The New Trader Joe’s Original Irish Breakfast Tea

Trader Joe's Original Irish Breakfast Tea

Back in March, I reviewed Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast Tea for this blog. A couple of months later, a few blog visitors posted comments, complaining of a change in the tea. One commenter confirmed that Trader Joe’s had, in fact, changed suppliers for its Irish Breakfast Tea.

My reaction to these comments was twofold. First, I was happy that one of my posts attracted a small discussion; any blogger will tell you how difficult it is to get real comments. Second, I felt compelled to investigate the matter further.

To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of the original formula. For an Irish Breakfast tea, I found it quite lacking in aroma, strength, and flavor. I still have more than half of the original package left.

Based on commenters’ laments over the loss of their beloved TJ’s Irish Breakfast Tea, I didn’t have much expectation of its replacement.

The new package is smaller and not nearly as green. The name has changed from ‘Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast Tea’ to ‘Trader Joe’s Original Irish Breakfast.’ The tea bags are now round instead of square and vacuum packed into two 40-bag columns.

I opened the package, plopped a rounder into my mug, added boiling water, and steeped for three minutes. A strong, malty, citrusy aroma greeted my nose. My tongue and cheeks delighted in the heavy, chalky, slightly astringent nature of the tea’s flavor. This is what I expect from an Irish tea!

Curiosity got me. I wanted to find out who the new supplier was. The tea bags are round, so it could be Tetley … but it doesn’t taste like any Tetley I’ve ever had.

I’ve got it! Republic of Tea (ROT) is supplying Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast. The tea bags look identical to the ones on the ROT website, and both companies are based in California. To confirm, I emailed both Trader Joe’s and ROT. I never heard back from Trader Joe’s, but ROT replied with the following:

Dear Citizen Leo,
Thank you for your email. We do not supply Trader Joe's with tea.
Sip by sip,
Minister of Citizen Services

Oh well. Who am I kidding? I’m no sleuth. I’m just an amateur tea expert with a blog, and this case is going cold. Nonetheless, I’m impressed with this tea.

Sure, there are better Irish breakfast teas out there but not by much, and not for $3 a pack. For this reason, I officially recommend the new Trader Joe’s Original Irish Breakfast tea as a Second Cuppa best buy.

Aroma: Malty, citrusy, mossy
Body: Full
Flavor: Chalky, bitter, bright finish
Color: Dark amber

UPDATE 6/19/2013: Trader Joe’s finally got back to me. I’m a bit shocked by what they said.

Hi Leo,

Thank you for contacting us! The packaging of our Trader Joe's Irish 
Breakfast Tea has recently changed but the actual tea leaves have 
not changed. In any case, were glad you are enjoying it! Please 
know that Trader Joe's and it's private labeled products are 
privately owned, therefore we follow a very strict disclosure
policy alongside our suppliers. Due to this policy, we do not 
disclose any of our supplier information.

Thank you,

Nicki K.
Trader Joe's
Customer Relations

I’m not surprised that they won’t disclose the supplier, but claiming the tea leaves are the same is incorrect. There is a vast difference between the old and the new Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast tea. Somebody gave somebody some bad information somewhere along the communication chain.

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Author: Leo Kapusta

Of all the useless degrees he holds, Leo is most proud of his Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film (Mass Communication Sequence) from the University of Texas at Austin.

12 thoughts on “The New Trader Joe’s Original Irish Breakfast Tea”

  1. Thanks for your info on this. It took me forever to grow accustomed to the TJ’s decaf Irish Breakfast. I mean ages! I had always drunk my tea with honey and soymilk, as that was the only way I could tolerate this murky breakfast beverage. After talking with my doctor, I decided to drop the honey and soymilk because after 3-4 cups a day I was putting on a few pounds. So I started drinking it black. And hated it. At first. After a few weeks I learned to LOVE my morning tea and became extremely happy with it’s wonderful aroma (tastes kind of like warm, bitter water lol). The change in my opinion is a total downgrade, not to mention the cost went up substantially for the decaf!! Less tea? More money? WTH? So I purchased my first and only box of the “original” decaf Irish Breakfast tea from TJ’s. I’m on the hunt to find the real deal. And I’m almost positive that Republic of Tea would never make such a weak and pathetic blend. After all, Irish Breakfast tea is supposed to put a bit of hair on your chest.

  2. I drink more of this tea than any other. I too noticed the change for the better. When I first sampled it a few years ago, I pronounced it unfit for drinking. I happened to taste it in an in store sample after they changed the packaging and the blend and now I am lucky if a box of TJ’s Irish Breakfast lasts me the week. I agree with you that the blend of tea in the square bags differs radically from that of the current round bags. I love your blog. Keep up the good work.

  3. The decaffeinated is to me not Strong & Dark unless I use two tea bags per 8/oz boiling water and let steep for 5 minutes. Then I like it.

  4. Dear Leo,

    I am drinking a cup of the new “original” Trader Joe Irish Breakfast tea as I write this. I did not have an opportunity to try the square bags. I was looking up online reviews because I was not decided yet on how I felt about the tea and wanted to compare notes. Your is the first review I read and I find your description accurate. I think it is the bitter & chalky notes that I do not enjoy. I did not realize that this was “Irish Breakfast” tea I thought I was getting “English”. I am more of a Tazo Awake English Breakfast, Earl Grey or even Lipton tea drinker. I find the Trader Joe tea drinkable when splenda is added. Thank you for your article I really enjoyed your writing.

  5. I am trying to find information on the Irish tea you carry. It is very good tea, but I need to know if it is organic and non GMO?

    Thank you.

  6. I am from Dublin, Ireland and love my Irish tea.
    I recently purchase these from trader joes and am well impressed. Tastes just like home.
    Well done Trader joes x

  7. I remember the catastrophe when the old Irish Brekkie went off the shelves. I am a daily at least pot of tea drinker. I use 6 bags for two German bier steins + 1\4 cup RAW sugar and WHOLE milk. I live on it. In fact reading this has emboldened me to go make a pot of tea and forget about my bleeding house chores…

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