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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.”

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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 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.

The name James Taylor probably isn’t as popular as John Smith, but it’s certainly not an uncommon one. For those of us who grew up in a certain era, James Taylor conjures up images of a tall, thin singer and songwriter of laid back pop/rock songs.

Ceylon Tea Garden and James Taylor

Ceylon Tea Garden and James Taylor

Of course, the best known tea person to be associated with Ceylon, the island nation off the southeast coast of India that we know today as Sri Lanka, is Thomas Lipton, who doesn’t need much in the way of introductions. But for tea drinkers there is another James Taylor worthy of mention, one whose activities in the world of tea predated the singing Taylor’s heyday by about a century and who beat Lipton to the punch by several decades when it came to growing tea in Sri Lanka.

These days Sri Lanka is one of the top tea producing countries in the world but it was not always so. In the nineteenth century, when it was still known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka was a significant producer of cinnamon, of all things. Later the British turned to growing coffee there. Things went well for a few decades until around 1869 when a disease began to take a heavy toll on the coffee crops. By this time Taylor (1835-1892), who was born in Scotland, had already been in Ceylon for nearly two decades and had learned a few things from British tea growers in India.

In about 1867, Taylor began growing tea in earnest at the Loolecondera coffee plantation in Ceylon. Tea had been grown in Ceylon on an experimental scale for nearly three decades but Taylor gets the credit for making tea into a commercial venture. Within a decade Ceylon tea had already begun to make its way to England.

The fledgling tea industry in Ceylon grew considerably and by 1890, when Thomas Lipton stopped over on a trip to Australia he decided to invest in land there. Lipton was already a very successful grocer by this time and had gotten into the tea business in earnest just a year earlier. But it’s not completely implausible to speculate that if it weren’t for Taylor and his success with tea in Ceylon that Lipton might not have had the rousing success that he did with tea.

For more interesting bits on Taylor, Lipton, Ceylon tea history and general info about Ceylon tea go to the source and try the Ceylon Tea Museum.

© 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.

Brazilian Guava Tea - great over ice! (ETS image)

Brazilian Guava Tea – great over ice! (ETS image)

Summer is a relative concept. Which may have some influence on how you consume tea. When I was growing up back in the Northeast, summer began with pools opening on Memorial Day, followed by school letting out. A period of heat followed, the pools closed on Labor Day and school started again. Leading up to that were the dog days of summer, typically the hottest and in many places the most humid time of the year.

Which is all just a memory now that I live in balmy Arizona, where summery type weather lasts from about March to October and I suspect it would be decidedly different for anyone living in a cold clime like Alaska.

Since my esteemed editor has also written about dog days and tea (great minds thinking alike and whatnot) I won’t devote much space to defining them, except to say they occur sometime in July and August, depending on whom you ask, and they get their name from the fact that the ancient Romans associated them with Sirius, the Dog Star.

What all this means for tea drinking, assuming you live in a place where the seasons are more clearly defined than hot, hotter, hottest, and groan, is that there’s still plenty of good iced tea drinking weather to be had, even as we reach the dog days. Hot weather and iced tea drinking seem to be a natural fit, especially here in the United States, where we don’t drink much in the way of hot tea but we do put away considerable amounts of the iced variety.

But the former might not be such a bad choice (hot tea, that is) during warm weather, according to some accounts. They suggest that hot beverages might actually have a cooling effect when consumed on a sultry day. There’s a little more to the notion than I can summarize briefly so I’ll direct you here and here for more details.

Not that I’m convinced, mind you, and like so many Americans my choice of tea during the dog days and the rest of summer will be a nice cool glass of iced tea. No word, by the way, on whether drinking iced tea in cold weather can warm you. But I doubt it and although we’re still drinking iced tea during the dog days most of us will be turning our thoughts to what hot tea might be best to soon ward off the winter chill. That’s present company excluded, of course, but that’s another story and one that I’ve related 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.

Avert your eyes, if you must, and move on to the next paragraph, but I’m going to kick off this installment of the tea book column with a book about coffee. Gasp. It’s called Coffee Gives Me Superpowers: An Illustrated Book about the Most Awesome Beverage on Earth and it’s by Ryoko Iwata. I mention it not to quibble with the idea that coffee is the most awesome beverage on Earth (though I certainly disagree) but to note that it might be interesting to see a similar volume – one that’s “full of infographics, quizzes, and other fun and interesting facts” – discussing the wonders of tea.

