A cuppa chai is synonymous with hospitality, empathy and even relaxation. Now it’s even starting to become a byword for trendy. Breakfast teas are capturing the imagination of tea lovers the world over, with leaves from India, Sri Lanka, China and Kenya making it to the finest blends. Here’s everything you need to know about the cup that cheers.
What is it?
Although tea drinking was introduced to the world by the British, the term English Breakfast Tea originated in colonial USA as the English preferred tea over coffee as their morning beverage. Breakfast teas are black-tea blends from the world’s best tea producing regions – Assam, Darjeeling, Kandy (Sri Lanka) and the Rift Valley (Kenya). Tea leaves are subjected to special treatments like ageing and smoking before being combined into specialised blends to bring out their best flavours. Despite their name, breakfast teas can be had any time of the day.
How are they different from regular tea?
Breakfast teas are stronger and blacker, usually because they’re made using the more robust leaves from Assam and Sri Lanka. Unlike the traditional CTC (crush, tear, curl) method, breakfast teas are smoked, toasted and aged, giving them a malty, smoky taste.
What is the best way to serve them?
These teas are intended to be had black but some people prefer them with milk and sugar. The English style of steeping the tea for four minutes and adding a dash of milk or lemon is the best way to enjoy them. Boil water and add a teaspoon of tea for every cup. Let it sit for 4-5 minutes in the kettle. Pour out a cupful and serve with your preferred combination of milk or lemon with sugar. These teas can also be had plain but only if you’ve already developed a taste for their robust, full-bodied flavour.
Which foods go best with these teas?
Indians prefer savoury snacks with tea, unlike Westerners, who like pastries and scones. You can serve these teas with Indian snacks like khari, bun pao, thepla or lightly-sweetened biscuits. Avoid serving Indian sweets and overly spicy snacks they will numb your tongue to the taste of the tea. Western staples like scones, muffins, croissants or cookies pair extremely well with breakfast blends.
Where can I buy some?
Choose from on-the-shelf brands like Twinings, Tetley and PG Tips. Another popular blend of breakfast teas is Sri Lanka’s Dilmah. Chado Tea, an LA-based tea company, has also set up shop in India. Chado claims to use rare, exotic ingredients like Argentinean mate (a herb rich in a caffeine-like substance) and South African rooibos (a medicinal root) in their breakfast teas. Their Mate Carnival blend with roasted mate, rooibos, marigold, mango and broken coffee beans, among other ingredients, makes for a great pick-me-up on lazy mornings. Another great tea to banish lethargy is the Mount Everest Breakfast Tea, a blend of Assam and Yunan teas. Chado has two stores in Mumbai. Both places conduct tastings on the weekends and you can buy the teas from either their stores or over the phone.
Where can I try some in my city?
Chado lets you taste teas before buying them. Visit their stores at Fort or Lower Parel in Mumbai.
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