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Here’s a quick quiz. It’s all of one question, so don’t be intimidated. What’s the best shape for a teabag? To the best of my knowledge – and not taking into consideration novelty type items – the most popular choices would be the standard rectangular teabag, the somewhat more modern round teabag, and the positively newfangled pyramid-shaped teabag.

PG Tips pyramid teabags (from the PG Tips official site)

PG Tips pyramid teabags (from the PG Tips official site)

If you keep in mind that one of the most important factors about your steeping teabag/gadget of choice is that it allows room for the water to circulate freely among the tea leaves, then that might give you a clue as to what the correct answer might be. My own vote would go to the pyramid teabag for the fact that it does seem to allow the water more room to circulate.

Which is apparently the correct answer, at least if we’re to believe a British group known as the Advertising Standards Authority, who describe themselves as “the UK’s independent regulator for advertising across all media.” They recently weighed in on a spat between two very well-known British tea companies and offered the opinion that the pyramid teabag tops round teabags.

The trouble started when one of the firms ran a TV commercial that touted the merits of their pyramid bags. The other company complained to the ASA, claiming that the commercial disparaged the company’s brand, as well as their round teabags.

In such a case, as the ASA notes, “The rules are also very clear about comparative claims. They are allowed but they must, of course, be truthful and fair as well as ensuring they avoid denigrating a competitor’s product or brand.” They ruled that company A proved their claims – and provided test results, to boot – regarding pyramid teabags and that they didn’t badmouth company B.

Which isn’t exactly definite proof that pyramid teabags are superior to the round ones (and by extension, the standard issue rectangular teabags) but’s it’s interesting to note nonetheless.

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.

It has become customary to include a novelty tea infuser in each one of these reports whenever possible. So, with no further ado, here’s the latest and greatest. It seems rather appropriate for an object that’s dunked in water and is called a Deep Tea Diver Infuser.

I wrote about tea smuggling at this site not so long ago. It was once a significant problem, particularly in England during the times when exorbitant taxes on tea encouraged this sort of thing. I assumed that it’s not such a common problem today but according to a recent report in the Pakistani press “100 tons of smuggled black tea has been seized by the Customs Intelligence and Investigation” there.

What would five million teabags look like? Probably like a whole lot of tea but, to see it for yourself, you would have had to attend the grand publicity caravan held for the Tour de France recently. Where the well-known English tea firm Taylors of Harrogate gave out that many teabags, along with a mere 60,000 packets of sweetener to help “sweeten the deal.” That’s more than 200 miles of teabags if you laid them end to end. Not that you ever would.

Just exactly what does an exotic tea hunter do? It all sounds very Indiana Jones but, if you’d like to know the details, you can check out a recent Forbes article titled “The Adventures Of Exotic Tea Hunter Rodrick Markus.”

Is tea important to the British? Well, what do you think? From the Department of Research into the Blatantly Obvious comes the revelation that tea is indeed important to the British and is ranked as one of the three top-ranked staples of modern life, along with TV and T-shirts. Results varied depending on the age group of those surveyed and the survey itself was conducted by none other than the online auction giant eBay.

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.

ETS Drawstring Tea Filters (ETS Image)

ETS Drawstring Tea Filters (ETS Image)

The teabag has been around for a while. Over a century now, though the exact figure varies, depending on which accounts you believe. In any event, teabags aren’t going away anytime soon and, as you might have guessed, have inspired a number of creative inventors to try out some offbeat variations on the theme. I covered a few of these here and now it’s time to look at a few more.

First up, the Two Part Tea Bag, which was patented about a decade ago. Though it’s hard to believe that no one thought of this before. Unlike many offbeat inventions this one is actually rather clever and may even be potentially useful. As the name suggests, the gadget consists of two bags, one of which consists of tea and the other a “flavoring material.” As the description notes, they “are detachably connected together so that they can be selectively steeped together or separately.”

There are many ways to deal with the problem of the squishy, messy, used teabag when you’re finished with it, and I’ve seen a number of them that resemble the Combination Mug With Integral Tea Bag Receptacle. But given that it was patented in 1989, it’s likely that it was one of the earlier efforts along these lines. As the patent says, “A transverse receptacle is formed into the upper portion of a mug, which slot opens up into the mug. A tea bag which has been dipped into hot water may be slid by the string attached to the tea bag from the hot water into the transverse receptacle where it can rest until it needs to be subsequently reused or eventually discarded.”

