Ever wondered what the difference is between English, Irish and Scottish breakfast teas. Well, it’s a relatively simple answer driven by the terroir of tea. While there is no uniform formula for each of these blends, their flavor profiles are generally agreed upon within the industry. English breakfast is typically sweeter, while Irish has the most astringency (making it the perfect candidate for milk or cream). Scottish breakfast is astringent like Irish only the astringency is felt further back in your mouth, so it is not as forward as Irish but still milk worthy. We know plenty of people who put milk in their English breakfast, and that is fine too. However, it is a smooth black tea blend if made in the right ratios and nice to drink in the morning plain.
Not all black teas are the same, nor should they be. Remember tea is an agricultural product and it should vary in flavor year-to-year and by where it is grown. The three black teas that make up these three breakfast blends are Keemun, Assam and Ceylon teas. That’s right, all three blends are generally made from these three black teas. The ratios of these teas change whether the tea is an English, Irish or Scottish breakfast tea.
English, Irish, & Scottish Tea Differences
English breakfast is predominately Keemun tea out of China mixed with Assam tea from India. Depending on the tea blender and the characteristics of each tea for the year, English breakfast can also have a small portion of Ceylon tea. Keemun tea from China is a malty black tea that is slightly sweet and stone fruit in flavor. It doesn’t have the astringency of an Assam or Ceylon. However, blending it with those teas helps to give them more complexity in flavor and a softer mouth feel.
Irish Breakfast is predominately Assam tea with a little Keemun and Ceylon teas thrown in. This is a strong tea in that it can dry your mouth quickly
because of the combination of Assam and Ceylon. Scottish is predominately Ceylon with smaller portions of Keemun and Assam included. To tell the difference between Irish and Scottish, you need to exclude the milk and look at the color of the brew. Ceylon tea is a beautiful red while Assam is brews more orange. You should also pay attention to where your mouth gets dry in drinking these teas. An Irish breakfast, will dry your mouth more toward the front to middle while a Ceylon will hit further back on your tongue and throat.
So the next time you a few minutes in the morning with your cup of tea, pay attention to what you feel in your mouth and the flavors of these popular blends. It is a fun way to appreciate the complexity of something that on the surface seems rather simple.
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Delicious Tea Ice Cream Float
Tea ice cream floats are a fun way to drink tea when it is really hot out or you are in the mood for an ice cream float but without the soda. Below we used Ginger Honeybush, as this was for dessert after dinner and we did not want caffeine that late in the day. The recipe below is scaled for 4 people but is easy to scale down or up. There is also no requirement that you freshly brew the tea, if you have iced tea in the refrigerator, feel free to try with that.
Tea Ice Cream Floats – Ingredients
4 tablespoons Ginger Honeybush tea
4 teaspoons of Agave Nectar
2 1/4 Cups Boiling Water
Seltzer Water (Should be cold)
Vanilla Ice Cream (You can use any ice cream. We happen to like Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream)
4 Large Glasses
Tea Ice Cream Floats – Steps
- Take your 4 glasses and put 1 teaspoon of Agave Nectar into each glass. Bring your 2 1/4 cups of water up to a boil.
- Steep the 4 tablespoons of Ginger Honeybush in the water for 5 minutes.
- Strain off the tea and pour 1/2 cup into each glass and stir (yes the tea is hot). Pour in selzter water until half-way up the glass and stir.
- Scoop in vanilla ice cream and then pour in additional seltzer water to the desired level. Serve and enjoy!
This is a fun way to do ice cream floats without soda. The seltzer water still gives you the crunchy ice cream effect that you get with soda.
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The history of the Silk Road and tea are intertwined in ways that still affect the tea we all drink today. So for a quick view into what the Silk Road did for tea, here are 5 facts about the Silk Road.
- The Silk Road is not a single road but a series of routes that encouraged trade in many goods, including tea, as well as the exchange of knowledge and cultural habits. Many of these routes existed independently before being brought together into a contiguous network of roads during the Han Dynasty (206BCE-220CE). These routes exposed various cultures and supported a lively trade in goods and exchange of knowledge. The Chinese not only gave Westerners knowledge of paper, gunpowder and silk, but received back knowledge of many western religions and irrigation for agriculture and live stock.
- The Tea Horse Road was the route through Yunnan that brought tea to the rest of China and to the West. This road is very treacherous with narrow roads that snake along the side of mountains that easily washed out and were barely wide enough for a horse or human on foot. This route gave birth to what we now call Puerh.