I’m not well versed when it comes to the later Disney characters, but I gather that young ladies of a certain age might be familiar with one named Sofia the First. In the interests of getting those young Sofia fans on the right path (of tea drinking) at an early age, I’ll direct you to the teacup-shaped Sofia the First: Sofia’s Cup of Tea, which hits the stores early in 2015.

Sofia the First: Sofia's Cup of Tea (via Yahoo! images)

Sofia the First: Sofia’s Cup of Tea (via Yahoo! images)

In the same vein is the Hello Kitty: Tea Party Set, which rolls out this September and which “has a chunky eight-page board book and 15 puzzle pieces to match to the spaces on the book pages, as Hello Kitty gets everything ready to host a tea party for her friends.” Also up in early 2015 is yet another book for those who fancy fiction with a tea-related theme. It’s called The Traveling Tea Shop, by Belinda Jones, and concerns the adventures of the assistant to and the host of a tea-themed TV show.

If it was a real TV show, they might want to keep in mind a nonfiction tea book that’s also coming out in 2015. It’s another entry into the increasingly crowded field of tea cuisine books and it’s called Steeped: Recipes to Infuse Your Day with Tea, by Annelies Zijderveld. As the publisher’s description puts it, “tea is also very of the moment, and rising ever-higher in the food world, starring in Martha Stewart’s Jasmine Shortbread Sandwich Cookies, Food 52’s Darjeeling Tea Pain Perdu, and the Beard Foundation’s Tea Sorbet.”

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.

As someone who prefers tea without milk, I consider myself an impartial observer when it comes to that apparently contentious matter of how to actually combine tea and milk.

Milk first, stir - perfect! (screen capture from ETS video)

Milk first, stir – perfect! (screen capture from ETS video)

As a brief aside I’ll note that as I was looking into this matter I came across the phrase “have you milked your tea?” Which dates back to at least 1877. It seems like a term you might use on the farm, but it’s actually just a quaint way of asking if someone has added milk to their tea. Or vice versa.

According to a study that took place about a decade ago, the Royal Society of Chemistry determined that milk first was the way to go. The reason, according to a researcher, “If milk is poured into hot tea, individual drops separate from the bulk of the milk, and come into contact with the high temperatures of the tea for enough time for significant denaturation – degradation – to occur.” The same British paper that reported on this study also allowed readers a separate forum to weigh in on the issue.

More than a half century earlier, in 1946, a prominent British tea lover and writer named George Orwell took the tea first road. He noted in a famous essay about tea, “I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.”

About a decade earlier than that, scientist Ronald Fisher devised a somewhat famous mathematical experiment to test the assertion of a lady who “claimed to be able to tell whether the tea or the milk was added first to a cup.” Which has more to do with math and probability than with tea but it’s interesting to note even so.

According to some accounts none other than Queen Elizabeth is an adherent of the tea first school of thought, which would be appropriate given her social standing. As the story goes, milk first was a popular tactic for those drinking tea from poor quality china cups that often couldn’t stand up to hot tea. Of course, poor quality china is not an inconvenience the Queen and others in the upper classes have to concern themselves with. Thus the English writer Evelyn Waugh is said to have coined the phrase “rather milk in first” as shorthand for referring to the lower classes.

It’s hard to say exactly when the tea/milk controversy got its start. But one could speculate that it goes back to a time when tea, once a rare and expensive commodity, became more affordable and thus could be consumed by people who had to make do with second rate china.

As for the notion of combining milk and tea, many note that it was mentioned as early as 1680 by a French aristocrat, who claimed that another French noblewoman came up with the idea. Which doesn’t take into consideration that, sometime around 1660, not all that long after tea came to England, tea pioneer Thomas Garraway noted that the tea of that era was sometimes “prepared with Milk and Water.”

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 general consensus these days is that tea is not bad for you – and there is a fair amount of evidence that it might even be quite good for you. There are exceptions, of course. Like the woman who drank excessive amounts of iced black tea over many years and suffered some unpleasant side effects. But if consumed in moderation – or even moderate excess (guilty) – you could do a lot worse than tea.

But the idea that tea was a healthy drink was not always thus. From the time that tea came to Europe in the early seventeenth century there were those who praised it, but there were also those who cautioned against the ill effects that would surely result from consuming it. This sort of thing was still going on in 1833, when a certain John Cole, of London, penned a paper called On The Deleterious Effects Produced By Drinking Tea And Coffee In Excessive Quantities.

He goes on at length – nearly five pages – and, for obvious reasons, we’ll focus on his thoughts regarding the perceived evils of tea. Early on, Cole, a medical man who read and debated the pros and cons of his paper in front of the London Medical Society that year, sums things up by noting that tea seems “to have the power of reducing the constitution.” He does note that this is the result of “excessive” consumption, but doesn’t define what that means. I personally don’t consider my 6-8 cups per day to be excessive but some might.

