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5 to Try: Breakfast Teas

The standard taste profile that most morning tea drinkers expect out of a breakfast blend typically includes bold, bitter, and robust notes that marry appropriately with milk and sugar. But food and beverage journalist and tea consultant (and regular Imbibe contributor) Max Falkowitz argues that there’s a lot more nuance to be found in single-origin black teas while still satisfying the desire for a similar experience. “There’s more access to more styles of tea and smaller producers that are paying more attention to their agricultural practices, where the money is going to stay in the area,” Falkowitz explains. Here are five single-origin black teas that showcase a higher-quality leaf, as well as distinctive flavors that stand up to milk and sugar.

Nilgiri Coonoor

With candied fruit and light floral notes, this tea from the mountains of southern India is balanced by well-structured, spiced tannins and a slightly malted aroma. “If you like a brisk and bristling cup of Assam, this tea from the Nilgiris (on the opposite side of India) scratches a similar itch and then some,” Falkowitz says. Sourced by the Tea Studio (a project of Montreal company Camellia Sinesis) in collaboration with a local team of women producers, the Nilgiri Coonoor presents an opportunity to taste the difference that thoughtful processing can have on a tea. $7.91/1.76 oz., camellia-sinesis.com

Darjeeling Black Breakfast Tea

Niroula Tea Farm’s Darjeeling is a far cry from Assam, the latter of which tends to be a crucial component of most breakfast blends. With less acidity and subdued maltiness, it instead offers strong notes of cocoa and muscatel that fill the need for a robust yet elegant tea. “Darjeeling teas are more fragrant and fruity than the typical woodsy taste of an English breakfast, but the teas from this small garden have a darker, deeper flavor than most Darjeelings,” Falkowitz explains, likening it to roasted cherries soaked in rum and spooned over bread pudding. $14/2.6 oz., happyearthtea.com

Jade Rouge Sun Moon Lake

One glance at these needle-shaped leaves may completely flip your impressions of what a black tea looks like. Characterized by a strikingly deep red hue, this juicy black tea grows in Taiwan’s Sun Moon Lake region, typically as modified versions of assamica plants from Assam. “They retain that burly strength [of Assam tea] but trade astringency for a smooth, beautiful sweetness of blackberry and honey. So sweet you won’t need sugar,” says Falkowitz. $15/1 oz., tecompanytea.com

Himalayan Golden Black Tea

Most tea out of Nepal tends to be sourced for lower-grade commodity blends. However, this award-winning Himalayan Golden showcases the country’s capability of producing high-quality artisan tea. Harvested during monsoon season, and grown in the soils of Sandakphu, Nepal, this tea features “tiny young buds grown by a farmer co-op,” Falkowitz says, “processed with more sophisticated technique for a rich cocoa and spice vibe, and a noticeably rich texture.” Nepali Tea Traders notes that this tea is great with or without milk and sugar. $14/1.6 oz., nepaliteatraders.com

Spiced Lapsang Souchong

For lovers of smoky, bold breakfast teas, this lapsang souchong from the Wuyi province in Fujian, China, will fulfill all expectations, and more. Lapsang is baked over pinewood, providing a little extra oomph for an otherwise smooth, enjoyable drinking experience. “This batch captures the balanced, bold flavors of a breakfast tea with an intriguing warm spice,” notes Falkowitz, who suggests drinking it with a small serving of really good, dark honey. $7.50/25 grams, white2tea.com

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