Scottish Breakfast Tea from English Tea Store

Scottish Breakfast by English Tea Store

English Tea Store’s Scottish Breakfast blend has been slowly seducing me since I first tried it a couple of weeks ago. Craving more, I decided to bring it to the office where I plan on adding it to my afternoon tea rotation.

Dedication to making a good cup of tea — as good as I can possibly do in an office cubicle — makes me somewhat of a weirdo in an office where every break room has as Flavia beverage machine. One could make a cup of tea in that contraption (and I have once), but it wouldn’t be proper because the water never reaches boiling temperature. Besides those machines are a bit wasteful, aren’t they? I mean, where do all those little plastic packets go after they’ve been used? In a landfill I presume.

My M.O. is the electric kettle I purchased at Walmart for about $30. The Scottish Breakfast tea is loose leaf, so I brought some (biodegradable) tea filters from home as well.

Excited for my co-worker/business partner to experience this flavorful blend, I stuck the bag of loose tea under his nose. I happened to catch him just before he was about to get coffee from the Flavia machine.

The GE electric kettle I use to make tea at work

My kettle operates on the floor for now because its power cord won’t reach the outlet from my desk. I’ve been lazy about placing an office supply request for a power strip.

The image captured (above) doesn’t accurately represent the tea’s color, which is a dark yellow. In flavor, this particular (I haven’t tried any other) Scottish Breafast tea is lighter and more complex than any Irish or English tea I’ve tasted. Maltiness is present for sure but to a lesser degree than other breakfast teas.

A woody (which some people describe as oaky) quality is at the forefront of this tea’s flavor. Floral undertones are also present. Milk, which gives the tea an unpleasant color, is not necessary. Add sweetener to suit your taste. I recommend honey.

Numi’s Organic Rooibos

Rooibos Herbal Tea - Numi Organic Tea

Rooibos (Afrikaans for red bush) is an plant indigenous to South Africa that is used to produce and herbal tea by the same name. Commonly referred to as “red tea”, rooibos is free of caffeine and known for its calming effect.

A few rooibos options were available at the grocery store — all in teabag format of course. I went with an organic version, thinking it would be the truest representation.

I’ve made this tea a handful of times already. The medicinal flavor that so many people complain about was noticeable at first. On subsequent tries, however, the medicinal quality became less prominent as did the flavor in general.

Rooibos tea has gentle flavor — an earthy, almost nutty taste — with mild sweetness. I don’t detect vanilla as is suggested on the packaging. No sweetener is needed in my opinion.

This herbal tea has grown on me. I now use two teabags for a stronger cup and look forward to trying a loose tea version. Caffeine free and mellow, rooibos tea is great in the evening after you’ve exercised and/or are trying to wind down.

How to Make a Good Cup of (Black) Tea

Christopher Hitchens knew how to make tea
Christopher Hitchens

The only good cup of tea you can get in America is the one you make yourself. Never again will I order tea at Starbucks. Two bucks for a teabag and a cup of water not suitable for infusion is outrageous!

The late Christopher Hitchens shared my frustration and wrote a fantastic article on the subject. It boils (pun intended) down to one basic rule: use boiling water.

Keep in mind, it’s black tea, particularly ‘breakfast tea’, to which I’m referring. Green and other more delicate and complex teas should be brewed at temperatures below boiling.

Purists may tell you that only loose leaf tea will do. While I agree that loose tea is the best way to go, I’ve made plenty of good cups with teabags.

When I first began drinking tea, I wanted to make sure I was following established traditions like warming the teapot (assuming you use a teapot). Hitchens thinks this is a must. I say do it if you want, but you probably won’t be able to tell the difference.

Another minor disagreement I have with Hitchens concerns the inclusion of milk, which not all tea requires of course. He wasn’t a fan of pouring the milk in the cup first, and he suggested using milk with the least amount of fat. With regard to the former, do whatever makes you happy (again, this really only applies to those who use teapots). As for the latter, do yourself a favor and try using whole milk — it truly makes for a great cuppa.

If needed, I suggest using honey as a sweetener. It goes well with tea and offers some additional health benefits — chief among them is its antibacterial qualities — that sugar doesn’t provide.

When ordering tea at Starbucks, Hitchens would insist upon boiling water. I disagree with this too. Instead of holding up the line and confusing the poor baristas, I order a cup of steamed skim milk. It does a body good.

*Photo courtesy of Guardian News and Media Limited

Irish Breakfast Tea from English Tea Store

English Tea Store's Irish Breakfast Brewing in the Teapot

English Tea Store (EnglishTeaStore.com) sells an impressive variety of teas — both brand name as well as their own — and tea accessories. It’s hard to remember, but at least one of my teapots was purchased there.

I finally got around to sampling a couple of their teas — Scottish Breakfast and Irish Breakfast. This review concerns the latter.

English Tea Store packages their tea nicely in sturdy, resealable plastic bags. Their Irish Breakfast blend, a mix of Assam and Tanzanian teas, features tea leaves that are finely cut for faster brewing.

No special instructions are provided on the package, so I brewed the tea as I usually do: five teaspoons of tea in my four-cup teapot. I let it steep for about 3-4 minutes.

I could tell immediately after pouring the boiling water into the teapot that the tea would have a very malty characteristic. The amount of froth the teapot is a good indicator in my experience.

Irish Breakfast Tea with Whole Milk and Honey

I added whole milk and about a teaspoon of honey to my cuppa. As I would expect from an Irish breakfast tea, this one delivered a full-bodied, forceful flavor — slightly more robust than PG Tips and very similar to popular Irish brands like Lyons and Barry’s.

Like Barry’s Gold Blend, English Tea Store’s Irish Breakfast blend brews to a slightly reddish color. It is as appealing to look at as it is to drink. The 4.4 ounces I ordered won’t last very long in my house.

Whittard English Breakfast Tea

Whittard English Breakfast Black Leaf Tea

My local Kroger recently revamped its British foods section. Among the new additions were tea products — loose leaf and bagged — from a company called Whittard Chelsea 1886.

I brought home their English Breakfast tea which the packaging claims is strong, bright, and full bodied. It is a blend of Assam, Ceylon, and Kenyan.

Unlike the English and Irish teas that I drink most often, Whittard English Breakfast actually has an complex aroma. It reminds of the pipe tobacco my dad used to smoke. I detect some sweetness with a hint of vanilla.

When brewed this blend is equally complex. Present is the maltiness and strength I’m accustomed to plus a sweet, almost fruity, taste. It finished smoothly.

Whittard English Breakfast does not brew as dark as PG Tips, Lyons, or Barry’s, which took some getting used to. It is strong nonetheless and matches very well with milk.

It will get bitter if brewed too long, so stick with the 3-4 minute suggested brewing time. This one is a definite keeper — maybe not for breakfast, but definitely for an afternoon break.