Posted by: dan | May 14, 2009

bitter sweet symphony

English Breakfast Header

Dan: Crikey, what a busy couple of weeks it’s been. Moving house is one hell of an experience. Especially if it’s the first time you’ve done it. I’m surprised how well I seem to be looking after myself. But you don’t need or want to know about that. You’re here for the tea review. As it’s the first review in my new house, I’ve plumped for a good old English Breakfast from adagio. Nothing too new or surprising, just something… well, homely.

My tea collection, seen here purely to show off

My tea collection, seen here purely to show off

Opening the packet yielded surprise, as the smell that hit me was one I’d encountered before. It was reminiscent of Whittard’s 1886 blend, which has a chocolaty aroma. Not a bar of chocolate, but something closer to a fresh cacao bean. Whittard’s 1886 blend also tastes very heavily of chocolate, and is a very strange tea. It’s a blend of Assam (one of my favourites) and Keemun (one I’ve yet to try on it’s own), and is a tea best left for the evening. Intrigued by the smell, I clicked on my shiny new kettle with it’s temperature display and changing colours (pretentious, I know, but I love it), and brewed the teabag.

Instantly, the water turned a golden green colour, and slowly turned darker. Adagio recommend a 5 minute brewing time, but as that seemed a little long, especially when confronted by the now deep brown tea, I removed the bag at the 4 minute mark. I’ve always had English Breakfast with milk and sugar, so I was going to try this one plain. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. This is quite drinkable without either, and has a taste similar to the Whittard’s 1886, but is much subtler, lighter and crucially, better. At the time of writing this review, I had no idea which teas are used to create adagio’s English Breakfast, so I had to guess (I have no home internet access yet, so I couldn’t check). Judging from the taste, I thought that it might have been a mix of Assam, Ceylon and Keemun. I only had the slight chocolate flavour to point out the Keemun, and as these are the usual leaves found in English Breakfast blends, I doubted I was far off the mark.

This is about the 3-minute mark, and needs little more brewing.

This is about the 3-minute mark, and needs little more brewing.

Well, it turns out that it is only Keemun tea, which means this is one hell of a leaf. It has all the markings of a full blend, with many characteristics instead of any one predominant flavour. This leaf is well developed, and the taste is strong and distinctive. The first sensation is the smokiness, followed by a descent through the chocolate flavour before evolving into a lovely, calming sweetness which lasts through to a long aftertaste.

The flavour is very pleasant. The chocolaty taste is perhaps a little too strong, but that may well vary with each teabag/measure of loose leaves. But the important fact is that it’s not overpowering, and works well with the mixture of a light sweetness and underlying smokiness. I thought I may have shot myself in the foot by reviewing an English Breakfast in the evening, which is not the most logical decision, really. But it is a very relaxing tea to sip on, which means it works well at the end of a busy day. If you’ve tried Whittard’s 1886 blend, you’ll like this tea. You’ll like it a lot more in fact, as it’s subtler, but tastier. If you haven’t had the 1886 blend, don’t bother; jump straight into this one. You won’t regret it.

Dan was drinking adagio’s English Breakfast tea, available at £4.99 for 15 teabags, or £6.99 for 110g.



  1. While I admit to a preference for Yunnan Gold, Keemun can also be quite tasty and unusual. Yum.

    Thanks for the great review!

    • I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this tea, to be honest. After my previous English Breakfast experiences, u was expecting something quite plain, with little to recommend it, but it’s actually quite a complex leaf. I’m also surprised it is just Keemun, and not a blend, especially as Keemun is usually the leaf left out of cheaper English Breakfasts. Yunnans are very popular, be quite tasty, but I don’t think my palate has developed to enjoying it as much as I could yet. It will have to be back on the cards again at some point, so a re-evaluation will be necessary.

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