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If you’ve ever noted some of the weighty titles and subtitles of books that are published nowadays, rest assured that this is hardly a recent trend. Older books equaled or surpassed anything that modern-day publishers and authors can come up with. If you want proof of this then look to the subject of this article, Breakfast, Dinner, and Tea: Viewed Classically, Poetically, and Practically: Containing Numerous Curious Dishes and Feasts of All Times and All Countries, by Julia C. Andrews.

The book was published in 1860 and as the title suggests it’s a somewhat unusual take on the cookbook. Obviously tea is not the focus of the book and the “tea” in the title refers to tea in the sense of a meal rather than a beverage. But the tea section is an interesting one nonetheless and is further divided into five chapters.

Black tea boiled for 15-20 minutes? Yikes! (ETS Image)

Black tea boiled for 15-20 minutes? Yikes! (ETS Image)

Three of these look at the Tea-Biscuits and Cakes, preserves and other things that might be served at a tea, including such items as rye drop cake and Mrs. Grundy’s Cake. There are a few short chapters on tea the beverage as well, which are certainly worth a look. Tea as a Beverage considers the origins of the drink, pinpointing it no further than some unknown date in “the Chinese Empire.”

What follows is a brief sketch of the history of tea after it was first introduced into England, a time when it might sell for nearly fifty dollars a pound. The author claims that tea first came into use in New England in about 1720 and goes on to briefly cover tea during the time of the Revolutionary War and some of the tea substitutes used then.

The author claims that the variety of black teas at the time were Bohea, Congou, Campoi, Souchong, Caper, and Pekoe, while the green teas were Imperial, Hyson, Twankay and Hyson. She also remarks on the cheering effects of tea, which are “unanimous” in every country where it is used. And I’m certainly not going to argue that point.

From there it’s on to preparation. Andrews gets it half-right here, remarking that green tea should not be boiled, which is great advice. However, I’d shudder to think what her black tea must have tasted like after it had been boiled for the fifteen to twenty minutes she recommends.

But as long as you’re not adhering too closely to the author’s advice on tea prep this one’s worth a look for yet another glimpse at how tea was perceived in an earlier time. Take a look at it here.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Once upon a time there was tea. It was black – for the most part. It was a time, here in the West, when tea and black tea were nearly synonymous. But in the last decade or so it’s green tea that’s grabbed the overwhelming share of attention.

With the popularity of green tea there’s also been a search for the next big thing in tea – a search that has turned up the likes of white tea, oolong, and even puerh. The latter is a type of tea that’s not known to most people and isn’t even known to many tea drinkers.

Pu-erhs to consider, with flavored versions becoming more popular. (ETS Image)

Pu-erhs to consider, with flavored versions becoming more popular. (ETS Image)

The super-condensed version of what puerh is: a type of tea that’s produced in Yunnan, China, and that’s notable for being fermented after the processing stages. If you do even a cursory scan of the web, you could be forgiven for believing that puerh is something of a magic elixir brimming over with health benefits.

What you’ll also notice is that a lot of those making claims for puerh seem to have a horse in the race, as the saying goes. Which is to say a lot of the claims for puerh’s benefits come from merchants who are keen to sell you…puerh tea. Which is an easy enough claim to make about a type of tea that’s considered to be rather exotic.

But is there any truth to the health claims made for puerh tea? This is no place for an in-depth study, but we’ll look at a few of them. Though it’s also worth considering whether any benefits said to arise from puerh have to do with puerh specifically or tea in general.

As the popular Dr. Andrew Weil notes at his web site, some of the claims made for puerh are “promotion of weight loss, reduction of serum cholesterol, and cardiovascular protection.” However, he goes on to claim, “not many scientific studies exist on pu-erh tea, so we don’t know how valid these health claims are. Some research suggests that pu-erh may help lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk, but this hasn’t been confirmed in humans.” An article at one major city paper echoes some of these claims and references a 2009 Chinese study that indicates that puerh lowers cholesterol. It also points to a 2011 study that suggests that puerh can inhibit tumor growth.

