Irish Breakfast Tea: Tasting and Brewing Guide

irish breakfast tea

The mere thought of a full-bodied, robust tea beside a platter of breakfast foods that can feed at least three people isn’t too appealing. However, if you are in Ireland, where dankness greets you at the front door each morning, this full fare with its potent tea is just what you need. Welcome the Irish Breakfast tea. 

What is Irish Breakfast Tea?

As the name implies, Irish Breakfast tea is a tea variety typically enjoyed in Ireland with a big heartwarming breakfast. This tea is either a single black tea or blended in with other black teas. The robust flavor and high caffeine content make it a morning favorite for many tea drinkers throughout the world. Irish Breakfast tea to Europeans is what coffee is to Americans. Tea is the second most consumed beverage in Ireland, and it stands to reason that it’s because of the caffeine.

Pairing Irish Breakfast Tea With An Irish Breakfast

When the Irish enjoy a hearty breakfast, they don’t skimp on food. Both food and tea are ample in portion and caffeine. A typical breakfast for the Irish includes eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, toast with butter and marmalade, bubble and squeak (potato and cabbage hash,) cooked tomato, and multiple servings of Irish Breakfast tea.

Perhaps the jolt of high caffeine consumption with the tea and manly-sized breakfast helps warm the body on the dank days that Ireland is known for. 

What Kind Of Tea Is Irish Breakfast?

Irish Breakfast tea is black tea through and through. Depending on what tea company processed the tea, it will contain one or several different black teas. Various tea makers have different formulas in the specific blends of black teas used to make Irish Breakfast tea. Some choose to use one tea to produce a straightforward, bold flavor, whereas others blend black teas to create flavor dimensions that provide a boost for that first cup of tea in the morning. 

What Are The Ingredients Of Irish Breakfast Tea?

We took nine leading tea companies known throughout the world and a few based in Ireland and looked at what the ingredients of their Irish Breakfast teas consisted of. Assam was the leading black tea used in Irish Breakfast tea, followed by Kenya black tea. 

Percentage Of The Leading Nine Tea Companies Using a Specific Black Tea

  • Assam tea – 100%
  • Kenya black tea – 55%
  • China black tea – 11%
  • Ceylon tea – 11%
  • Rwanda black tea – 11%
  • Darjeeling tea – 11%

What Is The Difference Between English Breakfast Tea and Irish Breakfast Tea?

This is a question that a lot of tea drinkers ask. Why have different breakfast teas? Well, the answer comes down to regional preference. English Breakfast tea was claimed to have come into existence as a replacement for ale at breakfast time. Ale and breakfast foods were perhaps a heavy combination, and tea served as a lighter option that complimented breakfast foods. English Breakfast tea took off and has been a staple of almost every home in England for the preferred breakfast beverage. Both the English and Irish have similar breakfast foods. The traditional way English enjoy their breakfast tea is with milk and sugar. 

English Breakfast tea was mainly black tea from China (Keemun,) but as more and more tea companies came on board, they began to combine black teas such as Ceylon, Assam, Kenyan, Darjeeling, Keemun, Nilgiri, Malawi, and Sikkim.

What Do Irish Breakfast And English Breakfast Teas Taste Like?

english breakfast black tea

Irish Breakfast tea and English Breakfast tea share similar flavors such as robust and malty and are full-bodied. However, the distinguishing difference between the two lies with English Breakfast tea being somewhat bitter and hints of sweetness.

What Are The Ingredients Of English Breakfast Tea?

Like Irish Breakfast tea, we took eight of the leading tea companies that produce English Breakfast tea and looked at the tea’s ingredients. When comparing Irish Breakfast tea against English Breakfast tea, we found that English Breakfast tea companies use a variety of 8 different black teas. Irish Breakfast tea companies only use 6 black tea varieties. 

The top two black teas used in English Breakfast tea:

  • Assam
  • Kenya
Percentage Of The Leading Nine Tea Companies Using A Specific Black Tea
  • Assam tea – 75%
  • Kenya black tea – 50%
  • China (Keemun) black tea – 25%
  • Ceylon tea – 25%
  • Malawi black tea – 12%
  • Darjeeling tea – 12%
  • Sikkim black tea – 12%
  • Nilgiri black tea – 12%

How Much Caffeine Is In Irish Breakfast Tea?

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact caffeine level in Irish Breakfast tea because the different tea makers may use a single black tea or a blend of several. What we can do is give you an idea of estimation in black tea.

