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(Wikipedia image)

(Wikipedia image)

If you’re expecting anything serious…or historically accurate…or even decisive, best to move along. This is strictly tongue-in-cheek. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The “Green Light” Given for Starting Construction on Knossos Palace (2000 BC)

Okay, so they didn’t have tea in Crete yet…or did they? How do you make such a decision without tea? I mean, having seen this palace and how big those stones are, I’m convinced that you’d have to be pretty firm in your commitment to the project. I don’t know about you, but I would need several strong pots of hot tea while mulling over something like this. One thing is for sure – the design was great, keeping out the soaring heat of the day and even having indoor plumbing. No running to the well to fill the tea kettle.

The First Legal Code Created (circa 1792 BC)

This necessitated the first lawyer. And the first lawyer joke. Hammurabi of Babylon, conqueror and empire builder, united all Mesopotamia into one big tea party and set up the biggest law firm in history. Not really, just the legal code, and it was a great period in Babylonian history with plenty of tea. (Sure they had tea. After all, the Chinese were guzzling tea like crazy. Word must have gotten to Hammurabi via a selfie posted on the Chinese emperor’s Facebook page or Twitter account maybe. Or a text message. Something!)

Trojan War Launched (circa 1180 BC)

Too many history books say that this war started over the ravishingly beautiful Helen of Troy. Nope. It started over a spilt cup of tea. The Greek commander Agamemnon was in Troy for one of those fancy schmancy state dinners when a clumsy waiter knocked over Agamemnon’s teacup while putting more pats of butter on his bread plate. (In all fairness to the waiter, I’ve served at such banquets and found this butter pat maneuver to be quite tricky.) The matter was further exacerbated by the waiter getting a little jittery and spilling a whole pot of tea on Agamemnon’s tunic. Thus began a lengthy besiegement of Troy by hordes of Greeks united to demand justice for this insulting (and messy) action. Plus the Trojans refused to pay the cleaning bill for that tunic.

Building the Great Wall of China (220–206 BC)

Tea has been around for thousands of years. So has what we now know as the Great Wall of China, with the most famous part having been built in 220-206 BC at the command of Qin Shi Huang, first Emperor of China, along the historical northern borders of China. It was meant to protect the empire from invasions by more hostile groups. The wall we know today was mostly built during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD). So, how was tea involved? Well, as I heard the story, Qin Shi Huang was waiting for the tea water to reach the “crab eyes” stage (just the right temperature for green tea) and was playing with his Lego® set (okay, so it wasn’t called “Lego” back then) and built a wall. Just then a messenger came running in saying that a horde from the north was heading their way. “Hm…,” thought the emperor, “invading horde…wall of Legos…” Ding! A lightbulb suddenly went off over his head…oh, sorry, the lightbulb hadn’t been invented yet so it was probably a candle being lit…and he told the messenger to get a crew started building that wall right away. Just then the water reached the “crab eyes” stage and, with a major decision having been made, he turned his attention to infusing his tea. From that day on, he was known as the Wall Emperor Who Steeps Tea or some such thing.

Henry VIII Decides to Behead His Second Wife Ann Boleyn (1536)

After a mere 3 years of marriage, Henry said, “Get me out of this marriage.” His loyal minions did. Some say it was so he could marry someone else and beget a son (Ann was only able to have a healthy daughter, Elizabeth I). In reality, it was over tea. Yeah, this was about 70 years before the Dutch brought tea to Europe, but hey, Henry was a very forward-thinking monarch. In fact, I think that’s what the whole disagreement between him and Ann was about. Something like this: Henry: “Ann, tea is going to be the most popular drink in our empire some day.” Ann: “How idiotic.” Henry: “Guards! Off with her head!”

Declaring Our Independence from King George III of Britain (4 July 1776)

Sure, you’ve heard of the Boston Tea Party, but that wasn’t the only involvement of tea in the decision of the original 13 colonies (actually, only 12 since New York abstained from voting) to declare their independence from Britain and especially King George III (aka “The Mad King”). Part of the issue was all that pinky raising the Colonists were required to do when lifting their cups at tea time to drink. Another was those teeny weeny tea sandwiches that were served. Oh, wait, that was in the 1800’s. Well, the pinky thing was enough to fight over. So they did. And now we can sip our tea without raising our pinkies if we so desire.