As for those claims regarding puerh and weight loss, there are actually several studies that have looked at this topic. All were carried out by Chinese researchers, not surprisingly. This one used rats as subjects and suggested that puerh might have some benefits with regard to weight loss and cholesterol reduction.

This study used puerh extract and human subjects and claimed a slight reduction in weight over a three-month period, but no significant reduction in cholesterol. Here’s a study that summarizes “current progress on understanding the mechanisms and bioactive components of Pu-erh’s weight-cutting effects as well as highlighting current weaknesses in the field.” Last up, a study that compares antioxidant content of puerh and various other teas and finds that it compares favorably.

Which is just a brief look at a topic that probably merits a closer look. It also merits at least a tiny bit of healthy skepticism. But that’s probably true any time health claims are being made for foods or beverages.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

C Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A Pop-up Adaptation (from Amazon.com)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: A Pop-up Adaptation (from Amazon.com)

As I research assorted and sundry articles dealing with various aspects of tea history, I’ve run across a number of important historical events that have taken place in the month of April (or more specifically on the 1st). Here are a few of them:

April 1, 2813 BC
Chinese emperor Shung Mung discovers tea and the tea bag at the exact same moment. The Emperor is folding pieces of paper (which he’d invented the year before) into little kitty shapes when a sudden windstorm blows a bunch of leaves from off of the tea plant located right next to the window of his workshop. As he happens to look away for a moment a number of the leaves happen to blow directly into the paper kitty he is working on. At this very moment he just happens to drop the paper packet and tea leaves into a pot of water that was boiling on a fire next to him – for no apparent reason.

April 1, 1703
At the request of the eccentric inventor Baron Percival Egspeth Snork, a blacksmith creates what is believed to be one of the first tea infusers. It is a large, unwieldy device fashioned out a heavy piece of cast iron and tends to crush the dainty porcelain tea cups it’s tested on. Unfortunately, while working on the design of a second prototype of this device, Snork dies in a bizarre whittling accident that remains unexplained to this day.

April 1, 1773
Mrs. Edna Winkerbean holds the first tea party in what will soon become the United States. The party is held at her home in Boston. It is a very nice affair and is attended by several ladies in the neighborhood. Crumpets are served. The participants refer to this momentous event as the Boston Tea Party, which turns out to be a bad choice of names.

April 1, 1899
Jedediah Whufflesnorfer invents the Teafflesnorfer, which he insists is not named after himself. It’s a device that automatically begins to prepare tea at the sound of a rooster crowing. Through a complicated system of gears, belts, and levers, it cleans itself after each use and refills itself with tea leaves and water. It does not do windows. So don’t even ask.

April 1, 2013
Alarmed by the news that the Dormouse kept dozing off during the Mad Tea-Party in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a number of tea companies begin research into tea products that are “enhanced” with extra caffeine.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mouthwash? Gyokuro Japanese Green Tea (ETS image)

Mouthwash? Gyokuro Japanese Green Tea (ETS image)

The next time you reach for that bottle of mouthwash maybe you should reach for a cup of tea instead. Or should you?

I’ve written about tea and oral health a few times in the pages so far. Here’s a more recent article on the topic and here’s one from several years back that looks at the benefits tea might have for your teeth. Several of the studies in those articles referred to the ability of tea to reduce the bacteria in the mouth that can contribute to bad breath.

One of the facts that I skimmed over when discussing one of those studies is the fact that researchers had their subjects rinse their mouths with black tea. The results, “In one trial, those who rinsed with black tea for one minute 10 times a day had less plaque accumulation. In another, a single 30-second rinse had no effect, but multiple rinsings prevented bacteria from growing further, as well as lowered acid production.”

