Fans of Downton Abbey may be fascinated—and a bit envious—of the Crawley daughters’ morning ritual of awakening to a tray of hot tea placed upon their recumbent laps by their ladies’ maids. I suspect the great estate house was quite drafty, and a few cups of tea were surely consumed before the pampered ladies placed their tender toes upon the cold floor.
Indian tea growers of the Edwardian era did their best to propagate the idyllic morning scenario as depicted in this advertisement sponsored by the British tea industry. Taking a few cups of “bed tea” was considered quite stylish—as long as you could afford the staff to bring your tea and toast to your boudoir.
Black tea from the Assam region of India, blended with a bit of Sri Lankan (then called Ceylon) or Kenyan tea, was the standard breakfast blend found in British teapots at the turn of the 20th century. But America’s taste for morning tea tended toward a more mellow blend emphasizing Ceylon teas. We had our own tea packagers such as the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) and White Rose. And, by 1919, the British giant Lipton had established a tea bag plant in Hoboken, New Jersey to supply the American market.
I am often asked, “What goes into a breakfast blend?” There is no master recipe book where tea blenders look for recipes. We are guided by tradition, creativity, and consumer demand. Here are a few notes on traditional breakfast teas.