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For some Japanese teas, the standard of quality is consistency of the leaf shape and size. But for other teas this particular characteristic is of no consequence. That brings up the question: how much does the tea leaf consistency matter? And the answer is obvious: it depends on which tea you’re talking about.

A Buddha Hand Oolong where the consistency of the leaves both dry and wet are not an issue in terms of determining quality. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A Buddha Hand Oolong where the consistency of the leaves both dry and wet are not an issue in terms of determining quality. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

One thing to note before going further is that here being consistent is not the same as it is for many of those blended name brand teas (see my article What Is a Hand-Crafted Tea?) – this is more a matter of getting quality through careful processing, especially one step in particular. That processing step is sorting and is more critical for some teas than for others.

A good example of where consistency of tea leaves matters is Silver Needle where only the silvery closed “buds” (not a true bud but rather a tender inner leaf and two outer leaves wrapped tight around it) are used. Any partially opened buds or ones that don’t have those silvery silky “hairs” on them or that are damaged in any way are picked out and set aside. There shouldn’t be too many of these if the pluckers are experienced and very attentive to their task.

The Shizuoka tea competition is another time when this consistency does matter. The judges pile tea as high as they can, with the most plump and consistent (uniform in length, size and shape) leaves (usually needle shaped) stacking higher. The tea makers there believe that this uniformity means a harmonious tea brew. (Shizuoka, a prefecture in Japan, has been growing tea since 1241 and produces about 45% of Japan’s entire tea production.)

On the other hand, oolongs such as Tie Guan Yin and Buddha Hand (shown above) will have leaves of various shapes and sizes that at the end of the processing will be in tight wads of various sizes and shapes. Not only is consistency not needed here, it would be a waste of effort, with workers sorting for size, etc., but not achieving any difference in quality of flavor and aroma worth mentioning.

Overall, for your own selection of which teas to buy, unless you are seeking top grade Japanese green teas or even some Silver Needle, don’t worry about that consistency factor for the tea leaves.

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.

One of the most popular style of teawares is bone china, known for its brilliant white base color, delicate designs, yet hardy and practical structure. While bone china originated in the UK, it is now made in other countries also, including China, Taiwan, and India. Time to explore some of the designs popular in England.

Bone china beauties #1 (ETS image)

Bone china beauties #1 (ETS image)

Major Manufacturers

Let’s face it, there are potteries galore. Over the years, some went out of business or were bought by competitors. Today, there are some who stand head and shoulders above the rest, especially when it comes to producing fine bone china teawares.

Wedgwood remains the name in bone china teawares. Their name is synonymous with “top quality.” Their products are sold worldwide under well-recognized brands, including:

  • Waterford — Founded in 1783 by William and George Penrose in the Irish harbor town of Waterford. Today, known worldwide for creating exceptional crystal and glass drinkware, crystal gifts and home accessories.
  • Wedgwood — Founded in 1759 by Josiah Wedgwood who was born in Burslem, Staffordshire, in the heart of the English potteries. He is remembered as “the Father of English Potters” and invented and produced three of Wedgwood’s most famous ceramics: Queen’s Ware (1762), Black Basalt (1768), and Jasper (1774). His successors continued innovating, including bone china. Today, they are producing in the factory built by the fifth Josiah Wedgwood in the 1930s near the village of Barlaston.
  • Royal Doulton — see Royal Doulton by Wedgwood.
  • Royal Albert — see Royal Albert Roses for Your Table and Teaware Patterns: Royal Albert Old Country Roses.
  • Minton — Established in 1793 in Stoke-on-Trent and a bold mix of innovation, tradition, artistry, new technology, Englishness, and the cosmopolitan. A leading Victorian-era ceramic manufacturer and now an enduring classic for luxury tableware, teaware, etc. Queen Victoria called their wares: “Beautiful china…beautifully designed.”
  • Johnson Brothers — Founded in 1882 by four brothers (Alfred, Frederick, Henry, and Robert). They bought the Charles Street Works company in Stoke-on-Trent and made sturdy whiteware with a fine glaze; after World War I they began producing dinnerware that was a solid color throughout so chips weren’t as obvious. They joined the Wedgwood Group in 1968. In 2003, the Johnson Brothers China company moved all its manufacturing operations to China.
  • Franciscan — In 1934 Gladding, McBean & Co. began producing Franciscan dinnerware in Glendale, California. The company started out in 1875 producing sewer tile, adding roof tile, decorative art tiles, garden pottery, and art pottery. In 1962, they became part of International Pipe and Ceramics Corporation (INTERPACE). In 1979 Josiah Wedgwood & Sons, LTD of England acquired Franciscan, renaming them Franciscan Ceramics, Inc. In 1984 all Franciscan production was moved to England.