An article from Best Health looks at green tea and is titled 5 Ways Green Tea is Good for Your Oral Health. The five benefits they list are cavity prevention, gum health, reduced tooth loss, cancer control and better breath. The article cites a study by the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Dentistry that found that the green tea powder given to research subjects “outperformed mints, chewing gum and even parsley-seed oil in this study.” A study by researchers in Thailand, titled Effect of Green Tea Mouthwash on Oral Malodor, found that “green tea mouthwash could significantly reduce VSC [volatile sulfur compounds] level in gingivitis subjects after rinsing for 4 weeks.”

So it’s settled, then. Or is it? There is that issue of black tea staining teeth, after all. Web MD places tea second on its list of top staining foods and beverages, after wine. But the good news is that it notes that teas with fewer tannins, such as green and white are less likely to stain. So it is settled now. If you use tea as a mouthwash, it’s probably wise to use black tea sparingly.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

(stock image)

(stock image)

We’ve written about Tregothnan Estate many times at this site and here’s the proof. It’s noteworthy for the fact that it’s the only significant producer of tea in a place where tea is consumed with great enthusiasm – the United Kingdom. Recently, it was announced, as one of the British papers put it, that “English grown tea will be available for the first time in British supermarkets.” That’s Tregothnan tea, of course, which is also exploring the option of exporting their tea to China, as well as opening their own chain of tea houses.

If “cereal tea” is something you’ve never heard of before, you’re not alone. I was in the same boat until I ran across a few references to it recently. It’s apparently designed for anyone who thinks that cereal saturated milk found at the bottom of a cereal bowl is something like fine cuisine. According to this instructional article it’s prepared like tea, but it apparently doesn’t contain any actual tea – though you could probably throw some into the mix if you were so inclined.

I seem to recall a few previous references I’ve made into these pages to clothing that has been dyed with tea. Along the same lines, here’s an article about a designer who creates fabric from kombucha, among other things. Kombucha is a cultured drink that’s not tea in the strictest sense of the word but which is usually mixed with tea.

Then there are zany novelty tea infusers. I try not to let too many of those columns pass without a reference to at least one. This time around I’ll point you to not one but rather a fine assortment of twenty tea infusers, courtesy of the good people over at the Mashable site.

Speaking of zany and novelty, there’s teapots. If you happen to be in Pomona, California this spring you might want to stop by the Big Fish Small Pot teapot event. If you miss it there’s always next year. After all, this year’s incarnation is billed as the Sixth International Small Teapot Competition and Show. More here. For more on teapots, there’s always the teapots teapots teapots site, where they feature such offbeat items of interest as this one.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chef's Choice Electric 679 Glass Kettle (ETS image)

Chef’s Choice Electric 679 Glass Kettle (ETS image)

If you’re like me, you probably spend a lot of your time sitting around and musing over the great questions of existence. Take this one, for example. What would happen if you dumped all of the world’s tea into the Great Lakes? Okay, so maybe none of us were wondering about that one. But someone has taken the trouble to answer the question – or at least to theorize about what might happen in such a scenario.

The theories come from a site called What If?, where they promise to answer a new one of your hypothetical questions every Tuesday. They also tackle such burning questions as “If you call a random phone number and say ‘God bless you’, what are the chances that the person who answers just sneezed?” And so much more.

The lowdown on tea steeped in such a manner is that it would likely be quite weak. There’s plenty of facts, figures and a bit of rather daunting math at the site for anyone who wants to know the full (hypothetical) story. But the bottom line is that tea made in such a fashion would be about the same strength as if you’d dropped two drops of steeped tea into an entire bathtub full of water. Not that extra weak tea made with water from the Great Lakes is an enticing prospect in the first place.

