Have you ever had one of those nights when you’re laying in bed and your head becomes full of the most bizarre, unrelated thoughts. As hard as you try to toss them aside, you can’t. Those thoughts just keep coming back into your consciousness … rolling around and around and around. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me last night. And, for some reason, the subject was breakfast teas. Yes, I know … bizarre! English Breakfast and Scottish Breakfast to be exact.
What kept occurring to me was, “why do they exist?” Although I’ve traveled through all the wonderful countries of Great Britain, never have I seen (except in grocery stores), been offered or served a “breakfast tea”. I’ve been served PG Tips, Yorkshire Gold, Barry’s, Twining’s, A&P, Tetley and a variety of unknown bagged teas. I’ve also been served, on one occasion, a very nice Ceylon. But never anything for breakfast called “breakfast tea” whether it’s from England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist or aren’t being sold in grocery stores. Barry’s now has an English Breakfast and Taylor’s even has a Scottish Breakfast.
Here in the States, however, many tea drinkers think you need to start the day with a breakfast tea … most often, English Breakfast, but, of course, if you are a “real tea drinker” then it’s Irish Breakfast. Why would all of this be running around in my head at 3am? I don’t know. But the more I tried to put it away, the more I tried to understand it.
As a tea retailer, my English Breakfast tea … a bright blend of assertive Ceylon and hearty Assam with a burgundy-like Keemun … was by far my most popular seller until that is, customers started asking for something stronger. They needed a tea that packed the punch of a cuppa coffee … something that would stand up better to milk and sugar. Knowing that Barry’s packed a punch, I created a tea much like it … a rich, dark blend of high-quality CTC (cut, torn and curled) malty Assams … Irish Breakfast it was! And it was a huge hit. But now other customers said it was too assertive, too rich, too dark. You cannot please everyone, I guess, so back to the blending table.
I felt like Goldilocks and the Three Bears … if the Daddy Bear Irish Breakfast was too strong, and the Baby Bear English Breakfast was too weak, then we needed a Momma Bear. How about … Scottish Breakfast!
Scottish Breakfast became an even bigger success than English or Irish. Every customer loved it. A blend of orthodox full-bodied Assams with just a hint of Ceylons, it struck the right balance between the two. It held its own with milk and sugar, or dark right from the pot. It was such a success that orders for 2, 3 and 5 lbs. were coming in continuously. Customers didn’t want to run out. Even today, although I’ve closed up shop, I still get requests for “Scottish Breakfast” tea.
But the question still remains unanswered. With more than 3500 varieties of teas available including Assams, Keemuns, Ceylons, Yunnans, Darjeelings, white teas, green teas, pu-erhs and oolongs, teas from countries all over the world, China, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Nepal, Kenya, Japan, then why are breakfast teas still so much in demand here in the States?
And as I sit here this morning enjoying a delicate cup of fragrant, light Silver Needles with its hint of sweetness, this question remains unanswered and still continues to run through my head.