Sending Men to the Moon (circa 1960)

On 20 July 1969, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made one small step for man and one giant leap for tea drinkers. But the decision to send men to the moon came years earlier over a pot of Lapsang Souchong. That smoky taste is very invigorating and stimulates creative thinking. One potful and the guys at NASA were saying, “Monkey schmonkey…let’s send a MAN to the moon!” Wow, now that’s good tea!

The First Blog Is Set Up (late 1990s)

Again, tea stimulated those creative brain cells and had someone thinking, “Gee, I want to post about this tea online…just something short…with photos.” Voilà! The Web log was born. And then that person had some more tea and said, “The name ‘Web log’ is too long. I’ll just call it a ‘blog.’”

Enough history. Time to get back to tea drinking!

See more of A.C. Cargill’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.

A great start to a tea leaf's journey to your cup! (stock image)

A great start to a tea leaf’s journey to your cup! (stock image)

by Guest Blogger Sarah Rosalind Roberts

Everyday millions of us drink cups of tea, but how many of you have ever wondered about the journey the tea leaf takes to make it to your mug? This is the story from the tea leaf’s point of view.

Hello – I am Camellia sinensis. It’s early spring and time for me to begin my journey. As one of the top two tea leaves on the plant, I am destined to be made into premium loose black tea. I have been allowed to grow to the perfect height to make harvesting easier to complete. Approached by an expert picker, I am twisted and plucked from the stem by hand and start to fly through the air into the basket on the plucker’s back. I’m left waiting a while until the basket begins to get full, at which point I’m moved to quality control to check that I’m good enough (which of course I am!)

From the moment I was picked, I feel myself start to wilt, which gradually starts enzymatic oxidation, also known as withering. I’m laid out with all the other leaves in the sun which is making me lose a lot of my water content and I’m starting to feel limp as my structure weakens.

Tea leaves ready for packing and shipping. (stock image)

Tea leaves ready for packing and shipping. (stock image)

I’m now being rolled and kneaded, causing me to ooze some of my leaf juices, which will help with the final flavour once I’m brewed. After this I’m left to oxidise in a climate controlled room for almost an hour. If I was going to be a different type of tea, I’d be oxidised for a shorter period of time. To finish me off and seal me at the right oxidation level, I’m being heated gently – it’s actually getting quite warm!

I’m now being shipped across the globe to a tea wholesaler to be sold on to a tea vendor. As a loose tea leaf, I find myself being placed into packaging with many others (it’s pretty dark in here). I find myself on the shelf of the tea vendor ready for someone to buy me. Although I have no idea who’s bought me I know I’m being transported somewhere. Suddenly there is light as the packaging that contains me opens. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, or more precisely, I can see a teaspoon that shovels me into a teapot.

Black tea in the cup (ETS Image)

Black tea in the cup (ETS Image)

The hot water from the kettle hits me like a wave and all the time that went into my preparation makes it worth it for you. I’m being poured into a cup now and being stopped from entering by the strainer.

My journey has come to an end – it’s been one that has taken time and spanned many miles to reach your mug. I hope you can appreciate the lengths I’ve been through to give you the perfect cuppa when you need it most.

© 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.

 

Anime (pronounced Aa-nih-MAY) is a stylized form of animation closely related to manga. English dictionaries define the term as referring to a special Japanese style of motion-picture animation. Many Westerners view anime strictly as an animation product from Japan, but as long as the animation is stylized, it can be from other countries, too. The style dates back to around 1917 and can be either hand- or computer-drawn. It’s certainly an influence on tea drinkers, who can find themselves “going anime” at tea time without even realizing it. That’s where I come in to point out the signs so you can tell how far along your transformation has gone.

1 Facial Expression Morphage

You find yourself using one of the anime-related manga (still comics) stylized facial expressions to tell your host/hostess about how you are enjoying your tea. Hopefully, you’ll be using the enthusiastic and happy expressions most!