At the same site, they also tackle whether it’s possible to boil water for you tea by stirring it with a spoon. The theory being that stirring transfers energy to the water and thus if enough energy is transferred perhaps the water will boil. Well, I hate to spoil the ending for anyone and you can read the very detailed answer (with more math) if you’re so inclined. But the fact is, if you want to boil water, you’re going to have to stick to a more traditional method, such as the stove, microwave, electric teakettle, and so on.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Jasmine with Flowers Green Tea (ETS image)

Jasmine with Flowers Green Tea (ETS image)

It’s probably safe to say that the possibilities for flavoring tea are bounded only by the imagination. But there are a few flavored teas that have become tried and true favorites over the years. One of the most famous of these is probably Earl Grey, which is typically made by flavoring black tea with oil of bergamot, a citrus fruit. Then there is Lapsang Souchong, another variation on black tea that’s made by smoking tea leaves over a pine wood fire.

Then there’s jasmine, which might not be the most popular flavored tea, at least not here in the West, but it certainly has its share of adherents. Jasmine is a fragrant flower, which just happens to be the national flower of Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines. The genus Jasmine numbers about 200 species in all, which can be found in parts of Europe and Africa, in addition to Asia.

Trying to sort out who first thought of flavoring tea leaves with jasmine flowers is probably as much of an exercise in futility as trying to determine who first decided to turn tea leaves into a beverage. But some tea histories provide a little bit of reliable background on the matter.

For what it’s worth, Wikipedia claims that the jasmine species used to flavor tea was introduced to “China from Persia via India” at some point during a four-century span two thousand years again. Which is not exactly narrowing it down. Supposedly jasmine was used in tea by the fifth century, but didn’t really become popular until about a thousand years later when Western countries took up tea drinking.

In The Art and Alchemy of Chinese Tea, Daniel Reid remarks that the fourteenth century emperor Chu Chuan, who was deposed after a short time reigning, took up more scholarly pursuits and wrote an important book called A Guide to Tea. In addition to advocating a change from tea bricks to loose tea, he wrote about ways to prepare “flower tea” with various blossoms, including jasmine.

In The True History of Tea, authors Victor H. Mair and Erling Hoh remark that some four centuries later “the Manchu court also popularized tea scented with flowers such as jasmine,” as well as other blooms and note that “To this day, Beijing, remains a bastion of devoted jasmine tea-drinkers.” Though there are apparently those who suggest that this is due to the poor quality of the drinking water there rather than the popularity of the tea itself.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Spring into tea with this Flowering Tiffany Rose Melody Green Tea (ETS image)

Spring into tea with this Flowering Tiffany Rose Melody Green Tea (ETS image)

The last time I checked, many parts of the world experience four fairly distinct seasons. People seem to think that we don’t have seasons here in the blistering deserts of south Arizona but that’s not quite true. They just break down roughly as follows – warm, hot, hotter and hottest.

But regardless of where you live you’re going to experience some type of seasons and each one of those seasons means something when it comes to tea. Since spring is approaching as I write this I’ll start there.

Spring
Spring is an important and eagerly awaited time for many serious tea fans, especially those who are keen on the fine green teas that hail from Japan. The first teas of the year there are harvested in spring and are some of the most eagerly awaited of the year. In Japanese, the term for these teas is shincha, which more or less translates to “new tea.”

Summer
It’s not too hard to figure out what tea is best for those balmy days of summer. That would be iced tea and even though we don’t drink all that much tea overall, here in the United States, the majority of what we do drink is of the iced type. Iced tea has been covered extensively at this site. Go here to review the many articles on the topic.

Fall
In my part of the world fall is pretty much like other people’s summer and is therefore still a good time for iced tea. Your mileage may vary. In some tea growing regions, such as Darjeeling, the fall or autumn flush is the fourth and last harvest of the year, following the second flush in late spring to early summer and the monsoon flush in late summer.