Crown Trent is in Mayfair, New Bond Street, London, and their production facility is in Stoke-on-Trent; it is one of the few remaining local factories with a fully working kiln. Their team has years of experience in manufacturing, design and decoration of fine bone china items from the simplest of cups, mugs, saucers, teapots, plates, elaborate tea and dinner sets, butter dishes, cake stands, even egg cups.

Adderley Ceramics was started in 1876 as William Alsager Adderley and Co. in Stoke-on-Trent England. They underwent various changes. In 1947, the company was taken over by Ridgway Potteries Ltd. which continued to use the Adderley name.

Caverswall was founded only in 1973 in Staffordshire, England, and focused on top-end wares, continuing the skills and techniques of a bygone age. They are not a mass producer and have a relatively short history (about 40 years as of the posting of this article), so there is very little Caverswall seen for sale in online auctions and virtually none on the secondary market.

Roy Kirkham was founded around 1975 in Staffordshire, England, and is still a family owned and run business, offering a wide range of beautiful dining, kitchen and gift items in exclusive designs. These include fine bone china mugs, breakfast cups, teapots, and dinnerware.

Pollyanna Bone China was founded in 1983 by Bob and Pauline Walpole and has become the epitome of all the good in Stoke-on-Trent bone china manufacturing and the UK china industry. Run now by their sons, Peter and Michael. They have their own Pollyanna brand and are the specialist team behind Doulton, Royal Worcester, Wedgwood, and Coalport, overseeing the production of their most prestigious bone china figurine and tableware collections.

Dunoon Ceramics started production in 1973, making stonewares, and then opened a fine bone china factory 1981. They have achieved quite a reputation in that short time, partly due to their range of designs and their quality. The bone china is lighter to the touch and more translucent than stoneware, so it is easy to tell them apart.

Royal Patrician was founded 1951 in Valencia, California by Herman Dodge. Yet they are a genuine English fine bone china manufacturer in Stoke-on Trent, Staffordshire with values that take you back to a bygone era. A bit confusing but true. They use the “Royal” by choice, not royal warrant.

Susie Cooper Pottery was founded in 1929. However, Susie didn’t begin making fine bone china until the 1950s. The Duchess of York chose Cooper wares in 1933, and in the 1950s The Royal Society of Arts chose her to design its own china range and “Royal Designers for Industry” plate to celebrate their Bicentenary. After 1964, she worked almost exclusively in fine bone china, joining forces with Tuscan ware (aka RH & SL Plant Ltd). The Wedgwood Group bought both Cooper and Tuscan in 1967.

See Part II for some patterns names to note and patterns that use precious metals.

Bone china beauties #2 (ETS image)

Bone china beauties #2 (ETS image)

See also:
Metal vs. Porcelain and Bone China Teapots
Dunoon Tea Mug Design Classics

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.

Bubble tea (Yahoo! News)

Bubble tea (Yahoo! News)

For as long as I have been writing about tea the common wisdom about American iced tea consumption is that we drink a lot of it. The figure given for the percentage of tea we drink in iced form is typically in the range of 80-85%. Which I don’t dispute, although I find it odd that the figure hasn’t changed much over the course of about eight years.

But in any event, you can’t argue that we drink quite a bit of iced tea. But what about the rest of the world? Well, the limited space here precludes taking an in-depth look at the great wide world of iced tea but here are a few tidbits.

