Inside the Tea Industry with Sharyn Johnston: English Breakfast

Welcome to the first installment of our new monthly World Tea News column: Inside the Tea Industry with Sharyn Johnston. Johnston is an international educator and CEO of Australian Tea Masters, which recently partnered with Questex to expand World Tea Academy. In this column, Johnston will explore a number of topics related to tea, including origins, trends, retail operations, World Tea Academy courses, and more!

In a world where coffee often takes center stage, there is a huge opportunity to elevate the tea experience.

While "English Breakfast," the number-one selling blend in the world, has long been a default choice for many, it's time to move beyond this generic label and embrace the rich and diverse world of high-quality, single-origin black teas. It's time to create a whole new experience in tea drinking.

World Tea Academy - Sharyn Johnston - Australian Tea Masters
Sharyn Johnston (Photo: Courtesy of Australian Tea Masters)

The Misconception of "English Breakfast"

"English Breakfast" tea traditionally was a blend of black teas from Assam, Ceylon, and Kenya, and it was known for its robust flavor.

However, the term has been overused and often masks the true quality of the tea being served. Many blends prioritize cost over quality, resulting in overprocessed, poor-quality leaves and a lack of freshness. Milk and sugar have been added for many years to help mask the flavor of sometimes poor-quality English Breakfast teas.

It's time to dispel this misconception and celebrate the artistry of tea blending and selection.

The Case for Single-Origin Black Teas

Single-origin black teas offer a world of flavors and stories, much like fine wine or specialty coffee.

Each origin, from the malty depths of Assam to the bright, citrusy notes of Ceylon, has its own unique taste profile that reflects its terroir—the climate, geography, and traditional practices of its region. By embracing single-origin teas, cafes can provide an authentic and enriching experience that celebrates the diversity and richness of tea cultures around the world.

Benefits of Single-Origin Teas

Choosing single-origin teas comes with several benefits:

  1. Enhanced Quality and Flavor: Single-origin teas are often produced with more care and attention to quality, resulting in a superior taste experience with distinct flavors and aromas.
  2. Educational Opportunity: Offering single-origin teas invites customers to explore the stories behind each tea. This not only enriches their experience, but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the craft of tea production.
  3. Sustainability and Ethical Sourcing: By selecting single-origin teas from estates that practice sustainable farming and fair labor practices, cafes can contribute to a more ethical and sustainable tea industry.
  4. Differentiation: Offering unique, high-quality, single-origin teas sets a cafe apart in a market where consumers increasingly seek authenticity and quality.

Making the Shift

Transitioning to single-origin teas requires a commitment to quality and education. Cafes can start by sourcing a selection of single-origin teas and training staff on the characteristics and stories of each tea. Menu descriptions can highlight the unique qualities of each selection, inviting customers to explore and taste the difference for themselves.

black tea sharyn johnston english breakfast tea
(Photo: SasaJo, iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Exploring the World of Single-Origin Teas

Here are some countries known for their high-quality, single-origin black teas, each offering distinct characteristics:

  1. India: Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiris
  2. Sri Lanka (Ceylon): Dimbulah and Nuwara Elia
  3. China: Keemun and Yunnan Dian Hong
  4. Kenya: Nandi Gold
  5. Taiwan: Sun Moon Lake tea
  6. Nepal: Himalayan Shangrila Gold
  7. Indonesia: Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi
  8. Malawi: Satemwa
  9. South Korea: Boseong and Hadong
  10. Vietnam: Red Dragon

Each of these countries produces black teas with unique flavors and stories, allowing customers to discover a world of tea beyond the traditional "English Breakfast" blend.

Offering These Teas

When offering single-origin teas, provide information about their specific characteristics, regions, and best brewing practices. This not only enhances the customer's experience, but also educates them about the rich diversity of black teas available.

It's time to redefine the morning cuppa and discover the world of single-origin black teas. Let's elevate the tea experience and celebrate the quality and craftsmanship that goes into each cup.

Say goodbye to generic "English Breakfast" and embrace the journey through the world of tea. Experience the real world of tea!


Plan to Attend or Participate in World Tea Expo, March 18-20, 2024

To learn about other key developments, trends, issues, hot topics and products within the global tea community, plan to attend World Tea Expo, March 18-20, 2024 in Las Vegas, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Visit

To book your sponsorship or exhibit space at the World Tea Conference + Expo, or to inquire about advertising and sponsorship opportunities at World Tea News, contact:

Ellainy Karaboitis-Christopoulos, Business Development Manager, Questex

Phone: +1-212-895-8493; Email: [email protected]

Also, be sure to stay connected with World Tea Expo on social media for details and insights about the event. Follow us on XFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.