Irish Breakfast tea is a popular style of strong black breakfast tea. In Ireland, this style of tea is referred to as just “tea”, whereas in the U.S. and other countries, it is referred to as “Irish Breakfast”. This article gives an in-depth overview of this type of tea.
Ingredients: what is used to produce this blend?
Irish breakfast is usually, but not always a blend of black teas produced in different regions. Common types of teas used to produce the blend include Assam, produced in the Assam region of India, Ceylon, produced in Sri Lanka, and Kenyan black teas. Teas from other regions, including China, other countries, and other regions of India, can also be included.
Irish Breakfast is usually characterized by its high proportion of Assam, or teas with a similar character to Assam (such as those from Yunnan, China, or from Kenya). Some Irish-style breakfast teas even are made exclusively from Assam. If you are looking to blend your own tea in the Irish style, or purchase single origin teas that have a classic Irish flavor profile, I would recommend Assam.
Because this style of tea is valued for its powerful character and strong “wake-up” quality, teas selected for use in breakfast blends tend to have a higher caffeine content. However, the higher grades of tea which have a greater caffeine content often tend to have a smoother, mellower flavor, so lower grades with a stronger, bolder flavor are also often included in the mix too. The net effect of this tradeoff is that Irish Breakfast blends tend to be high in caffeine, but are generally not the highest in caffeine among all pure teas. Caffeine content also varies by brand and by method of preparation, but in most cases tends to be considerably less than a typical cup of coffee: 60-75 mg for a typical cup of strong tea, contrasting with 85-135mg for a typical cup of coffee.
Because of its variable composition, it is hard to draw many conclusions about the health benefits of Irish Breakfast tea, but it is reasonable to assume that these benefits are similar to typical strong black teas. Although green tea often gets more attention in association with health benefits, the association of green tea with health is largely a historical accident, and can be attributed in large part to the fact that most of the early research on tea and health was conducted in Japan, where people drink almost exclusively green tea. Subsequent research has found that black tea also carries potent health benefits as well, so this and other strong, black breakfast blends are good options for people looking for a healthy drink as well.
Locating the best Irish-style breakfast teas:
There is only so much that can be written about Irish Breakfast tea; if you are interested in this type of tea, one of the best ways to learn about it is to buy some yourself. You can buy blends labelled as “Irish”, but you may also enjoy venturing into high-quality loose-leaf Assam, which has a similar character, bold, strong, and dark. I personally find that many of the best teas in the style of Irish Breakfast are the single-estate Assam teas, sold by companies specializing in loose-leaf.