English Breakfast Tea: Caffeine, Origins, and How to Make It
The most basic, but also the most satisfying tea, just has to be the English Breakfast blend. This traditional tea type is loved across the world (not just by the English), and you should definitely have at least one box of English breakfast tea bags in your cupboard - next to the Zest Tea, of course.
In this quick guide, we've summed up the history and nutritional value of this classic blend and examined the caffeine levels in comparison to energy tea and coffee.
What is English Breakfast Tea?
English breakfast tea is a rich, robust and full-bodied 'blend' - meaning it's made from a few different black teas that have been combined together to create a high-quality, rounded flavor. It doesn't usually have any additional flavors added (like Earl Grey, which is flavored with bergamot), but milk and sugar can be added to taste.
Drinking English breakfast tea isn't just for the British. You don't need to steep this delicious brew in fancy teacups. It's a hearty, comforting tea type that's very easy to brew and popular all around the world.
English Breakfast Tea Origins
Surprisingly, the origins of this tea don't point to England. They don't point to China either, the birthplace of tea. There are a few stories floating around about where the first 'breakfast' cup of tea was available to purchase, but our favorite dates back to colonial times. An encyclopedia of cookery from New York claims that a name was created by Americans for the aromatic, strong, and bitter-free black tea that was popular with the English at breakfast time; English breakfast tea.1
Although it's called English breakfast tea, the tea leaves used to create the blend can come from all over the world. It's not like Champagne; it can be blended anywhere, by any brand, and still be called English breakfast tea.
Which Black Tea Varieties Are Used?
To create that full-bodied taste, the blend is traditionally made from loose leaf tea sourced from Assam (a region in India), Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka), and Kenya.
These tea types, especially the Kenyan tea, are known for their rich and robust quality. Other tea types, like Keemun (a Chinese tea), can also be added to the blend to provide lighter, fruitier, and more gentle notes.
Once the leaves have been blended, they can be packaged as loose leaf tea or made into tea bags, ready to steep.
How to Make English Breakfast Tea
There are no tricks to it! If you've brewed any tea before, you'll already know what to do. As this is a black tea blend, you don't need to wait for the water to cool down as you would with a green tea. For more tips to help you make tea like a pro, read our guide for brewing a cup with tea bags, loose leaf, or as iced tea.
If you're using English breakfast tea bags, just follow these steps:
- Boil your water, preferably using a kettle,
- Add your teabag to your mug or cup with the tag hanging over the side,
- Pour the boiled water over the teabag until the mug is mostly full,
- Let the teabag steep in the water for 3 to 5 minutes,
- Stir occasionally as the teabag brews,
- Remove the teabag and enjoy!
If you want to add sugar, do this after the teabag has been removed. As for milk (or your favorite dairy alternative), you have a choice.
The Big Debate: Milk First or Last?
Black tea contains strong tannins - you'll taste this in the flavor. It's also moderately caffeinated (more on caffeine content below). But that doesn't make for the best morning tea.
Adding milk to your brew creates a smoother drink on your taste buds and stomach. But should you add the milk before you add the teabag, or after?
You can pour the milk into your mug at step 2 or step 6. Whichever method you choose, the results are a great tasting cuppa.
Other Ingredients to Add to Your English Breakfast Tea
English breakfast tea is a great blend to drink with food. The robust flavors of this brew can wash down the heaviest, stickiest foods - like a huge stack of pancakes - with ease.
But if you want to shake things up, there are other ways you can drink English breakfast tea.
- Add vanilla instead of sugar with your milk, for richer sweetness,
- Ice your English breakfast tea with a teaspoon of honey for a summer treat,
- Brew the tea with spices to create a hearty chai tea (much like our Spicy Masala Chai).
Black Tea Nutrition and Calories
English breakfast tea is made purely of black tea leaves, so the nutrition will be very similar to a standard black tea. However, due to the varieties of black tea used, the English breakfast will be higher in tannins and may be slightly more acidic.
You can usually find the nutritional value of the tea printed on the side of the box. On average, a 2g serving of black tea (that's equivalent to 1 teabag or 1 teaspoon of loose leaf) contains 0 calories, 0 sugars, and 0 carbs.2
Drinking English breakfast tea black is a very healthy and energizing drink. Although adding milk and sugar to your tea will add some nutritional value (calcium, for example), it will increase the calories. 1 tbsp of reduced fat milk contains just over 7 calories.3
Caffeine Levels in English Breakfast Tea
The caffeine content of different teas varies not just from one type to another but from one brand to another. For example, there are slight variations in caffeine levels in a strong Assam tea, compared to a lighter Keemun tea. The caffeine per cup you end with also depends on your steeping method - a longer, hotter steep results in the maximum amount of caffeine extracted from the leaves and into the drink.
