The Good: Tastes fine, Nothing detrimental in the nutrition department, Caffeinated
The Bad: A LOT of superfluous papers and strings, Could use sugar for best results.
The Basics: A very good, very average tea which establishes a baseline for what black teas ought to taste like, Twinings Irish Breakfast is worth picking up.
For those who do not follow my regular tea reviews, there are very few brands of tea I enjoy outside of Celestial Seasonings. However, my very first divergence as a reviewer from my preferred brand was for Twinings Earl Grey tea and since starting my own blog, I've moved over my Twinings review for their Herbal Revive Blackcurrants, Ginseng and Tahitian Vanilla tea (click here to read that review!). To be fair, the Earl Grey is a tea I love and if I felt guilty about it, it would be what others call a "guilty pleasure." As it stands, I've just gotten in a whole load of teas from other brands and because of how much I have enjoyed Twinings Earl Grey in the past, I made the Twinings Irish Breakfast that arrived on my doorstep a culinary priority.
Irish Breakfast is a good tea and as a tea-flavored tea, this might well be the ideal standard tea for black tea flavor (Earl Grey being flavored primarily with Bergamot). The flip side of such a statement is that Irish Breakfast has an almost impossible to describe flavor (black tea tastes like black tea; the taste defines what it is) and leaves one with very little to write about.
Irish Breakfast Tea is a black tea from Twinings of London. Black tea is made from mature tea leaves that are dried on the tea plant. Twinings has its Irish Breakfast tea available year round and it is one of the brand's staple teas. Irish Breakfast is what I call an adjective tea; the flavor is its own, the name does not hold it to any standard other than to represent what is generally accepted as that flavor. And, truth be told, Twinings Irish Breakfast is my first experience with Irish Breakfast tea and thus has become the standard by which I judge other brands' Irish Breakfast teas (if there are other brands). Twinings also earns this distinction through their claim that they have been making this tea since the early 1700s.
Irish Breakfast comes in Twinings' standard tea bags, which are individually paper wrapped and have a five inch string. The string is attached to a paper tab that must be torn out of the paper wrapper and the other end attaches to the tea bag via a staple. A box of Irish Breakfast tea comes with 20 individual paper-wrapped tea bags. After years of drinking only Celestial Seasonings' tea, this seems remarkably wasteful now to have so much waste as far as paper, string and staples.
Ease Of Preparation
As a black tea, Irish Breakfast is ridiculously easy to prepare. A single tea bag will make the standard 8 oz. coffee mug worth of tea and could be reused and make a second cup of Irish Breakfast with little loss of flavor. Indeed, this is one of the best teas for those who like to reuse tea bags. The second cup often comes out about as strong as the first (3/4 - 7/8 as strong), provided the first steeping was not over the recommended time. I tend to make my tea using a 32 oz. steeping tea pot and that works well, though in this method, the second brewing is - at worst - about 3/4 strength.
To prepare Irish Breakfast tea, bring a pot of water to a boil and pour it over the tea bags. For Irish Breakfast, roaring boil is just fine! This tea takes only three to five minutes to steep according to the directions. In my experience, it gets no stronger after five minutes and as a rather strong tea, it does not truly need to be stronger than it naturally is.
The first thing that struck me about Irish Breakfast tea was that it had almost no aroma. In fact, Irish Breakfast as it steeped and steamed had a light tea scent only marginally stronger than that of the standard Lipton teabag.
My potential for disappointment was eliminated, however, when I began to drink the tea. Irish Breakfast has a strong tea flavor. The flavor is a bit woody, but it is otherwise a very strong, straightforward tea flavor. Again, this is a tea that helps to define what black tea tastes like, so there is little comparison. But, for those trapped in pedestrian American tea-drinking standards, this is a tea that is about as strong as three Lipton teabags brewed together. The beverage is hot and heady and has an earthy, woody taste to it with a very dry flavor. This is not a thirst-quenching beverage.
Irish Breakfast has no aftertaste, at least not the Twinings brand of it.
With a teaspoon of sugar, Irish Breakfast becomes oddly sour and the dryness of the woody taste is accented. For those looking to sweeten their tea, this is one that requires at least two teaspoons of sugar! As for those who add milk, milk cuts the dryness of this Irish Breakfast tea, but it is thoroughly overwhelmed by the tea flavor. This is a strong tea and milk doesn't touch it's flavor!
The ingredient to this tea is quite simple: Black Tea. There are no other ingredients or flavors, nothing that cannot be pronounced.
In terms of nutrition, this tea is devoid of it. One 8 oz. mug of this tea provides nothing of nutritional value to the drinker. There are no calories (save what one adds from sugar, which I recommend), no fat, sodium, or protein. There is caffeine, but how it relates to other beverages remains a mystery; Twinings does not put a scale on their boxes of tea. This tea is rather caffeinated, though and it will wake the drinker up.
Irish Breakfast tea is very easy to clean up after, provided one does not get it on fabric. The tea bags may be disposed in the garbage, or composted if you have a good garden and/or compost pile. If composting, though, one must remove the paper tag, staple and string, which is just a tedious extra step. The tea itself will stain a mug a faint brown if it is left there for days on end, but otherwise may be cleaned up easily by rinsing out the vessel.
Irish Breakfast is a rather dark tea and as a result, it will stain any light fabrics it comes in contact with. As a result, it is highly recommended that one not let it linger on anything they wish to protect and not have stained. It may be cleaned off if the spill is caught quickly, but if it lingers, it is not at all easy to wash out of clothes, linens or other fabrics.
Twinings Irish Breakfast is a very good, very basic black tea that those who want to enjoy tea would do well to use as a baseline for what tea should taste like.
For other teas reviewed by me, please check out:
Celestial Seasonings Ginger Vanilla Green Chai tea
Yogi Ginger Organic
Lipton basic tea
For other tea reviews, please visit my index page for a complete list!
© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.