Patents aren’t always written in the most user friendly language – or maybe it’s just me. It probably doesn’t help when the text is translated from another language, as is the case with this one for a Tea-Bag String Having Functions of Indicating Soaking Condition. As nearly as I can tell the teabag string changes color for some reason or another depending on that is going on with the tea. Which might be a useful invention that we need but, without fully understanding it, I couldn’t swear to it.

Finally, from 1992, the Holder for Multiple String Suspended Tea Bags seems to be a device that allows one to steep a number of teabags at one time. Again, the text of the patent is a little bit tricky, and I can’t imagine how or why you’d use such a gadget, but apparently someone thought there would be a use for it.

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.

It seems sometimes that a lot of the discussions about iced tea revolve around the various methods for preparing it. There are several that are most commonly used. You can steep the tea in hot water like most people do for hot tea and then chill it by pouring it over ice or simply by chilling it. You can cold brew it by pouring water over the tea and chilling it for a specified period of time while it steeps. Or you can try the popular but somewhat controversial method of harnessing sunlight to prepare sun tea, which is kind of a combination of the aforementioned.

Something that seems to not come up as often when it comes to iced tea is the quality of the tea itself. All tea – be it iced or hot – has something in common: it is not created equal. I’ve never run across any research on the matter but, based on my own unscientific and statistically insignificant observations, it seems that a lot of people will use just about any tea to prepare iced tea and in many cases the cheaper the better.

But you get what you pay for with tea, as with so many other things, and the advice that I’ve given many times over is to buy the best tea that you can possibly afford. Perhaps the nuances of a really good tea might not be quite so apparent if you prefer sweet tea or something like it. Which is to say iced black tea with a whole lot of sugar tossed in for good measure.

If you’ve never considered the possibility of iced tea without sugar, maybe that has a lot to do with using sugar to cover up the taste of tea that’s not necessarily so tasty on its own. Or maybe you simply like your tea sweetened. It seems to be the standard for iced tea, and in the American South most people apparently don’t know of any other way to serve it.

My advice for iced tea, as I’ve sort of suggested already, is to try forgoing the sugar for a change, as well as those tea bags that contain less than stellar tea. Then, try preparing tea from leaves that are a cut above the rest. Who knows? You might actually find yourself rethinking your ideas about sweetened tea.

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.

Nothing seems to drum up headlines like ridiculously expensive tea. Okay, there are plenty of other things that drum up headlines, like problems in the Middle East and celebrities behaving badly. But pricey tea is still good for a headline or two.

Like one from a British newspaper not so long ago. And I quote: Would you pay £180 for a pot of TEA? World’s most expensive brew goes on sale. I’d be more excited about all of this but, as the title of my own article suggests, this sort of thing is hardly unusual. I’ve written on this topic before – here’s a recent example – but I’m always open to taking another look.

The pot of tea in question will set you back the equivalent of just over $300 and can be had at the “prestigious Royal China Club on London’s affluent Baker Street.” The tea in this case is said to be a “Da Honh Pao (Imperial Red Robe)” whose leaves have supposedly been aged for 80 years. The result, “an aromatic infusion with distinctive dark cocoa notes, a toasted fruity flavour and a long smooth aftertaste that lingers for several minutes after consumed.” Which sounds enticing enough.

So, let’s allow that a teapot contains four cups, on average. If you wanted to go in with four of your pals and spring for a pot of this elixir you could each get a cup of it for about 75 dollars. Which is nothing to sneeze at and, while I’m certainly an avid cheerleader for drinking the best tea that you can, I can’t help but wonder if there’s any tea in existence that’s worth that much. But I’ll extend the same offer I have before when writing about such pricey tea. If anyone would like to pass along a sample, I’ll be glad to give it a try.

If you’re not up for paying 75 big ones for a cup of tea, take heart. If you’re ever at the Royal China Club and you’re a little bit short you can get a much more reasonable serving of tea for two for a mere eight dollars.

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.

