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.