A question popped into my head this weekend. Why are some teas called “Breakfast Teas” and others are called “Afternoon Teas”? Examples include the classic English or Irish Breakfast Teas. I have an example of a Ceylon tea that is described as a “mid-morning” brew.
Why have these distinctions been made? Is there a characteristic of a tea leaf or blend that makes it more suitable for a particular time of day over another? Am I wrong to enjoy a cup of English Breakfast in the afternoon?
I did some research and found that the answer, while linked to old tea tradition, is found in a very modern phenomenon: marketing. Nobody is completely sure who came up with the concept of “breakfast tea”, but it was certainly created by a canny tea-shop owner or supplier who was trying to promote tea as the natural beverage to consume in the morning.
In England, the preferred morning blend is rich and perhaps reminiscent of porridge or honey on toast. It’s usually made up of teas from Assam, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Kenya, and is designed to taste hearty and delicious with milk and sugar. Similarly, Irish people enjoy a tea kick-start, and the traditional preference for an Assam-heavy blend has created the distinctive Irish Breakfast flavour we know.
Any other time-of-day description added to a tea label is probably just another attempt at marketing. In this case, if you’re not sure what you feel like, the label on the box can help you decide.
But if you prefer to think for yourself, you might choose a robust, energising black tea to get you started in the morning, a hydrating green tea to get you through the morning, a sweet and spicy chai to get you over the 3pm slump and a chamomile herbal infusion before bed. Or perhaps not!
That’s part of the beauty of tea; there are certainly many traditions surrounding it. But there are countless choices for endless personality types and you should drink what you like, when you like.