Perhaps one of the most well-known variations on the iced tea theme these days is bubble tea. It’s exact origins are apparently something of a matter for disagreement but it’s safe to say that it got its start somewhere in Asia. Typically made with tea and strong flavorings and sweeteners poured over ice, the distinctive feature of bubble tea is the small tapioca balls that drinkers slurp up through a specially modified straw. More of our articles about bubble tea, here.

Other popular forms of iced tea that are popular in Asia include Hong Kong-style milk tea, which is made with black tea and evaporated or condensed milk and may be consumed as a hot drink or iced. Thai iced tea can be similar, but is apparently made with a wide variety of ingredients and flavorings. This recipe from a Thai foods company calls for black tea, lemongrass, Thai ginger, sugar condensed milk and coconut milk. Here are some additional thoughts on the matter from a few Chowhound posters.

Many of the biggest names in iced tea, the ones that line store shelves and tend to dominate the market here in the United States, have also tended to do the same thing in many other markets around the world. The names will be familiar to nearly anyone who’s ever set foot in an American supermarket but there are names of iced tea makers in other lands that won’t be quite so familiar.

Bottled and canned iced tea is particularly popular in Japan, as is coffee presented in the same forms. Which, as the Wall Street Journal remarked recently, had overtaken iced tea for a time, in spite of the fact that Japan is well known as a producer of green tea. But the pendulum is apparently set to swing back, with Japan’s iced tea makers again regaining their position as king of the packaged beverage hill. Read more about it in my recent article, here.

For a look at how one Austrian iced tea maker does things, check out their web site, here. In Indonesia, the Sosro company makes a line of iced teas that includes Tehbotol Sosro, their flagship brand, as you can see here. Unicer, one of Portugal’s largest beverage makers, offers a bottled concoction called Frutea, which as the name suggests, is a mix of tea with fruit juice.

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.

The notion of tea as anything but a relatively inexpensive commodity is something of an unfamiliar concept to most modern-day tea drinkers. Yes, there are plenty of varieties that you can lay your hands on these days that are quite expensive, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re looking for a passably good tea at an affordable price, you shouldn’t have much problem finding it, and if you’re even less choosy, you should be able to get a real bargain.

Scottish Breakfast Tea (ETS image)

Scottish Breakfast Tea (ETS image)

Which was hardly the case when tea first began to make its way into Europe a few centuries ago. In the early days of tea drinking in England, for example, the beverage was a luxury that could only be afforded by the rich. There were some fairly obvious reasons for this, including the relative scarcity of tea, coupled with the fact that it had to be shipped from halfway around the world, at a time when a journey like this one was measured in months.

According to one account, the price of a pound of tea in England in 1650 could go as high as $1,650, as measured in today’s dollars (US). As the years went on, another factor that contributed to the high price of tea in England were the immense taxes levied on this relatively new commodity. This was a major factor in the growth of a black market for tea, and it’s thought that up until 1745 as much as three times as much tea was smuggled into the country as was brought there by legal means.

By the time the so-called Commutation Act was passed in 1784 the tax on tea had risen to the staggering amount of 119%. In the years leading up to it, it was estimated that a significant amount of those revenues went to fight the war with the American colonies. A certain tea trader named Richard Twining, whose family had already been in the tea trade for nearly eight decades, was instrumental in influencing the British government to lower the tea tax to a much more reasonable rate of 12.5%. As a result, within one year tea imports of the legal variety nearly tripled.

In 1785, Richard Twining put down some of his thoughts about the tea industry in a short volume called Observations on the Tea and Window Act: And on the Tea Trade. For another perspective, from a year later, try The Principle of the Commutation Act Established by Facts, by Francis Baring.

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.

Oolong Teas (ETS image)

Oolong Teas (ETS image)

If Napoleon Bonaparte was right when he remarked that skepticism is a virtue, then I’d have to say that I’m rather virtuous when it comes to evaluating the many and varied health claims for tea. I’ve gone into detail about my thoughts on the topic many times now. So I’ll just summarize this time around by suggesting that you shouldn’t always believe what you hear or read on the topic of tea and health.