Among most people who bother to have an opinion on tea these days it’s likely that the opinion will be a positive one. Which has been the case throughout of history – at least for the most part. But from the earliest days of tea drinking in the West you could find those who praised it for its health-giving properties and other qualities, just as you could find some who weren’t quite so enamored of it.

An article that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1897 laid out the issue in no uncertain terms, sporting the rather unambiguous title, “The Evils of Tea-Drinking.” The unnamed author of this work seemed to think that he or she was living in a time of “Tea-worship” and decided that it was time to warn the world about the perils of “tea-debauchery.” Which sounds like some pretty serious stuff.

Once a vice that was confined to “nervous old persons,” claims the author, things eventually degenerated to the point that “nearly everyone is more or less addicted to its use.” Much of this rampant addiction is blamed on the custom of afternoon tea.

Though the author wastes no words on railing against this vile concoction, there is a brief aside to actually acknowledge that in its hot form it is “acceptable as a stomachic and general stimulant.” Perhaps aware that this was way too much praise expended on tea, the passage that follows stresses that iced tea is a really, really bad thing.

But, of course, that’s not all. Milk in tea comes in for a bit of grumbling, and then there’s the “further perversion with sugar.” All of this, if I may share a particularly colorful turn of phrase, is “sufficient to cause obstinate gastric derangements and their manifold complications.”

And so it goes. I could share more of the author’s dissatisfaction with this vile drink we call tea, but I’d recommend that you experience it for yourself. It’s just a quick web search away.

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 United States and tea go back a long way, back to the time before there was a United States. The Boston Tea Party was, of course, a pivotal event in American history. But since we’ve written about this topic a number of times already there’s no need to retread that ground much. Tea parties aside, early Americans had a significant relationship to tea. Not surprising, given that we started as a colony of Britain, where tea eventually became a very big deal.

It’s hard to separate tea from politics in colonial times. Especially considering that luminaries like Paul Revere made part of his living from crafting pricey teapots and John Hancock profited from shipping tea to the colonies. Tea first came to this region courtesy of the Dutch. As the British influence became more pronounced there so did their favorite drinks such as tea and coffee, as well as the coffeehouse tradition that became so popular in London and elsewhere in the mid-eighteenth century. Tea was particularly popular in – but certainly not limited to – major cities like Boston and Philadelphia.

According to the laws of the land, all tea that came to the American colonies had to be provided by parties authorized by the British. But there was a thriving trade in smuggled tea that, according to some sources, comprised as much as 75 percent of all tea imports. Which was not at all unlike the situation in Britain, a situation that changed on both sides of the ocean when the British enacted a significant reduction of tea taxes in 1784.

Of course, by that time a number of tea parties and a war of independence had taken place and a new country had been founded. Many colonists cut back on their tea drinking during these politically charged times, often turning to Liberty Tea, which was comprised of various “herbal” substitutes that could sort of pass for tea in a pinch.

Many assume that the tea-related turmoil that led to its founding caused the citizens of this new country to swear off tea altogether. Which might have been the case right after the war but it’s hardly the whole truth. Tea was a staple at Washington’s Mount Vernon before and after the war and a Philadelphia tea smuggler who helped finance the war also backed the first official American voyage to trade for tea with China. Green tea (which comprised about one-fifth of the tea that ended up in Boston Harbor) made up a significant share of the American tea market in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and by the second half of the latter much of it was being imported from Japan.

Nowadays, of course, the US is generally considered to be more of a coffee drinking nation. How this came about would undoubtedly make for an interesting story but it’s one that will have to be told elsewhere.

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.

englishteastore_2159_16335570Everyone has their opinion when it comes to the question of whether to add milk to tea – and that’s fine (there’s also the question of whether the tea is added first or the milk is added first, but that’s another story). I’m a member of the “no milk” camp, but plenty of people like it and that’s fine because we all like what we like.

But in my research on other tea-related issues I’ve found instances of others who were not quite so tolerant of the milk/tea combination. Most recently, in an 1897 article I wrote about that ranted about the evils of tea in general, the author of said piece said the “dilution of the infusion with milk” is folly, though without elaborating on why.