As English breakfast tea is a blend of black tea leaves, it's hard to pinpoint exactly how many milligrams will end up in your cup. However, the average cup of black tea contains 47mg of caffeine.
Here's how that stacks up against other tea types per 8oz serving.
- Green tea - 28mg,
- White tea - 40mg,
- Oolong tea - 37mg,
- Matcha - 70mg,
- Yerba mate - 85mg,
- Herbal teas and fruit teas are caffeine-free.
Whether you drink your English breakfast tea in teabags or loose tea, doesn't impact the amount of caffeine that's in the tea leaves. Furthermore, adding herbal tea ingredients (e.g., chamomile) to caffeinated tea blends won't increase or reduce the caffeine levels in the tea leaves.
Learn more about which tea has the most caffeine in our Zest Tea guide.
As for coffee, while the strong taste of black coffee might be the equivalent of a robust English breakfast tea, they aren't comparable when it comes to caffeine.
- Espresso shot (1oz) - 64mg,
- Brewed coffee (8oz) - 96mg.
The only tea that contains more caffeine than coffee is Zest Tea.
High-Caffeine Morning Tea
English breakfast teas are popular in the mornings because they provide a great boost of energy and have a rich, strong flavor to wake you up. But they're no longer the best morning teas.
Zest Blue Lady Tea, for example, contains 150mg of caffeine per cup. We use South Indian black tea leaves and aromatic organic ingredients to create a mood-boosting flavor for even the most miserable mornings.
Check out our black and green tea offerings! They're easy to make and taste great with food, iced on hot days, or brewed in our Zest Infuser Mug.
Health Benefits of English Breakfast Teas
Traditional medicinal practices around the world have encouraged the use of teas (herbal and caffeinated kinds) for their health benefits for centuries. So, it's no surprise that scientists continuously test, review and search for evidence of these benefits.
Here's what we know so far:
- Black teas can help your digestive system. A study found that black tea increased diversity in gut microbiota, decreased oxidative stress, and enhanced intestinal barrier function.4
- Regularly consuming black teas, like English breakfast tea, can help reduce the risks of coronary heart disease.
- There's also some evidence that black tea benefits bone mineral density, improves mental performance, and has an overall positive effect on your health.5
Top 5 Related Classic Tea Blends
If English breakfast tea doesn't seem to be right for you, try these morning tea blends instead.
Discover Zest's high-caffeine Earl Grey.
Drinking green teas in the mornings isn't for everyone - the fresh, grassy flavor can be a little too astringent, albeit delicious. But if you're looking for a slightly lower caffeine-boost, then steeping soft green tea blends to drink with your breakfast might be right for you.
Like a breakfast tea blend, Chai is typically made with a strong black tea base. Aromatic spices, creamy milk, and a generous teaspoon of sugar create a sweeter and more indulgent flavor. If you're switching from coffee to tea in the mornings and want a rich, high-caffeine drink to get you going, check out Zest's Spicy Masala Chai.
Afternoon tea is another classic tea type that the British historically love. It's usually a blend of light, slightly astringent black tea with delicate floral or fruit notes. It’s perfect for o washing down afternoon snacks. If you need something a little lighter in the afternoon, instead of a rich and heavy English breakfast tea, then try an afternoon tea instead.
Our Blue Lady is a blend of black tea, lemon, orange and hibiscus - delicate flavors with a 150mg caffeine kick.
Irish Breakfast Tea
The Irish breakfast tea is similar to the English breakfast tea - a blend of strong, bold, and malty black teas (usually from Assam and Ceylon) to create a rich and hearty cuppa. But the Irish version is usually even stronger, with a higher ratio of malty Assam to softer Ceylon tea. This gives it a very robust flavor and gorgeous red-tinted color.
What is in English breakfast tea?
Does English breakfast tea have more caffeine than regular tea?
While the flavor of English breakfast tea is stronger than other regular black teas, it won't contain significantly more caffeine. On average, all black teas contain 47mg. If you need more caffeine in the morning to switch your brain on, check out Zest high caffeine black teas.
Does English breakfast tea contain more caffeine than Zest Tea?
No, our range of high-caffeine morning tea blends contain way more caffeine than a standard black tea! Our teas contain added plant-powered caffeine to give you a boost of 150mg per cup.
How much caffeine does English breakfast tea have compared to coffee?
Less! English breakfast tea is made purely from a blend of black teas. On average, a cup of black tea contains 47mg of caffeine. In comparison, your average cuppa joe contains up to 96mg of caffeine.6
Is English breakfast tea healthier than coffee?
Both black tea and black coffee are relatively healthy, with numerous science-backed health benefits. Adding milk and sugar to either beverage will make it less healthy, however.