Black tea, in general, is considered highly caffeinated. A six-ounce cup of black tea can pack up to 50 mg of caffeine. Researchers published their findings on a study that looked at how various brewing times affected caffeine levels. The longer a tea is brewed, the higher it will be in caffeine.

  • 1-minute brew = 14-49 mg caffeine
  • 3-minute brew = 22-39 mg caffeine
  • 5-minute brew = 27-49 mg caffeine

The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) recommends a daily caffeine intake of no more than 400 mg. So, you would be able to safely enjoy about 5-6 cups of Irish Breakfast tea per day.

Does Irish Breakfast Tea Make You Sleepy?

On the contrary, Irish Breakfast tea provides enough caffeine to keep you wide awake and then some. As we mentioned above, this tea is made from black tea(s), which is considered highly caffeinated. It’s best not to enjoy Irish Breakfast tea in the late afternoon or evening because it may interfere with trying to get to sleep and stay asleep.

Is It Okay To Drink Irish Breakfast Tea Every Day?

Although we don’t have the expertise to recommend or advise against drinking Irish Breakfast tea daily, we can tell you that there’s no concrete data regarding any harmful effects of daily consumption. It is a known fact that drinking more than the recommended daily amount of caffeine (400 mg) may potentially cause unpleasant side effects such as jitters, rapid heartbeat, and insomnia. So, moderation is key to being able to enjoy this day every day.

Irish Breakfast Tea Benefits

irish breakfast tea taste

So, is Irish Breakfast tea good for you? Well, black tea has numerous benefits, which is why many tea drinkers enjoy it regularly. 

Reported To Help In Relaxation

Researchers at the Unilever Food and Health Research Institute Study studied how an amino acid in tea directly affects the brain. Tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine. In the study, humans undergoing an EEG (electroencephalograph) during consumption of a 20 mg cup of tea exhibited increased activity in the brain, inducing a state of relaxation without any drowsiness. 

Catechin Content Reported To Enhance Antioxidant Performance

A research study entitled “Catechin Content of 18 Teas and a Green Tea Extract Supplement Correlates With the Antioxidant Capacityreports that catechins found in black and green tea have significant antioxidant benefits in humans undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from cancer-related diseases. 

Catechins (flavonoids) are naturally occurring plant chemicals claimed to have an antioxidative effect on the human body. The study goes on to pinpoint the catechin levels in several types and brand names of teas.

English Breakfast tea contained higher levels of caffeine and catechins compared to an Irish Breakfast tea.

English Breakfast Tea

  • Caffeine: 47mg
  • Catechins: 43.8 mg

Irish Breakfast Tea

  • Caffeine: 40 mg
  • Catechins: 30 mg

How To Drink Irish Breakfast Tea

Irish Breakfast tea is so bold. You almost have to add milk and sugar to tame it down some. Whether you are a first-timer in trying this robust tea or love the tea but not sure what foods pair well with it, we have some of the best Irish Breakfast tea pairings and tips on how you can fully enjoy it.

Do You Put Milk Irish Breakfast Tea?

You’ll rarely find an Irish tea drinker who doesn’t add milk and sugar to their Irish Breakfast tea. The tea is intensely strong and tends to be astringent and slightly bitter, so the milk and sugar transform it into a nice smooth yet tasty cup of morning tea.

Irish Breakfast Tea Recipe and The Perfect Pairings

There’s really only one way to brew a cup of traditional Irish Breakfast tea. It’s rather simple and straightforward.


  • 1 tsp. of loose leaf Irish Breakfast tea (or 1 teabag)
  • 2 cups of water
  • Milk or cream
  • Sugar


  1. Bring water to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Place loose leaf tea into an infuser.
  4. Drop the infuser (or tea bag) into a teapot and cover.
  5. Allow to steep for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the infuser (or tea bag.)
  7. Pour the tea into a teacup.
  8. Add milk and sugar as desired.

Perfect Food Pairings

  • Roast Beef
  • Steak
  • Carrot Cake
  • Strong Cheeses
  • Chocolate
  • Fruity Salads or Desserts

An Assertive Tea From The Emerald Isle

There’s no doubt that Irish Breakfast tea is a tea that commands attention. This tea gets people moving in the mornings and provides that “oomph” in the middle of a tiring day. Enjoy it to its fullest but within moderation, or you may find yourself fighting with it in the middle of the night!

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