Hosts, know these expressions so you can tell how your anime tea time is going! (found on Yahoo! Images)

Hosts, know these expressions so you can tell how your anime tea time is going! (found on Yahoo! Images)

2 Tea Preference Changes

Since anime is so closely associated by Westerners with Japan, you may find yourself going for some of the many Japanese teas available (so many that I had to split my write-up of them into part 1, part 2, and part 3 awhile ago on this blog). A fave for many is Sencha Kyoto Cherry Rose Festival Green Tea (loose and bagged). Straight Sencha is also good, and Gyokuro is one that is more top-rated. Hubby and I love the roasty quality of Genmaicha. Plus, there’s matcha which to be enjoyed at it’s best needs a very Japanese approach to its preparation, leading us to item 3 below.

The fine powder of matcha is pretty unique in tea. (ETS Image)

The fine powder of matcha is pretty unique in tea. (ETS Image)

3 Preparation and Presentation Alteration

Since anime is more about realistic settings and interesting camera effects such as panning, zooming, and angle shots, versus more realistic movement of the characters (something that Disney and other modern animators have perfected), you may find yourself moving stiffly but focusing on movements that mimic that panning, zooming, etc. Sudden movements, though, while passing full cups of tea or pouring the tea can be a bit messy. So proceed with caution. Your general tea preparation will involve such things as a cast iron teapot (tetsubin) or a kyusu (generally, a teapot but most often used to refer to a teapot used in Japan and other Asian countries where the handle is on the side, that is, 90° from the spout – more info here). If you’re going the matcha route, a chasen, a chawan, a matcha caddy, and a matcha scoop will be part of your accoutrements.

4 Anime-style Recipes Dominate

Your cooking methods might end up being those pan, zoom, and angle movements that are used in #3 above. I’m not quite sure how your mushroom and tofu miso soup will turn out or how good your sushi making skills will fare (slicing that blowfish is tricky business). You might want to settle for some steamed rice (white or brown), steamed vegetables and seafood, soy sauce, ginger root shavings, and wasabi.

5 Tea Time Attire Adjustments

You can go all traditional Japanese here with a kimono (literally means “clothing”), worn by both men and women but most often for special events like tea ceremonies or by older generations. Or you can dress in a costume designed after some anime character, like the one below (they don’t come cheap, though).

Vocaloid Zatsune Miku Cosplay Asian Anime Costume (screen capture from site)

Vocaloid Zatsune Miku Cosplay Asian Anime Costume (screen capture from site)

Are you there yet? Have you “gone anime”? If so, have a great time. And if not, get a move on and make that transformation complete!

See more of A.C. Cargill’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.

What does your tea say about you? (ETS image)

What does your tea say about you? (ETS image)

So what does your tea say about you? A recent article in the British press goes so far as to suggest that “your blend of choice may reveal more about you than you’d expect.” Well, maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. Let’s take a closer look.

The esteemed writer of the piece starts by claiming that there is “a hint of superiority about Earl Grey drinkers” and that Lapsang Souchong is “drunk by the most pretentious of people.” I can’t vouch for either since I don’t know anyone who drinks Earl Grey or Lapsang Souchong.

I’m also assuming that because the writer is British the tea drinkers he’s psycho-analyzing are his fellow citizens. I don’t know enough about British tea drinkers to be entitled to an opinion. But I will agree with the writer when he says that the pinewood-flavored Lapsang Souchong “is a violent insult to the tastebuds.” I’d say the same for Earl Grey but, as always, we all like what we like.

I have to quibble with the good scribe, however, when he says that “loose leaf is for fogeys young and old.” Not to be too snotty about it but I’d amend this to say that loose leaf is actually for those who prefer tea of good quality that tastes good. I’m not saying you can’t find good tea in a tea bag, but loose leaf tea does have a purpose.

I also take exception to the writer’s thoughts on green tea – “Its biggest fans are those who believe in antigravity aerial yoga, super berries and harbour suspicions about clingfilm.” I’m primarily a black tea guy myself, but I’m always up for a good green now and then. As for his assertion that the latter tastes like “diluted stewed sandals,” he’s probably right – but that’s assuming he didn’t take the time to find a decent green tea (preferably that stodgy loose leaf kind) and prepare it properly.

Aside from that, there’s a brief section on lovers of the British brand, Yorkshire Tea (“old fusspots”) and that’s about it. No word on what us black tea lovers are all about, but I’m sure the writer meant to say that we are charming and erudite and all those sorts of things.

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.

