Dilmah’s tea expert Jon Houldsworth matches the perfect brew to your favourite breakfast.

A big bacon and egg fry-up screams out for English Breakfast tea, but with peanut butter on toast, a berry black tea (think peanut butter and jelly sandwich) is going to hit the spot. Dilmah’s “tea geek” Jon Houldsworth talks us through popular breakfast options and their best tea (or herbal infusion) partner, along with tips on how to brew them better.

How should we brew a perfect cup of tea?

All water should be freshly boiled and ideally filtered to avoid chlorinated tastes in some places or heavy mineral solids in others, which can make tea taste a bit dull. For black tea the optimum is 95-100C for 3-5 minutes. Three minutes for a teabag or loose leaf blends with smaller grades of leaf. Tea bags simply use these smaller grades of leaf because they brew stronger, quicker but they also expand and you don’t want them to be so packed into the bag that water can’t pass through. Large leaf black teas need to steep for up to 5 minutes to extract the full character. Green teas can become very bitter so mostly suit a lower temperature, around 80C for 2-3 minutes. This gives you all the goodness but with a better balance of flavour. Fruit and herbal infusions mostly suit 3 minutes with fully boiled water. You shouldn’t over-boil water for any tea. There is still more research to be done on exactly why it changes the taste but freshly boiled water does make a fresher cup of tea compared to what the Chinese used to call “dead water”.

How will it be affected if we take milk, sugar or lemon?

It all depends on the pairing, some will suit a slice of lemon and others could take to a dash of milk. Good tea doesn’t need sugar, usually added to cheap tea to add flavour when it’s lacking. Add a little honey instead, or just have it with something sweet if you must.

How do infusions differ to herbal teas? What would you recommend in the morning?

Herbal blends are usually referred to as infusions, to differentiate them from traditional teas like white, green, black or oolong tea which all contain caffeine naturally from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. Some great infusions for breakfast are fruity blends like our Mango & Coconut or the subtle tang of green apple found in pure Chamomile Flowers.

Is there a little-known tea you wish we would all wake up to - literally?

Yes! And I only have one tin left on my desk. Every year in Sri Lanka before the monsoon hits, a cold wind blows up the hills and makes the plants think they’re about to go into a drought. This causes a natural chemical reaction in the leaves and in specific locations the pickers will go out and pick just before the rains fall. If they get the timing right we manage to produce only a few hundred tins of these teas known as “Seasonal Flush”. We don’t even sell them, we mostly run tasting events around the world. The taste is always incredibly complex and a pure representation of terroir.

What do you drink first thing in the morning? Does it change much day-to-day?

In the morning I’m a creature of habit and like most people it’s just a good strong mug of English Breakfast with milk. The main difference is that I use our premium loose leaf “Brilliant Breakfast” (available online) infused in a huge 500ml mug to get me started! Through the rest of the day it varies a lot.

Jon’s breakfast matches

Big fry-up breakfast: English Breakfast Tea

This is a classic combo but unlike the usual cup of English Breakfast with a dash of milk in it, enjoy the tea black and brew it in freshly boiled water for at least 3 minutes to get the full strength and character coming through. Paired with a good fry-up, the more astringent and drying tannins on the palate cut through the fats in the sausages and bacon to create a refreshing balance.

Muesli and milk: Cinnamon, Turmeric, Ginger & Nutmeg

This is an infusion based on red rooibos which will spice up your breakfast with that hint of turmeric and cinnamon. Red rooibos has enough body to balance with the milk in the muesli. Perhaps add a few slices of pear or banana into the muesli too.

Chia seed, banana, nuts and coconut milk: Mango, Ginger & Turmeric with Black Pepper

This infusion is based on the lighter green rooibos which pairs nicely with coconut milk which in turn is great with mango. The subtle turmeric and black pepper is a lovely combo with the fruitiness of banana and chia seeds. This infusion is actually based on a tradition of enjoying cracked pepper on fresh mango for breakfast in Sri Lanka. I was invited into the home of a tea picker family for this during a dawn walk through the tea estates earlier this year and it was amazing!

Toast and peanut butter: Berry Sensation Black Tea

The sticky goodness of peanut butter pairs well with our Berry Sensation Black Tea. The structure of the underlying tea balances with the oils, and the berry blends like a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

Porridge with cream: Earl Grey Extra Strength

Containing a larger portion of leaf, the extra strength version of our Earl Grey balances perfectly with the cream. Add some blueberries too.

Scrambled eggs: Ceylon Gold Large Leaf Tea

A large loose-leaf style with a medium body but a subtle smoky and earthy warmth which blends well with scrambled eggs.

Fruit salad and yoghurt: Either Ceylon Green Tea & Cinnamon or Ceylon Green Tea with Moroccan Mint

Our Ceylon green teas have a lovely soft quality to them without too much bitterness, especially if brewed correctly, around 80C for 2-3 minutes. The cinnamon or mint variants of these would complement a variety of fruits and the tea would balance with a good low-fat yoghurt.

Pancakes with bacon and maple syrup: Smoky Lapsang Souchong

Avocado on toast: Holy Basil, Ginger, Lemongrass & Lemon

Like a subtle squeeze of citrus on your avocado, the light zest balances with the creaminess of avocado.

Shakshuka eggs: Freshly made ice tea or chilled Tangerine Rose & Grapefruit

Brew up a good strong half cup of our Dilmah Premium Black Tea for 3-4 minutes, remove the bags then stir in a little natural honey. Top up with ice and cold water to taste. A real thirst-quencher with a hint of sweetness to go with spices like chilli, cumin and paprika. Alternatively, for a caffeine-free infusion, make the Tangerine Rose & Grapefruit and chill it for a refreshing combo with the spices.

Pastries: Dilmah Premium Extra Strength

In other pairings we’ve suggested adding no milk so the strength of the tea can cut through and balance with the fats in the food, in this instance we suggest adding a dash of milk to a strong brew of our Premium Extra Strength for the simple satisfaction of sweet pastries with a good cuppa. An alternative with apple pastries would be lovely floral Chamomile Flowers, known for a subtle apple character of their own.

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