- Moroccan Mint was created on the Silk Road. The exchange of spices was common on the Silk Road. Mint was grown by the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and exchanged for many things including tea. During the height of trade on the Silk Road, tea was sold in crushed bricks and prepared with many spices including mint.
- Goods and people didn’t just leave China for what is now the Middle East and Europe. Many people and their cultures came into China and stayed. Along the old Silk Road in China is a hugely diverse population that include Yi, Bai, Hani, Zhuang, Dai and Mao. These ethnic groups have different languages, dress, religious beliefs and holidays. While the People’s Republic of China officially recognizes these categories, many of these categories, like the Yi group together another 30-40 ethnic groups. These ethnic minorities are many of the skilled tea workers, not just in the fields but in the manufacturing of tea in Yunnan. For some, like the Yi, their holidays are based around the tea harvests.
- One Belt One Road is China’s current plan to rebuild the Silk Road by investing in infrastructure not just in China but into the Middle East and Europe. While it is presented as a way for China to expand its international influence, it ignores how China will be influenced by those countries who choose to participate. Trade is a two way exchange when done successfully, so if the Chinese government really wants this to be successful they will have to bend and be open to the influence and culture of the other countries, which could have some unexpected outcomes for them. This will be an interesting project to watch.
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Matcha Infused Sencha and Brie
Tea has been consumed with food for centuries, so it seems rather funny to talk about tea and food pairings. However, as high quality tea becomes more widely available there are many opportunities to look at what you want to eat with your prized tea to enhance its flavor and give you new experiences. We bet there are certain foods you wouldn’t think to have a cup of tea with. So here are 3 unusual tea and food pairings you might want to try.
- Brie and Matcha Infused Sencha – Yes, France meets Japan. Given that Brie is typically paired with a Chardonnay or fruity light red wine, Matcha Infused Sencha was a shock. This grassy tea compliments the Brie and enhances its flavor without losing its own. The two together create a lite nutty flavor that is smooth and creamy.
- Tomato, Basil & Garlic Pasta with 2nd Flush Darjeeling – Pairing this fragrant, yet strong, tea with a tomato sauce makes for lovely combination. The crisp Darjeeling cuts the acidity of the sauce while enhancing the basil with other herbal notes. Darjeeling is surprisingly versatile, so pair it with your favorite tomato sauce and pasta combination. It also stands up to your favorite spicy dishes.
- Roasted Nuts & Himalayan White – The next time you reach for your favorite roasted nut for a snack, grab a cup of white tea to go with it. The combination of the salty nut and floral white make a third flavor together that is like cream. This is especially true with pistachios, cashews, and almonds.
Pairing tea with meals is similar to pairing wine with meals. Lighter teas with lighter foods and stronger teas with stronger foods. However, don’t allow that guidance to stop you from experimenting. The complex flavors in teas make them very versatile and fun to play with. So bring out your favorite tea and pair it with some of your favorite foods you wouldn’t consider. You will be amazed at what you find.
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The tea cozy (cosy in British English) is first documented in writing in 1867 in England, but is actually believed to have been around since the introduction of tea to England back in the late 1600’s. This handy device keeps your teapot warm. Given that afternoon tea became fashionable in the 1840’s, it is more likely they were in use sooner. Afternoon tea was a social affair, so conversation dominated and tea could quickly get cold. So, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.
Tea Cozy Design
This humble device is built to allow you to pour and easily gain access to the lid to refill. Originally made of linen, they are now made of any washable material. Afternoon tea was popular in mainstream culture during the Victorian Era, so the tea cozy became a highly embroidered cover and fashion statement for the teapot. If was fashionable during the Victorian Era to decorate just about every object in your house. The tea cozies of the time resembled something of a knitted hat that wrapped the teapot from the bottom up or a cover that draped over the pot and was removed every time you needed to pour. More recently, the tea cozy has become something of a fashion statement or artistic center piece for your tea party. They are a combination of knitting and sewing. If you think you want this, there are books on how to make some really unique tea cozies.
When to Put on the Tea Cozy
Newspapers of mid 1800’s actually debated when it was appropriate to put the cozy on the teapot, before or after steeping. The concern was that the cozy would cause the water to be too hot to steep. This is actually a legitimate concern if you are steeping green tea, which would have been the dominant tea in the 1800’s. If you are steeping a black tea, hotter is better. Ultimately is seems to be a personal preference as long as you factor in water temperature.
In closing, if you ever need to keep the teapot warm for long conversations, the tea cozy is not a bad addition to your tea accessories and you can make it yourself.
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