Left this cuppa on the warmer too long – ewwwww! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Left this cuppa on the warmer too long – ewwwww! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Tea scum can be the bane of a steady tea drinker’s experience. And there appear to be two different kinds. One is from the tea itself and the other is from the milk that many of us add to our black teas to have that British experience. Time to find out how these come about.

Scum Caused by the Tea

At one time, the scum on the surface of a cup of tea was said to come from a thin layer of some waxy substance coating the tea leaves that melted off in the hot water. In 1994, though, an important discovery was made by chemists from Imperial College during their careful research into a matter that plagues tea drinkers everywhere. Samplings of the scum from various cups of black tea were put through a detailed chemical analysis, discovering that it was 15% calcium carbonate and the rest was various other chemicals. Thus, hard water that has a lot of calcium in it is a culprit here, but the tea contributes chemicals, too, that add to that scummy build-up. Less than one milligram of scum is formed in a cup of tea and is not thought to be a health risk, just an annoyance.

You can filter out the calcium (bicarbonate ions) or add acids to convert it to CO2 (carbon dioxide). You can also switch to bottled water, which is what we did in our house. Steeping the tea up very strong is another solution since the acidic tea polyphenols will partly neutralize those bicarbonate ions. Or you can add lemon, which has now been officially declared to be a solution by Michael Spiro and Deogratius Jaganyl, two British chemists at the Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine in London.

Tea stains inside teacups and teapots are sometimes referred to as tea scum but are not. Black tea is usually the one where the concern over these stains arises, especially on the inside of teapots and teacups where they are difficult to remove using normal dish detergents. It is said to be caused by pigments, formed during the fermentation of the tea leaves, that are left behind when the tea liquid evaporates. A damp rag, vigorous scrubbing, and a little baking soda have proven effective.

Scum Caused by the Milk

For those of us who like milk in our tea but don’t always drink that cuppa as quickly as we might the dreaded milk scum is a trial and tribulation. What it is, however, seems to be some cause for disagreement. Some say the scum is made of fat globules that coagulate on the surface when their surrounding film of proteins is broken due to heat. Thus, skim milk that has all the fat removed will not form this scum. Others say that the scum is coagulated proteins that form due to heat and then rise to the surface to form that scummy skin. Constant stirring is supposed to help prevent this, but if I had time to stir my tea, I’d have time to drink it before this scum formed and thus would not even see it. Using a cup warmer is another issue, where the lower the level of liquid in the cup, the higher the likelihood of scum forming on the remaining tea (with milk in it, that is).

Bottom Line

Both types of scum are problematic to tea drinkers but seem to have fairly easy solutions. For the first kind, you can switch to bottled water or to using lemon in your tea. For the second kind, you can drink faster so the scum doesn’t have time to form. Gee, I wish all problems had such simple solutions!

See more of A.C. Cargill’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.

The tea vendor’s own brand is often the better deal! (ETS image)

The tea vendor’s own brand is often the better deal! (ETS image)

While those name brand teas can be very tasty and reliable, the tea vendor’s own brand is often the much better deal. Not always… but often!

Our tea pantry is well stocked with several name brand teas. We have a boat load of Barry’s Tea Gold Blend, plenty of Pg Tips, an ample supply of Typhoo, and even some Yorkshire Gold in both loose and teabags. There also is a box of Taylors of Harrogate Pure Assam Tea in amongst them somewhere. We enjoy these on a daily basis, but they do not count among our most favorite “must have” teas. That status belongs to several tea vendor brand teas, including these:

  • Borengajuli Estate Tea – We absolutely love love love this tea! An Assam tea that is everything you expect from this tea growing region of India. Great with milk and sweetener. Or you can use a bit of honey or even lemon.
  • Scottish Breakfast Tea – We love this one just as much as the Borengajuli Estate Tea. Sometimes it’s a coin toss in the morning as to which of these we steep to drink with our breakfast. This is a blend of Assam and Keemun and steeps up a cuppa that would make the Scots proud.
  • Keemun Panda China Black Tea – Another totally delish tea that gets us all excited just thinking about it. Slightly smoky but not overly so.
  • Sylvakandy Estate Orange Pekoe Tea – Absolute diviniTEA! What can we say other than that it’s total deliciousness in a cup. We steep up a 6-cup potful and soon have it all gone.