Let’s start with yellow tea (which I wrote about awhile back), and specifically with an article I ran across recently which suggests that it’s “the best health food you’ve never heard of.” I will go so far as to agree that yellow tea is rather obscure. So much so that even a lot of people who drink tea might not have heard of it. But, given the title, the article really doesn’t have all that much to say about the alleged health benefits of yellow tea.

The conclusion seems to be that it’s close to green tea in this regard, but that it might be easier on your stomach and that it might protect the liver of rats. Which is outstanding news, if you’re a rat with a sensitive stomach and a penchant for yellow tea. While there’s not really anything in this article that I can outright disagree with, I think in this case what I take issue with is this ever popular notion that tea is a miraculous elixir of some sort.

Then there’s weight loss. You can find any number of claims for how much weight tea can help you lose, ranging from subtle and well-reasoned to downright ridiculous. Here’s one I ran across recently that’s quite brief and which seems to fall more or less in the middle of that range between subtle and ridiculous. It examines some of the oft-repeated claims for oolong tea and weight loss. They’re claims which I agree might actually have some truth to them but which are frequently overstated, usually in the interests of selling tea.

Last up, and hot off the press as I write this, a brief US News and World Report piece that reminds us that tea might help fight cancer and diabetes and is good for your brain and teeth. All of which I’ve said in these very pages before, so I certainly can’t argue the point. What I quibble with is that when these points are so briefly stated it feels like the “tea as miracle elixir” type of presentation once again.

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.

Yorkshire Harrogate is a good reading companion tea!

Yorkshire Harrogate is a good reading companion tea!

Our collection of Agatha Christie paperbacks isn’t complete but is sizable and, sadly, unread. So, I decided to plow through them all with the help of tea. Not in one sitting, of course.

Some how Agatha Christie skipped the notice of my professors in university where I was an English Literature major. Rather high-fallutin’ of them. In the ensuing years, though, I became quite a fan through the various movies and BBC episodes available on TV. From Monsieur Poirot (portrayed by Peter Ustinov, Albert Finney, Tony Randall, and others up to the quintessential performance by David Suchet) to Miss Marple (portrayed by Margaret Rutherford, Angela Lansbury, Helen Hayes, and more) to the Tuppences, and so on, their sleuthing always held my rapt attention.

Then I met hubby. And hubby had all of these Agatha Christie paperbacks, which he had read most of. Time for me to play catch-up!

But first, as with any good book, a pot of tea was needed as companion. And some McVitie’s digestives or Walker’s shortbread. Reading can build up quite a thirst and appetite. Best to be prepared.

My tea options:

  • Barry’s Tea Gold Blend — The company’s flagship brand, this tea has a uniquely refreshing taste and a bright golden color. It leads the pack in the Gold blend sector of the market, comprised of the finest quality teas from the high mountain slopes of Kenya and the Assam Valley of India, skillfully selected.
  • Yorkshire Harrogate Tea — Full bodied with a deep, rich flavor, this tea is blended from a luxury black tea. Harrogate, Yorkshire in England is famous for its water – and that’s a key ingredient in a great cuppa! The city is also famous for its tea shops, and the annual Harrogate Crime Writing Festival. A perfect tea to sip while you’re curling up with a good crime novel (especially Agatha Christie), this tea takes milk well and delivers a lightly astringent infusion. For the best brew, steep for 2-5 minutes in water that has been brought to a rolling boil.
  • White Monkey Paw Green Tea — White green tea with very delicate but intense full green tea flavor. Originates from the famous Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Province, China. Grown at 2,500 to 5,000 feet above sea level. White Monkey Paw is made from the top two leaves and the bud of new season growth (late March /early April). These delicate leaves are gently and gingerly steamed and dried so the end result is an exquisite hand made green tea. You will see that the leaves still have the “hairy down” on them which indicates that these leaves were plucked very early in the morning and within the first two weeks of the new season of growth. When you infuse these teas you will witness the delicate two leaves and a bud uncurl in your cup almost coming back to life!. The dry leaf appearance of these teas is tending white and said to resemble a monkey paw. Even though this is a green tea, the visual appearance and cup liquor is so delicate that is can also be almost considered a white tea.
  • Monks Blend Flavored Black Tea — A very popular tea, full of flavor. The dramatic combination of vanilla and grenadine make a very satisfying drink. You would almost think it had a dash of the real Grenadine. This is a naturally flavored black tea comprised of high-grown Ceylon tea (more than 5,500 feet above sea level).

