A cup of English breakfast tea beside a plate of cookies

Irish vs English Breakfast Tea

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The tradition of drinking tea is part of various European cultures, especially in England and Ireland. They have their own versions of breakfast tea, prompting the debate between Irish vs English breakfast tea. To know which one is perfect for you, we’re going to explore their origin, similarities, and differences.

Irish vs English Breakfast Tea: General Overview

The general term breakfast tea refers to a type of black tea served with a full breakfast.  It mainly consists of strong caffeinated teas that provide a much-needed jolt every morning. 

Irish Breakfast Tea

Irish breakfast tea is a blend consisting of various black teas, most often Assam and Ceylon teas. Ireland’s tea culture dates back to the mid-18th century, with people favoring more intense flavors than teas in Britain.

Despite having the term breakfast, people in Ireland consume Irish breakfast tea throughout the day, with some even drinking up to 6 cups per day. In fact, the Irish are the second biggest tea drinkers globally, with an average Irish person drinking 300 liters of tea every year.

A cup filled with English breakfast tea

English Breakfast Tea

English breakfast tea originally consisted of Chinese black tea. When China imposed an embargo on tea during the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century, tea blenders incorporated teas grown in India, Indonesia, and Africa. Eventually, merchants blended tea leaves from Sri Lanka, China, and India due to dwindling stocks. 

Historical accounts suggest that Queen Anne asked for a lighter alternative to ale during her breakfast meal. From that moment on, tea became a regular at a British breakfast table. Nowadays, about 7.45 million people in Great Britain consume tea 4 times a day or more.

Irish vs English Breakfast Tea

Determining what makes English and Irish breakfast teas similar and different in some aspects can help you decide which one to prepare.

Similarities Between Irish and English Breakfast Tea

The similarity between English and Irish breakfast teas is that they use black teas as beverages, paired with a complete breakfast course. 

Since Irish and English breakfast teas primarily consist of black tea, they both have high caffeine content, making them ideal for your morning dose of energy. 

An average cup of tea may contain around 11 to 61 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the tea leaf variety and brewing method. Research shows that caffeine doses under 200 milligrams a day are unlikely to cause adverse effects on the body. However, some people are more sensitive to caffeine. 

Differences Between Irish and English Breakfast Tea

The major difference between Irish and English breakfast teas is the intensity of the flavor. This difference depends on some aspects, including the tea culture and preparation.

Tea Leaves

Since they originate from different places, Irish and English breakfast teas use variations of black teas. Black tea is among the most popular variants, accounting for 78% of tea lovers across the globe.

The choice of leaves depends on whether you want a milder or more potent taste. Irish breakfast tea uses more Assam leaves, so it produces a stronger flavor than English breakfast tea.

  • Chinese Keemun black tea: Mainly used for English tea, this Chinese black tea comes with a smooth flavor and hints of malty and fruity notes.
  • Kenyan black tea: A staple in English and Irish blends, this tea has a brisk yet naturally sweet flavor, much like liquor.
  • Ceylon black tea: Usually included in English blends, this black tea variety has a milder flavor with notes of chocolate and citrus.
  • Assam black tea: Used as a base for both blends, Assam black tea has a musky and earthy flavor with sweet and spicy notes.
  • Darjeeling black tea: The best Darjeeling black tea for breakfast blend should have a musky-sweet taste similar to muscat wine.

Color and Flavor

Approximately 159 million Americans drink tea regularly. This includes 3.8 billion gallons of tea consumed in 2020, with black and iced tea as the primary variations. Irish and English breakfast teas basically taste like black tea, although the flavor, intensity, and color differ.

An orange cup filled with Irish tea

Irish breakfast tea has a reddish color with a robust, malty flavor. On the other hand, English breakfast tea produces a darker color with a lighter and sweet taste.

Preparation

When preparing breakfast teas, use a pot on a stove or a temperature-controlled teapot to boil water. Additionally, you can use the best teaware sets for tea and food.

  • Tea leaves: Since Irish tea tastes sharper, start with 1/2 teaspoon per every 6 fluid ounces of water. On the other hand, you can make English tea using 1 teaspoon of loose leaf black tea or 1 tea bag of your choice.
  • Steeping time: For English breakfast tea, boil water between 205 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, for Irish tea, steep the tea leaves for 5 minutes at 206 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a strainer to remove the leaves.
  • Food choices: Irish breakfast tea goes well with tea cakes, baked beans, scones, eggs, sausages, bacon, toast, butter, potatoes, and marmalade. To complete a typical English breakfast, prepare tea cakes, English muffins, oatcakes, crumpets, black pudding, and strawberry yogurt.

You can usually add sweeteners such as sugar cubes and honey. The average American takes 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, translating to roughly extra 350 calories. So, make sure to be cautious about your daily sugar intake when preparing breakfast blends.

Major Distinguishing Factor

English breakfast produces a milder brew due to the Ceylon black tea, while Irish breakfast has a more robust and earthier blend because of more Assam black tea. Additionally, Irish breakfast tends to have 2 teas at most, whereas an English breakfast can have more than 4 blends.

When to Use Irish Breakfast Tea

It’s ideal to drink Irish breakfast tea if you want to get the full-bodied flavor of Assam tea leaves. This breakfast tea version is suitable when you want a more powerful and malty black tea.

When to Use English Breakfast Tea

It would be better to prepare English breakfast tea if you prefer a more toned-down and less bitter version. This is also perfect if you usually drink tea with milk and sweeteners.

The Verdict

Nowadays, the blends may differ depending on the company that’s making the teas. As long as you know your preferred taste and aroma, you can determine whether it’s best to prepare Irish or English breakfast tea. The important thing is that you can enjoy the benefits of drinking both teas.

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