That’s the black tea category, but hubby and I have some favorites in other tea categories, too:

The main point here is to show some of the many tea vendor brand teas that are as good as or even better than name brand teas and at a much better price. For example, here are some quick price comparisons as of the writing of this article:

  • Barry’s Original Blend – 80 teabags – weighs 8.8 ounces (a little over half a pound) – list price is $14.99 (19 cents per bag or $1.70 per ounce).
  • Borengajuli Estate – loose leaf – weighs a full pound (16 ounces) – $14.74 (92 cents per ounce).
  • Borengajuli Estate – 50 teabags – weighs 5.5 ounces – $7.84 (16 cents per bag or $1.42 per ounce).

The tea vendor brand is more economical without any sacrifice in quality, both in the loose and bagged versions. My Scottish and Irish tea-drinking ancestors would highly approve!

See more of A.C. Cargill’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.

As I had pointed out in a previous article on this blog, the Dutch were pioneers in bringing tea to Europe and the Western Hemisphere. They and France were at one time the top tea drinkers there. And then Britain got into the act, with tea rooms eventually edging out pubs as the most popular places to go for some liquid refreshment. Today, the Dutch continue to imbibe that beautiful brew (tea) and in their own inimitable fashion. Time for a look at some details, just in case you’re planning to pop over there for a cuppa some day.

Delicate Dutch tea tables with marquetry and storage drawers. (Yahoo! Images)

Delicate Dutch tea tables with marquetry and storage drawers. (Yahoo! Images)

1 They don’t call it a “cuppa”

“Having a cuppa” is a very British expression. The Dutch, being Dutch, tend to have some thee (a French word pronounced “tay”, even though they started out in their early history of tea drinking using the Cantonese word cha). A common Dutch expression is: Boven zijn theewater zijn which means literally “To be above his tea water” and more figuratively is used to say someone is agitated, angry, or drunk.

2 “Orange Pekoe” tea grading came from the Dutch

The Orange Pekoe grading system originated with the Dutch. (See info about the system in my article here.) According to Dutch legend, peddlers from the Lower Derlandse were the ones who discovered tea in China and brought it back to the Netherlands. They presented it to the House of Orange and called it “pecco” – the word is supposedly from the Amoy (Xiamen) dialect word for a tea in China called peh-ho (“white down”). Thus the name “Orange Pekoe,” and giving it the regard of being a “royal” tea.

3 Tea time outdoors is an “any chance you can get” affair

The Netherlands being a fairly northern country has the climate to match, meaning that sunshine isn’t as plentiful as in such locations as Miami, Florida, or Phoenix, Arizona. So when the sun does deign to shine, they move en masse to the outdoors for their tea time. The teapots tend to be the more sturdy, thick-sided kind that help hold in the heat, keeping the tea warmer. They also have loads of coffee shops where you can get tea (if you’re that desperate for a cuppa after all that sightseeing) – it will be the bagged kind served in a typical coffee shop cup with plastic lid. Tea is available in restaurants, too, and is usually served like the British do, with scones and other traditional foods.

Hellema Volkoren Speculaas (Wholegrain) (via Yahoo! Images)

Hellema Volkoren Speculaas (Wholegrain) (via Yahoo! Images)

4 They waffle on their tea treats – literally!

The quick break for afternoon tea often includes a treat known as stroopwafel (a thin, crispy waffle “sandwich” with syrup in the middle) – it is served atop your cup of hot tea so the filling can be softened. And yes that tea is already steeped and ready when served to you. Plus, there are cute little cookies, such as the windmill shaped cookies shown here.

5 Unlike the British, the Dutch favor tea without milk but with flavorings added

Although the Dutch tend to drink more coffee, they love good tea and go in big for flavored teas. Most of these just don’t taste right with milk added, so they never acquired a taste for that milky style of tea the British drink. They also tend to steep them up lighter than the British do. The flavors are mainly ones we’re familiar with, such as Earl Grey, Strawberry, Cinnamon, Mango, Raspberry, Blackcurrant, and Orange.

