelier’s Tip: Oversteeping can make your tea bitter so use a timer to make sure you don’t brew it for longer than needed.

Steps to Make Iced English Breakfast Tea

I’ve found that cold brewed tea makes for the best iced tea so I make all my iced teas this way — and you should too! Cold brewing creates a much mellower and smoother cup of iced tea.

Two photos showing steps to make cold brew English breakfast tea.
  1. Put English breakfast tea and water in a pitcher or glass container. Cover and place in refrigerator to cold brew.
    Use cool or room temperature filtered water.
  2. Strain English breakfast tea leaves and pour tea into a cup.
    Cold brewed tea is already chilled so adding ice is up to you. Optional: Add simple syrup and milk.

Expert Tips

  • Simple syrup (half water, half sugar) is the easiest way to sweeten iced tea since it’ll mix into the cold drink easily.
  • Since different English breakfast teas use slightly different blends, sample a few to find one you like best.
  • Always begin with fresh filtered water in the kettle, since reboiling water changes the mineral composition of the water and affects the flavor of the tea.
  • English breakfast tea can be brewed and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Keep it covered or airtight glass container or pitcher.
  • Loose tea and tea sachets should be stored in an airtight container away from light, odors, humidity, and heat.

Questions You May Have

What does English breakfast tea taste like?

English breakfast tea is full-bodied and robust with a slightly sweet note. It should be strong without tasting bitter and bold enough to retain its flavor even after adding milk and sugar.

Is there caffeine?

Yes, there is caffeine in English breakfast tea since all black teas have caffeine.

I don’t have loose tea, how many tea sachets or tea bags can I use instead?

Use 1 tea sachet (contains about 1.5 teaspoons of tea) or 1 tea bag (contains 1 teaspoon of tea).

What’s the difference between loose tea, tea sachets, and tea bags?

Loose tea is the highest quality of the three since they’re mostly whole tea leaves. Next in quality is English breakfast in tea sachets which are a mix of whole and broken tea leaves. Tea bags are the lowest in quality since the tea leaves are just tiny bits and tea dust.

Is English breakfast tea a real tea?

Yes, English breakfast tea is a real tea. For a tea to be a real or pure tea, it has to come from the camellia sinensis plant. Since English breakfast is a blend of black teas, it is a real tea.

Iced English breakfast tea in a cup.

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English Breakfast Tea

Author: Jee Choe
How to make hot & iced English breakfast tea properly.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 2 mins
Steep Time 5 mins
Total Time 7 mins
Course Drinks
Yield1 serving

INGREDIENTS
 

  • 1 cup water + more to warm teapot
  • 1 ½ teaspoons English breakfast tea or 1 tea sachet
  • 2 teaspoons milk (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS
 

  • Boil water.
    If using an electric kettle with temperature setting, set it to 208°F. Boil a little more water than needed so that it can be used to warm up the teapot. Filtered water is best.
  • Warm up teapot.
    Pour hot water into a teapot, halfway, and swirl it around a bit. Discard the water.
    Warming up the teapot is an extra step that all tea professionals take the time to do, so that when the tea steeps, the water temperature won't drop drastically.
  • Put English breakfast tea into the teapot and add hot water. Cover teapot and steep for 5 minutes.
  • Strain English breakfast tea leaves and pour hot tea into a teacup.
    Optional: Add milk and sugar.

NOTES

How to Make Cold Brew English Breakfast Iced Tea

  1. Put English breakfast tea and cool or room temperature water in a pitcher or glass container. Cover pitcher and place in refrigerator for 12 hours. Stir to make sure tea leaves get dampened by the water and isn’t sitting dry on top of the water surface. Use filtered water for a better tasting iced tea. 
  2. Strain English breakfast tea leaves and pour tea into a cup.
    Cold brewed tea is already chilled so adding ice is up to you. Optional: Add simple syrup and milk.

Brewing Guide

Hot English Breakfast Tea
  • TEA: 1 ½ teaspoons English breakfast tea or 1 tea sachet
  • WATER: 1 cup (8 oz.)
  • WATER TEMPERATURE: 208°F
  • STEEP TIME: 5 minutes
Cold Brew English Breakfast Iced Tea
  • TEA: 1 ½ teaspoons English breakfast tea or 1 tea sachet
  • WATER: 1 cup (8 oz.)
  • WATER TEMPERATURE: Cold water
  • STEEP TIME: 12 hours in the refrigerator

Tips

  • Use loose tea instead of tea bags for a better quality cup of tea.
  • For a stronger cup of English breakfast tea, add 1/2 teaspoon more of loose tea.
  • If you want to sweeten hot tea, you can use any kind of sweetener from sugar to date syrup, but for sweetening iced tea, always use simple syrup since it’ll be the easiest to mix into a cold drink.
  • Since different English breakfast teas use slightly different blends, sample a few to find one you like best.
  • Always begin with fresh water in the kettle, since reboiling water changes the mineral composition of the water and affects the flavor of the tea.
  • English breakfast tea can be brewed and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Keep it covered or airtight glass container or pitcher.
  • Loose tea and tea sachets should be stored in an airtight container away from light, odors, humidity, and heat.

NUTRITION

Calories: 22 | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 16mg | Sugar: 5g | Calcium: 11mg
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1 thought on “English Breakfast Tea: What It is and Steps to Make It Properly”

  1. The one point I’d change in your instructions is the order of pouring the tea into the cup and adding milk. Adding milk into the tea, rather than the tea into the milk, causes the milk generally to break up into smaller drops, resulting in a denaturation that can somewhat throw the flavor. Pouring the milk into the cup first on the other hand keeps this from happening.

    Now…the one point people who disagree with this tend to bring up is that pouring the milk in afterwards can better allow you to gauge exactly how much milk you’re adding, by looking at the color. There’s merit to this concern, but if you’re bothering to be this meticulous about how you brew your tea, it’s worth figuring out exactly how much milk you’d like to put in before hand (otherwise, you could just do what I do, and throw hot water over a PG tips sachet in a bag, pull it out whenever you get around to it, and drown it in sugar and milk afterward).

    Reference on the science: https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2014/oct/03/how-to-make-tea-science-milk-first

    Otherwise, great write up.

    Reply

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