English Breakfast

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Black Tea
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Loose Leaf, Tea Bag
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Edit tea info Last updated by Roswell Strange
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Got a jump start on this week’s cuppings for class; something cool about this week was that one of the sets of cuppings was a ‘blind tasting’ where we steeped a bagged and a loose leaf version of the same (or at least very similar) English breakfast for a person of our choosing and had them both review the tea, but also determine without knowing which is which what the ‘better’ was.

Because he’s really the only person I have easy access to, I used my roomie Tre as my guinea pig for this tasting. Just some background information for anyone who doesn’t know: Tre is not a tea drinker, and when he does drink tea it’s what I’ve picked out specifically for him and generally with a lot of added sugar. For the purposes of this tasting, he didn’t get any sugar or milk with the teas. Also, he’s a chef which you would think means he has a more refined palate but in all honestly I’ve never met someone with a weirder one. Anytime I have him blind taste/smell something he’s either simply off base or just not even in the right field to begin with.

So here are the highlights from this tasting:

When it came to the loose leaf version, he said that the colour of the ‘tea water’ (liquor) was obviously a lot lighter, which I somewhat agree with. While I don’t think the difference was drastic, it was noticeable. As far as the aroma he claimed he couldn’t smell anything but hot water. Which… I don’t even know how, but I digress.

When it came to describing the taste, he very accurately described the feeling of astringency without knowing the name for it – which I told him. He said this sensation was “mild” and when I further probed whether or not he liked the feeling he said he did. That it “felt like what tea should feel like”. But I could not for the life of me coax out any other flavour descriptors other than the astringency and the super not helpful “it tastes like tea”. No Tre! Break it down! However, saying that would’ve been like shouting at a wall so we moved on.

When it came to the bagged version there was the obvious flip regarding the liquor; “It’s darker than the other one. Almost black”. Well no, not black – just a nice rich red/copper kind of colour. As far as the aroma goes he claimed it ‘reminded him of Earl Grey’. I’m not entirely convinced he wasn’t just throwing out what tea terminology he does know. Seriously; what knowledge he retains about my blathering on about tea astounds me. The other day he correctly used the term ‘chawan’ while I was making matcha, but he thinks he tastes/smells bergamot with an English Breakfast? He has one weird palate.

But going further into what he tasted with this blend, he said the astringency (at this point he had been taught the right term) was “more powerful and long lasting” and he called the tea “slightly sweeter” but again I couldn’t coax any more out of him other than “it just reminds me of Earl Grey”. Doh!

I then had him guess which cup was which and he correctly did so, and finally I asked him which he preferred, to which he replied… The bagged tea.

What a tea pleb. But seriously; his logic behind the bagged tea was that it was better because it tasted stronger, and more like ‘what tea should taste like’. I guess taste is a subjective thing and I’ve got to understand that, but the way he processed each cup just seems so… Weird. I wish I could experience each of them the way he does. It would surely be an enlightening experience.

Since he didn’t feel like drinking both full cups I ended up taking a sip of each after he’d left. Now, to be fair I knew which was which but I thought the loose was definitely better. The astringency was pleasant, there wasn’t any bitterness and I could taste the nuances, like the malt and bread notes, better. The bagged, on the other hand, was really harsh and brassy and the amount of astringency kind of made me gag. How anyone could interpret that cup as tasting “sweet” has me seriously perplexed.

Also, again, Earl Grey!?


Loved this review. It so reminds me of trying to share tea with family. My favorite comment was from my mom who said of a beautiful dragonwell, “Well, I guess I can see how someone could get used to that.” Then she proceeded to pour up the decaf bagged Lipton. sigh.


That’s funny but that what majority people like. Many swear that Maxwell House is the best coffee in the world :p

Sami Kelsh

I feel your pain. I once had a line manager who referred to the loose-leaf teas I made myself at the office as “compost”. Thanks, bud. side-eyes the questionable faculty canteen pseudo-coffee he drank in abundance

My parents are good sports and will sometimes try things, and my husband likes cold-brewed fruit teas, but otherwise tends to respond with a yuck-face if I get him to try anything that isn’t PG Tips or the like – which he takes the bag out of as soon as the boiling water’s hit it. Even a totally basic loose-leaf Ceylon from Whittard was a bit off to him! I have given up.


Yeah, non-tea drinkers don’t understand why loose leaf is so much better, lol. My mom is very similar to your roomate- she drinks ONLY black tea with prob an inch of milk and a tablespoon or two of sugar (bleh). However, I do buy her loose leaf black tea for her birthday/mother’s day/Christmas (although I do bag it for her because I know she wouldn’t fiddle with it herself lol) and she says that she does notice it’s different and, although she cannot put her finger on it, she does like it better.

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