I never had much tea growing up. Or rather, I actually had plenty of tea, but it was all of the monolithic Southern Sweet Tea variety, i.e. inexpensive bags of orange pekoe unscientifically brewed and loaded with sugar and ice. Refreshing and affordable and culturally comforting, but my youthful imagination craved something more. The thought of hot tea seemed absolutely exotic and the epitome of hoity toity poshness, lifestyles of the rich and famous and all that. China cups and saucers and haughtily poised little fingers. Very much outside of my realm of sweating glasses of Luzianne attracting flying insects. And what tea seemed the height of that hot-tea paradise I had yet to enter into? English Breakfast Tea.
Just see it through the eyes of a dingy girl of eight or nine years or so. English Breakfast Tea, boxes of it shelved a bit above the stuff her mother uses to make that common, everyday beverage of iced tea, little boxes from foreign brands, a product that’s never been in the cupboard at home. How it comprises all the allure of tea drinking amongst some phantom notion of upper-crust gleaned from snippets of Masterpiece Theatre productions. English— a very faraway land when you’re in South Carolina. Breakfast— why, who ever thought to drink tea at breakfast, when everyone here drinks it during the day and night? Tea— not stuff in a pitcher in the fridge, no, this is tea for pots and cups, steaming liquid colored with milk.
Then came the day, in my early teens, when I acquired a sampler box of Twinings tea, with accompanying funny look from the parental unit when I asked for it at the grocery store, as if in confirmation that, yes, this one’s going to be a bit of a snob. How I gloated over that box, with its seal from the Queen, and I sampled the samples with excitement and reverence. And what did I find, in those fateful few bags of Twinings English Breakfast Tea? That it’s all right, but I rather vastly prefer Irish Breakfast Tea. XÞ
But seriously, it is a solid, reliable tea, but simply not one of my favorites from Twinings. In bags and loose leaf alike, it seems to brew up on the weak side, and there’s this very slight peculiar taste which I can’t quite pinpoint… it is almost a waxiness, but that may just be my tastebuds acting wonky. Otherwise, it takes its milk and sugar nicely, as is to be expected, and has a classic if not especially outstanding taste, mildly malty, smooth and with little astringency. I find it nourishing without being too strong, if it’s one of those days when you want a breakfast tea, but something on the less kick-in-the-pants end. And on the whole, I actually prefer it in the afternoon, food optional. A decent fair-to-middling tea which I brew from time to time, especially if I am engaged in something in which I shall be distracted from properly sitting down and enjoying a cup, but still want something nice and hot and flavorful. In that respect, this tea is undemanding and consistent, great for writing letters or worrying about something— it assuages the thirst without my feeling bad for not using much concentration in appreciating it.
In Masterpiece Theatre terms, I would go for something heartier if you’re a great, strapping lad or lass who wants a cup with a big fry-up breakfast before a long day of roaming about the moors or whatever, but it’s perfect, brewed weakly and served on a tray, if you’re a pale invalid in a dark-curtained room who might only manage to nibble a little toast of a morning.