A couple of top tea brands in The Netherlands:

  • Pickwick Tea – A smooth, aromatic Dutch tea offered in a variety of popular Dutch flavors. Warm up a room and then your senses with the smells and tastes of the Netherlands. Available in several varieties of teas with flavorings such as caramel or licorice added (the Dutch love licorice about as much as chocolate!). Herbal rooibos also available.
  • Lipton – Available in numerous flavors, including jasmine green, mint green, white tea with raspberry, peach/mango, pomegranate/cranberry, Russian Earl Grey, vanilla/caramel, etc.

6 Tea and chocolate? Of course!

Chocoholics, rejoice! There is plenty of chocolate to be found in The Netherlands. The Dutch love chocolate and are world-renowned for the quality of theirs. So, tea time with a bit of chocolate is very doable. Their chocolate is processed in a way developed in the early 19th century by Dutch chocolate maker Coenraad Johannes van Houten; it is treated with an alkalizing agent that modifies its color and gives it a milder taste than those made using the Broma process. This style of chocolate is the basis for modern chocolate used in ice cream, hot cocoa, and baking.

7 High-class tea time is definitely doable

Stop in at Sofitel Legend The Grand in Amsterdam for a high-class tea served with wonderful treats and quality teas. A choice of several varieties of tea, freshly baked scones, jam and clotted cream and a range of delicate pastries, combine to make for an unforgettable afternoon tea time. This hotel stands out as a top 5-star luxury hotel in Amsterdam and is located by two gentle canals and the Royal Palace in the heart of the city. They have an acclaimed restaurant called Bridges as well as a spa and banquet facilities. Their staff reinvents Dutch hospitality à la française.

8 Vintage Dutch tea storage containers are quite collectible

Not having plastic pouches and machines that could vacuum-seal them, the Dutch stored their teas in tea tins and wooden tea caddies that were as attractive as they were practical. Wood marquetry was common in these caddies as well as delicate tea tables (often with locking drawers to keep various tea implements). Now these items are for collectors.

Dutch Tea Tins and Wooden Caddy (Yahoo! Images composite)

Dutch Tea Tins and Wooden Caddy (Yahoo! Images composite)

Final note: Take a trip to the Netherlands for the tulip viewing, a visit to the Delft factory, some sun and fun on their beaches (they have a few and love to enjoy time there), and oh yes, have a lot of tea!

See more of A.C. Cargill’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.

by Guest Blogger Sarah Rosalind Roberts

Tea is deeply embedded in Chinese culture. It is steeped in history and rooted in thousands of years of tradition. In China, it is brewed as a drink for many different occasions and also has many symbolic meanings depending upon the situation.

Legend tells us the leaves of the camellia sinensis were discovered to be drinkable in 2737 BC when emperor Shen Nong was sitting in his garden sipping steaming water and a tea leaf dropped into his cup. He found the result of this to be refreshing and so tea, or cha as it’s also commonly  known, was born.

The Chinese have a very different relationship with tea than we do in western culture. There are many aspects that I feel could improve both the way we view tea, but also how we drink it. Here are some ideas, influenced by Chinese culture, that could enhance your cuppa tea.

1 Take your time and enjoy

The Chinese preparation of Kung Fu cha is a slow and careful process of brewing tea.

It’s far away from the dip and squeeze tea bag method we’re more accustomed to in the west. They allow time to brew the tea, and also have intermediary steps between steeping and drinking. These steps involve pouring the tea into a pitcher cup to thoroughly distribute the tea and then into an aroma cup, with another aroma cup placed on top. The tea is then flipped into the top cup and inhaled prior to moving it to the tasting cup.

It’s a very long process, but what it teaches us is that good tea is worthy of this type of ceremony. So next time you think about dipping and shaking your tea bag, take a breath and take your time to appreciate the smell and taste of the leaves.

Sandra's Rose Bone China - 6 Cup Teapot (ETS image)

Sandra’s Rose Bone China – 6 Cup Teapot (ETS image)

2 Invest in a good teapot

The Chinese are renowned for their Yixing clay tea pots, which are porous and the oil in the tea builds up over time creating a very distinct flavour. If you’re not able to find this type of teapot, you could invest in a beautiful fine bone china teapot, such as this one, which will help you enjoy your tea.

