The English Breakfast Tea scam, exposed

I like to think of myself as a tea snob. Maybe not a snob, but at least someone who can justify the time and expense I spend on buying, making and drinking tea. But I have recently learned a valuable lesson: as far as plain black, English Breakfast tea, store-bought Twinings in bags is just as good as loose, organic, ultra-snobby English Breakfast that you make with ultra-snobby, high-tech tea paraphernalia.

Just a month or two ago I was drinking Twinings because that’s all I had. I started thinking how flat and boring it tastes. How my elevated tastes had moved far beyond Twinings and their… their… their… bags. So I went online and ordered 100 grams of English Breakfast (Broken) Organic Black Tea Blend for about $11, plus the cost of shipping. I also got a bunch of other teas, including the Assam Margherita GFBOP Black Tea (I believe the acronym is for a French phrase meaning “Way too high-class for you, bozo”).

Basically, my girlfriend didn’t believe that I can really taste the difference. So we had a blind taste-test of the two black teas, plus a bag of store-bought Twinings. While the Assam was noticeably different (sharper, with a little lemonishyesque flavor), I guessed wrong on the two English Breakfasts. I do not consider this a personal failing, rather a failing of the whole idea of English Breakfast Tea — which is, after all, a blend and not a specific kind of tea. And in the end, side-by-side with a single-leaf tea, it’s a lot more bland.

So if you’re going to buy loose tea, get an Assam or Ceylon or something, because the blends are probably the same thing you can buy at the supermarket.


About Don Seiffert

I'm a reporter and writer in the Boston area.
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