I’m thinking of starting with the Yorkshire Harrogate tea and going from there. Got the shortbread ready. Time to dive into to the Christie brand of mayhem!

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.

Tub Tea sachets — oversized tea bags filled with dried herbs, flowers, and citrus peels. (Source: screen capture from site)

Tub Tea sachets — oversized tea bags filled with dried herbs, flowers, and citrus peels. (Source: screen capture from site)

As much as I marvel at the creativity of mankind, especially when it comes to tea as seen in all the tea gadget reports that have been posted on this blog, there are times when I have to think that things have just gone too far. At least as far as I am concerned. But, hey, you might like that strange steeper or other doo-dad.

The item that sent me crying “Enough!” was a bathtub tray with a special holder for a teacup. It was advertised in an ad from a local department store (sadly, I got rid of the ad). Something about the tray yelled out “Rube Goldberg!” It just seemed unnecessarily complicated. Plus, I had this image come to mind immediately of spilling tea into the bath water. Better to keep things simple with a side table next to the tub.

Speaking of tea in the bath water, how about an herbal bath? A company called Tub Tea uses an oversized version of the classic — ugh! — teabag design to hold aromatic dried herbs, flowers and citrus peels for you to steep in the tub. There are numerous blends, all herbals and not true teas (Camellia Sinensis steepings), that create a delicious and sensual experience in the bath or that can be used in the shower (get the bag wet and then squeeze it over you, including your freshly washed hair). Either way will give you a light, natural perfume all day or evening. Store them in with your towels as sachets to impart their scent.

Amelia Rhino: The World’s Ugliest Teapot (Source: screen capture from site)

Amelia Rhino: The World’s Ugliest Teapot (Source: screen capture from site)

You’re probably thinking “What’s so silly about that?” Well, just think. This is pure marketing gimmick. First, calling it “Tub Tea” instead of something like “Herbal Bath Bags” (hm, that sounds even worse, but the best I can come up with at the moment). Second, using that teabag shape would make it unappealing to us loose leaf tea devotees!

Let me be a bit curmudgeonly here — okay, a bit more curmudgeonly! Some teapot designs I have been seeing lately are so over the top that they’re just totally silly. Or weird. Or even downright ugly. A quick search online popped up these:

A teapot from the book “The Eccentric Teapot: Four Hundred Years of Invention” by Garth Clark (Source: Yahoo! Images)

A teapot from the book “The Eccentric Teapot: Four Hundred Years of Invention” by Garth Clark (Source: Yahoo! Images)

  • A rhino-shaped teapot that has been proclaimed the world’s ugliest teapot.
  • A bellhop carrying suitcases, featured in The Eccentric Teapot: Four Hundred Years of Invention by Garth Clark along with some that are even odder.
  • The fairy hobbit cluster house teapot — well, actually, our house fairies live in one of these. Gotta keep ’em happy or who knows what mischief they’ll get up to.

A couple of pretty silly items I’ve tried in the past:

  • The totally-overcomplicated-and-senseless Copco steeping mug (I tried to donate it to charity and they wouldn’t take it)
  • An aromatic tea pillow that over the past couple of years, despite having been stored in an airtight package, has totally lost that aroma
Miniature Fairy Hobbit Cluster House Teapot (Source: Yahoo! Images)

Miniature Fairy Hobbit Cluster House Teapot (Source: Yahoo! Images)

I guess there are folks out there thinking that if they make a product that in some way is related to tea, it will sell. In other words, there’s a tea sucker born every minute? Well, let’s just say that some of us are so devoted to tea that anything — and I do mean anything — related to tea will appeal to them.