Cole goes on to describe some of the supposed ill effects of tea, such as a gnawing in the stomach, a feeling of fullness in the neck and a flushed face and sparkling eyes. And that’s not the end of it. Next up are a number of case studies. Several of these look at women aged 25-40, who were experiencing mostly stomach problems, supposedly from drinking tea, and one unfortunate woman who “suffered sudden attacks of Insensibility” after drinking tea.

Which sounds like grim enough stuff. But over the years I’ve been writing about tea I’ve come to learn that the tea of yesteryear was frequently adulterated, sometimes with mostly innocuous substances and other times with more scary ingredients. Which leads one to wonder if tea was really the culprit in these cases or not.

In any event, if you’d like to read Cole’s letter in its entirety, go 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.

Teabag and useful but annoying string. (stock image)

Teabag and useful but annoying string. (stock image)

Let’s put aside for now the matter of whether tea bags are a good thing or not. Some would say they are, and others scorn them. But the fact is that there are plenty of tea drinkers who use them. Probably all of whom have experienced that nagging problem of the tea bag string that escapes from its designated spot outside the tea cup and ends up in the tea.

It’s a problem that has inspired a significant amount of innovation and gadgetry. As I noted in an article here last year, some of the gadgets devised to get around the problem included the Tea Bag Buddy and the Tie Tea Cup. The Washington Post even deemed the problem significant enough that they compiled a list of suggestions from their readers of how to get around it.

But wait. There’s more. Of course there’s more when it comes to those pesky tea bag strings. This Tea Bag Cup Lid patent was filed for in 2007. It resembles the Tea Bag Buddy mentioned above in that it somehow attaches the tea bag to the lid and, as the application says, “a resilient stopper (38) is disposed within the access opening in the lid, holding the tea bag string (36) between the stopper and the access opening, permitting the tea bag (22) to be initially immersed in hot water within the cup for brewing with the capability of retaining the tea bag string when the tea bag is manually drawn upward away from the tea after brewing. The invention allows brewed tea to be consumed through the lid body without of removing the tea bag until any time after drinking the brewed tea.”

Here’s a patent awarded a year earlier for an “an improved tea bag has a pouch containing tea and a string connected to the pouch. A securing element is connected to the string. The securing element is releaseably attachable to an object such as a tea cup or tea pot.” Or you could try a 2003 patent from Germany whose name describes exactly what it sets out to do – Elongated Handle With Slit for Holding String of Tea Bag Has V-Shaped End to Slit to Facilitate Insertion of String Into Slit

Here’s a rather intricate patent from 1967 for a Teabag Dipper that doesn’t seem to attack the string problem head on but solves it anyway. It’s described, in part, as “a teabag dipper in the form of a saucer for a teacup combined with a receptacle and provided with an arm to which is attached a teabag which, by rotation of a crank mounted upon the arm, can be transferred from a position whereby the teabag is dipped into the water in the teacup to a position whereby the teabag is dumped into the receptacle for disposal.”

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.

Since I’ve been writing about tea I’ve run across some pretty strange stuff. Poo poo puerh is one of the types of tea that stands out from the pack. Yes, if you’re wondering, it’s kind of what it sounds like. Read more about it here.

But tea that’s flavored (in a manner of speaking) with dehydrated ants has to take a close second to the above mentioned. Of course, for those of you who prefer not to take your dehydrated ants straight up, you’ll be glad to know that this blend also contains raspberry leaves and other unspecified flavors. It’s made with a base of black tea and comes to us from an Australian tea company who teamed with an entomologist to create the blend.

If you’ve ever thought that drinking tea in an airplane was a less than optimum experience that’s likely due to the effects of flying on your taste buds. That’s assuming that the airline chooses to serve decent tea. As I noted last year Twinings and British Airways teamed up to solve this problem by creating British Airways Signature Blend. More about that here. As the Trinidad press noted, British Airways recently held a tea at a hotel there to introduce and sing the praises of this blend.

If you’ve never heard of pandan before then you’re not alone. I’ve been writing about tea for nearly a decade and I hadn’t either, at least not until I ran across a merchant recently – presumably an Asian one – who sells it. It’s not a tea in the strictest sense of the word, but rather is more of a tisane. The merchant says it’s “well-known for its aromatic flavors and most predominantly used in the Southeast Asian cooking” while Wikipedia weighs in on Pandanus amaryllifolius, the plant it is derived from, 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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