Because of its strength, Irish breakfast tea is commonly served with milk, but may also be consumed plain or with sugar. In Ireland, where milk and dairy products are traditionally a major part of the diet, most people drink tea with milk. Irish breakfast tea is often drunk in the morning. Being of black teas, it has a strong flavour and higher caffeine content than green, oolong, or white teas, albeit somewhat less than coffee. Although named "breakfast tea", it is drunk throughout the day and evening.
As with other teas, premium Irish breakfast teas are offered in loose leaf form which allows the consumer to inspect the proportion of hand-picked buds and whole tea leaves to broken fannings of indeterminate origin. When brewed, the tea varies in colour from very dark red to brown. Irish breakfast tea can also be bought in tea bags but with more variation in quality.