That brings to mind the questions: Are there really any silly ideas when it comes to tea? From what I’ve seen, very likely not. It all boils down to, just as with all things tea, personal taste!

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.

Part 1 and Part 2 recounted some tea adventures in Amsterdam. Part 3 takes us to Delft, a small town about an hour outside of Amsterdam. Delft is most famous as a centre for ceramic production, specifically as the origin of the iconic Delftware. The town is also known for being the home of painter Johannes Vermeer. Between these associations and its accessibility from Amsterdam, we decided it was well worth a daytrip.

Needless to say, at some point during a day spent largely walking around in the cold, we needed a cup of tea. Not wanting to spend too much time wandering around trying to find the perfect place, we settled on a café we had walked past earlier, the Stads-koffyhuis (Urban Coffeehouse).

Delft teatime (Photo source: article author)

Delft teatime (Photo source: article author)

As the name suggests, their forte is coffee. But we found that they have a decent range of teas, although all are bagged with the exception of fresh mint tea. Once I saw the brand, though, I didn’t mind as much. Legends of Tea, based in the Netherlands (from what I can tell), package their tea in little booklets that tell stories about the tea with a fun mix of narrative and fact (in their words, “tales with a foundation of truth, embellished by their narrators”). We went for the tea called “Smuggler’s Secret”, a “spicy and fragrant blend of black tea with cinnamon, ginger and cardamom”, whose tea packet told us the story of colonists smuggling tea to the New World to avoid British taxation. Not exactly news to me, but a fun way to bring the history of tea into a mid-afternoon cuppa. I am often one to vilify marketing, but even I recognise that, sometimes, you just have to have fun with your tea.

Novelty packaging aside, the tea itself was in nylon sachets consisting of whole leaf tea rather than leaves crushed to a pulp. In my book, these are both requirements for being on the tasty end of the teabag spectrum. And it didn’t disappoint. Nothing fancy, just a nice strong black tea with warming wintery spices. And with a dash of milk, it hit the spot. Added bonus: they serve their tea with a mini pastry! Should you be more than a little peckish, the sandwiches and baked goods at the Stads-koffyhuis are also excellent. I can personally attest to the fact that they are the ideal accompaniment to a cup of tea, should you ever happen to be in Delft.

See more of Elise Nuding’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.

Many tea vendors have, in addition to their online store, a company blog about tea (pssst! you’re reading one now). Often, the goal is to increase the knowledge of tea among their customers so they feel more comfortable ordering teas outside of their normal selections. Considering the price of some of the more fine teas, this knowledge is a great convincer. Being able to link to reviews on external sources lends further credibility.

Great photos like this one are essential to a good tea blog. (Photo source: stock image)

Great photos like this one are essential to a good tea blog. (Photo source: stock image)

Are all these blogs created alike, though? Do they give you reliable information? Or are they slanted in favor of their products? Well, no to the first question, and yes and no to the 2nd and 3rd questions.

1 Keyword Loading

Some blogs are geared more toward making sure their posts are loaded with the right keywords to trick search engines like Yahoo! and others into putting them at the top of the hits lists. One store’s blog touted as among the best at first struck me as good, too. Then, I wrote an article for the site owner and found out that this was one of those blogs more interested in loading up the keywords. He gave me instructions to include certain terms in the first 50 words, and the terms should be repeated at least once in that space. (If you ever wondered why some blog posts start out with words like “iced tea” being repeated several times in the first paragraph or two, now you know.)