Winter
Winter, of course, is the time for hot tea (at least for most tea drinkers). If I were drinking hot tea in the winter time I’d probably turn the more robust flavors of black tea. Anyone who has the taste for such bold teas as the more processed oolongs and puerh might also want to go that route. Not that there’s anything wrong with drinking a lighter tea during winter – such as green – if that’s what you like.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Blueberries N Cream Dome Cozy (ETS Image)

Blueberries N Cream Dome Cozy (ETS Image)

Never trust a man who, when left alone with a tea cosy, does not try it on. (Billy Connolly)

I have never used a tea cosy (or tea cozy, as some apparently refer to it). Which makes sense, because of all of the methods I’ve used for making tea – being a solo tea drinker – I’ve never had the occasion to use a teapot. Hence no need for a tea cosy to keep the pot warm.

I’ve always assumed that tea cosies were kind of a fuddy-duddyish thing, something that hit a peak of popularity in previous centuries and are barely lingering on today. But as I write my monthly columns on tea books I’ve come to realize that this is not necessarily the case. As it turns out there a quite a few books on the art of tea cosies – none of which are particularly fuddy-duddyish – with more coming along all the time.

Based on my unscientific observations of tea cosy books, it appears that Loani Prior is one of the top players in this market. As her bio notes, the self-styled Queen of the Tea Cosies “lives in Queensland, Australia, where her woolly obsessions border on becoming a disorder.”

She kicked off her attempt at total tea book cosy world domination with a tome titled Wild Tea Cosies and then followed that up with Really Wild Tea Cosies. How Tea Cosies Changed the World was next, with a title that might promise just a bit more than the book delivers. And that’s not all. At least one more volume – Pretty Funny Tea Cosies – will roll out in 2014.

The Tea Cosy series of books numbers four volumes so far, as nearly as I can tell. The first two volumes in the series are credited to an entity known as the Guild of Master Craftsman, while the latter two give credit to their authors by name. More about the Guild’s vast array of books, here.

But wait. There’s even more. If you can’t get enough of this sort of thing then you can try Tea Cosies, by Jenny Occleshaw, which came out in 2013. Or you can wait for a 2014 release from another newcomer to the tea cosy book field – Lee Ann Garrett, whose Easy Knitted Tea Cosies is on the way.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Our line-up of Twinings Teas (ETS image)

Our line-up of Twinings Teas (ETS image)

If you wanted to discourse on the various members of the Twinings tea dynasty, you certainly wouldn’t be at a loss for material. The company moved into their fourth century of operations a few years ago and the latest of the Twinings line – Stephen Twining – is in the tenth generation of tea people from this august family.

If you wanted to read more about the Twinings family, you could try The House of Twining, 1706-1956: Being a Short History of the Firm of R. Twining & Co. Ltd, Tea and Coffee Merchants, 216 Strand London W.C.2. It’s a 115-page volume that was written by one of the Twinings nearly six decades ago. Used copies of this volume are apparently still floating around out there for a rather reasonable price.

If you’re up for instant gratification, however, you could go to various points around the Internet where free public domain books are offered and take a look at The Twinings in Three Centuries: The Annals of Great London Tea House, 1710-1910. Which might seem like a confusing title at first, but it references the fact that, at that time, the family had operated in three different centuries.

It’s a relatively slim volume that’s published by “R. Twining & Co., Ltd.” to celebrate the bicentennial of their entry into the tea business in 1710. It’s at that time that what the book calls “Tom’s Coffee House” was transformed into “an emporium for the sale and consumption of what was still timidly spoken of as ‘the new China herb.’” Tom, of course, referring to Thomas Twining, who kicked the whole thing off.

The move to tea was an opportune one for the family, given that it would eventually overtake coffee and become not only a national drink, of sorts, but an icon of British culture. The first half of the book focuses on the early days of the business, during which time it prospered greatly and ends with the death of Thomas Twining in 1741, at which point the reins were handed over to his son, Daniel.

The second half of the book deals with the generations of Twinings who followed and like the first half touches on various key incidents that took place in tea history during this time. Also worth noting, the numerous interesting illustrations that provide an excellent enhancement to the text.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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