3 Chinese tea etiquette

There are several nuggets of Chinese tea etiquette that you could apply to your tea drinking habits. Whilst pouring tea for a guest, lifting the pot three times signifies you are bowing to them and when you place the teapot down, make sure the spout is not facing anyone as it is considered impolite.

Adopting a Chinese mindset towards tea will help you to appreciate its flavour and aroma, allowing you to develop a deeper relationship with those lovely leaves.

© 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.

The everyday tea ceremony is just as important as the ones you might participant in for a special occasion. You’re probably asking, “What everyday tea ceremony?” To which I stare at you in shock and disbelief. Well, that’s where we need to start, then: how to make some time for your everyday tea ceremony. And don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be as stylized at Chanoyu or even the more relaxed Korean ceremony (both shown in my previous article here). The whole idea is just to focus on the tea and shut out any of the distractions going on around you.

That cozy corner – an important part of your everyday tea ceremony! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

That cozy corner – an important part of your everyday tea ceremony! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Let me make a bit of a side note here: this focus doesn’t just work for tea (enhancing your enjoyment and helping you get more out of the whole experience, but is also great for anyone trying to reduce their intake of food for personal reasons. I found that being more focused on every bite made me enjoy it more and feel satisfied sooner. Okay, back to tea.

Keep the Focus on Tea

Since the key here is focus, you have a couple of ways to go:

  1. Make your everyday tea also your tea ceremony tea – you’ll be amazed at how much more your perception of the flavor and aroma will be; you may even find yourself experimenting with the tea a little, trying it in different ways (iced versus hot, plain versus with flavorings/milk/sweetener).
  2. Make your everyday tea ceremony about getting away from that everyday tea – forego your usually cuppa for something different; for example, if you like a nice black tea, try a green, oolong, or white.

Elements of Your Everyday Tea Ceremony

Just as with those official tea ceremonies, your everyday tea ceremony will need certain elements:

  • A dedicated location – a nook, corner, or even a whole room can be set aside for your personal tea ceremony. Here’s an example.
  • A dedicated time – not necessarily the same everyday (that’s often impossible) but a certain time that is set aside (no other tasks going on – just the tea).
  • Dedicated teawares – a teacup, teapot, and other teawares that you set aside just for this time; if your tea ceremony uses a Yixing teapot, this will be especially important since these teapots are made of porous zisha clay and should be dedicated to a particular tea type such as green or oolong; if you want to use a gaiwan, make it one that is just for this time as a way to make the event more special; even a ceramic teapot or a steeping mug can be so dedicated (you might have to hide it away from other household members).

Whatever your approach and your reasons, this special tea ceremony will help you get more from your tea, savoring every drop instead of quickly gulping it. I would also recommend a place with no strange aromas and no foods. This is all about the tea. Enjoy!

See more of A.C. Cargill’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.

What do nuts, Victorian/Edwardian apparel, and Rapunzel-length red hair have in common? Lisa Griffiths, the lady who will make your tea time go nuts! And nuts and teas go well together, as I discussed in this article awhile ago.

The Victorian Lady takes tea! (image used with permission)

The Victorian Lady takes tea! (image used with permission)

Lisa is the founder of That Nutty Redhead – Frosted and Gourmet Nuts, a collector of vintage Victorian and Edwardian apparel (beginning at the tender age of 15) that is part of a traveling museum display, the star of her own series on a public cable channel (Cape Ann TV’s Channel 12), and the author of a book about vintage fashions.

Her “Nut Lady” motto is “Live a Little, While You Live a Little Longer!” She leaves out some items from her products that a growing segment of our population are becoming allergic to (such as peanuts). The ingredients she does use are claimed to be the best quality she can get. She also claims that her coated almonds, cashews, and pecans are healthy and tasty snacking. I personally don’t know one way or another about the healthy part. I also haven’t personally tried those nuts (the order I mailed off to her vanished into thin air – a total mystery), but quite frankly I can’t imagine that they would be anything but totally delicious

So, the question you are probably all asking right now is “Which tea goes with these nuts?” The answer (in my humble opinion):

The other question is which tea is best when you’re wearing those corsets and other Victorian/Edwardian garb. (I’m rather happy to wear more loose-fitting garments at tea time and any time.) And the answer to that is any tea you want!

See more of A.C. Cargill’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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© 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 blog’s author and/or 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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