In Delicate Feasting, by Theodore Child, an 1890 book that’s more of a how-to volume than a proper cookbook, the author pulls no punches when it comes to the milk/tea question. He notes that the custom of adding cream or milk to tea originated “in ignorance or bad brewing.” He goes on to assert that if the tea is good the addition of milk spoils the taste and it also makes the milk harder to digest.

The following year a US consul to China tackled the topic in a government report on Chinese tea. Which is considerably livelier than one might expect for a report written by a bureaucrat. He advises not boiling tea, not allowing it to touch metal and refers to green tea as “an abomination and a fraud.” As for milk, he too advises that it “ruins the flavor of the tea, and the combination injures the stomach,” likening the compounds created by this combination to “pure leather.”

Another report with a touch of the bureaucratic about it, an 1898 edition of the Wisconsin Farmers’ Institutes Bulletin, recommends that teapots be earthen or granite but never tin and notes that for medicinal purposes green tea is preferred over black. However, it also points out that some people find tea objectionable for health reasons and that “the addition of milk to tea and coffee makes them more objectionable.”

I suspect that anyone who likes milk in their tea isn’t going to change their mind about their preferences as a result of all this. But from a historical perspective, it is an interesting side note.

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.

When it comes to pioneers in the tea industry, it seems that there’s something about the name “Thomas.” There’s Sir Thomas Lipton, whose name is perhaps the most recognizable of all tea people. Then, there’s Thomas Twining, whose firm got started in the tea business nearly two centuries before Lipton did and is still going strong to this day.

Then, there’s Thomas Garway, or Garraway (1632-1704). Okay, so he’s hardly a household name and, in fact, his is a name that’s probably only recognizable to the most avid tea historians. But Garway was a key figure in the early days of the tea industry in England, long before tea became the drink of choice for the majority of that nation’s citizens.

One probably shouldn’t make any definitive statements about when tea first came to England but Garway is often credited with being the first to serve it to the public (in 1657). It was perhaps a logical development, given that he already operated a coffeehouse. It was just one of many such establishments in London at this time that were poised to become all the rage, as much for their popularity as gathering places as for the beverages they offered.

By way of rolling out this exotic new beverage know as tea, Garway put together a broadsheet “Advertisement” called “An Exact Description of the Growth, Quality, and Vertues of the Leaf TEA.” It served to explain what this novelty was and sung its praises in no uncertain terms.

The document also anticipated the “tea is healthy” craze that would follow several centuries later. As Garway noted, “The Drink is declared to be most wholesome, preserving in perfect health untill extreme Old Age” and then went on to list a number of its “particular Vertues.”

The rest of the document is a brief but interesting overview of what the English knew about tea at that time. It contains some interesting perspective, including the fact that “those very Nations so famous for Antiquity, Knowledge, and Wisdom, do frequently sell it amongst themselves for twice its weight in Silver” and the curious idea that “the best Tea ought not to be gathered but by Virgins who are destined to this work.”

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)

Many people, even those who are not tea drinkers, have probably heard that tried and true old phrase about “all the tea in China” (mentioned in our esteemed editor’s article here recently). It’s a term that has actual historical roots, hearkening back to a time, once upon a time, when there was only one game in town for anyone wanted tea. That would have been China.

In later years the British, in particular, began to grow tired of the Chinese stranglehold on the tea market and responded by growing their own supplies of tea in India and Africa. But China continued to be a major force in the world of tea and to this day are the world’s top supplier of this commodity.

Which means that the normal course of events is for supplies of tea to flow from China to the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Which makes sense, given that tea production in the United Kingdom is still something of a novelty.

But surprisingly enough, there are a few cases when the flow of tea goes in the opposite direction. The only tea producer of note in the UK nowadays is Tregothnan Estate, in Cornwall. Read more of what we’ve written about them here. As I noted briefly in a news report earlier this year, Tregothnan tea is making its way to British supermarkets and may even be turning up in China at some point. More about all that here.

As I noted in another article recently, tea production has also come to Scotland on a modest scale. According to a recent report in the Scottish press, another Scottish tea company is looking into exporting their products to Shanghai, in China, and possibly to Japan as well. While this particular company apparently does not using any native grown tea in their products, it’s quite a feat nonetheless to be exporting tea to the world’s largest tea producer. More details 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.

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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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