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What is Breakfast Tea?

August’s culinary lead, Gina Zupsich, breaks it down.

Historians say English Breakfast was the first blend to become popular to drink at breakfast. But there’s some disagreement about the origin of this blend, and whether or not it’s an exclusive blend. Some say English Breakfast was the invention of a Scottish tea master named Drysdale whose particular black tea blend curried Queen Victoria’s favor, then became a popular blend known as “Breakfast Tea.”

Others say it was Richard Davies who took his black tea blend to America and called it “English Breakfast” tea, because he claimed it the most popular blend in his native England. Both Drysdale and Davies’ blends were strong black teas made up of Keemun and Ceylon, sometimes Assam or other high tannin black tea.

Few people know that these extra strong teas were devised as cheap calories for the English working class. And, the British Empire just happened to have a surplus of colonial sugar to sell, so inexpensive bitter tea that required milk and sugar became the standard.

So what does it taste like?

English Breakfast is strong, robust black tea with a malty flavor that is meant to have milk and sugar. It’s an eye-opening tea that is strong enough to stand up to a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon or sausage. Sadly, most of it today is made of incredibly low-grade tea leaf. You might say it’s cheap and cheerful.

What are those other breakfast teas - Scottish Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, French Breakfast, Russian Breakfast?

These are also strong black tea blends, designed to have be drunk with milk and sugar, with reference to the cultural flavor preferences of each country. For example, Russian Breakfast is usually smoky.

Do you drink tea instead of coffee?

No, I drink both. I just spent a few weeks in Italy where I drank a cappuccino every morning. But the roasts and the milk are so much sweeter than we get here in the US. That flavor can’t be replicated.

Most American third-wave coffee is oily with powerful tart and acidic flavors that I don’t enjoy first thing in the morning. My palate is more sensitive than most. But more than flavor, what I love most about coffee is the aroma, which is why I created a coffee tea hybrid called Jet Black.


Yes, a coffee tea with the scent of coffee in the flavor of tea. It sold out in a few months. Hopefully one day, we’ll bring that one back.

Isn’t breakfast tea just whatever you drink in the morning?

Yes. Breakfast tea is what you make it. That’s why at August we don’t make anything named breakfast tea. Since blending tea is my job, I’m very picky about what I drink first thing in the morning.

Ok, what do you drink at breakfast?

Here are my favorites according to my mood or what I eat: 


For hearty breakfast or brunch, I love a strong black tea.

This it the closest thing to English Breakfast for me. It is my all-time favorite breakfast tea.


Dark Iris
A truly gorgeous, decedent black tea with white chocolate, peach, pistachio and rose petals. It’s rich in aroma and flavor whether you add milk or not.


When I need an extra kick, I go for a more adventurous blend.


This is a sweet and smoky tea with morello cherry. With milk, it is like velvet.


This is sweet and spicy tea. I love its caribbean vibe with pineapple and tobacco notes and a gentle bite of black pepper in the finish.


Metropolitan is when I need that Earl Grey tang. This tea defines eye opening and punchy. It’s intense with vibrant bergamot (bitter orange) aroma, super strong tannins. We added base notes of plum and clove to create our modern take on Earl Grey.


When I have a light breakfast of yogurt and fruit or granola, I go for a smooth single origin tea.


port of shadows
I’m totally in love with this tea. It’s so fragrant yet mild that you’d think it was flavored but it isn’t. It just has a wonderful natural aroma of thai basil or star anise.


This darjeeling style tea has a bit more grip than Port of Shadows, but remains smooth tasting with a subtle dry rose petal aroma.


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