2 Hidden Authors

Lack of bylines and heavy editing of anything submitted to the blog is another issue. Sure, store blogs are marketing tools. However, like any tool, they can be used for good or not. The item I wrote for that store blog was heavily edited and then posted without my name appearing. (I didn’t mind the lack of a byline since some of the blog owner’s edits actually changed meaning enough so that the article was no longer accurate.) It turned out that most of the items on that blog were written by people other than the blog owner, yet he made it appear as if he wrote them. Some blogs don’t even go that far in giving you any idea who wrote the stuff on their blog. For all you know, it could have been Cheeta. It is good to give proper credit to the writers and not to heavily edit their text. As a reader, I like knowing who is putting forth the information and if they are knowledgeable enough on the subject matter to have their content be taken seriously.

3 Unsubstantiated Health Claims

Not only do a lot of store blogs have no writer credits, they also have no medical study credits. The blog I wrote that article for was full of others making various health claims about tea, none being credited (that is, linked to actual medical studies). Even though I might not be able to fully understand the studies, I would still like to know that the claims aren’t something the writer just pulled out of the ether of his/her imagination.

4 Tunnel Vision

Contrasting viewpoints are not always presented on those store blogs, sometimes because they go against what products the blog owner is selling on the store site. And nothing negative gets presented unless it shows their own products in a good light. This blog has always followed a policy of encouraging different viewpoints from writers. For example, there were two reviews posted of the same style of steeping mug with very opposite takes. Both reviews were posted even though that product is an item offered for sale by this blog owner. Another example is that some writers promote bagged teas while I mainly promote loose teas; both viewpoints are posted. Some like milk in their tea, while others don’t. Vive la différence!

5 One-Note Tune

Most of these blogs stick to straightforward posts about tea. We go for variety. Our topics range from reviews of their products, to info on teas, to more in-depth looks at some of the companies producing the teas and treats they sell, to tea book reviews, to stories about enjoying tea as part of life, to the latest news tidbits and gadgetry, and more. Anything and everything related to tea!

Bottom Line

While tea vendor blogs have their place in your line-up of tea info resources, their content can vary. And seeing who is writing the info you are reading can be a good thing. Thanks for reading!

© 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.

Imagine a truckload of tea being delivered… (Photo source: stock image)

Imagine a truckload of tea being delivered… (Photo source: stock image)

It can always be exciting when your order of tea arrives. That box or padded envelope or other style package can seem like that genie’s lamp full of wonderful wishes come true. Just imagine how you’d feel if a whole truck full of tea were to arrive!

A little while ago, one of the writers on The English Tea Store Blog wrote about a visit from the tea fairy, describing his feeling of joy at the arrival of several tea samples. There’s a bit of magic in each one, a bit of possibility — will it be wonderful in aroma and flavor or a truly horrific experience? Either way can be an experience. But a truckload of tea is a revelation.

Of course, there are trucks and then there are trucks. From a tiny pickup truck that could barely haul a few cases of tea to a mid-sized truck that could move a teashop full of teas to a semi-truck that can move a mountain of teas. At our house, the former would be welcome, but the latter two would be a bit of an issue. We’d need to toss most of our furniture and knickknacks and other household items on the curb to make room. Either that or rent a warehouse.

When we last ordered tea (actually, on the day it was to arrive), we heard a “beep! beep! beep!” — that insidious sound that makes me cringe but that was made a requirement on trucks when they went in reverse as a warning to anyone nearby. A truck was backing up in our driveway. Could it be a huge tea delivery? Ack! My mind started thinking of what items to start hauling to the curb to make room for these new arrivals. And no, we weren’t being unrealistic. Shipping errors have been known to happen. An extra zero or two or three have been known to be added to that quantity of “5,” resulting in 50, 500, or even 5,000 arriving instead. Out jumped the truck driver and rang our front doorbell. He handed us a small package.

That’s it? A whole truck sitting in our driveway and this one small package of tea was all we got out of it? Dang! The shipping clerk seems to have been too efficient. No problem, though. Hubby and I will make the most of this one package of tea. It actually contained about 16 or 17 samples of various Indian teas, mostly Darjeelings but a couple of Assams, an oolong, and a silver needle version. We can’t wait to dig in and try them all.

From now on that “beep! beep! beep!” won’t make me cringe but instead evoke a Pavlovian response of high anticipation that more tasty teas are being delivered.

© 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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