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Far be it from me to set the rules for preparing tea, a beverage that’s probably consumed by more than a billion people around the world each and every day. But I can’t help finding myself a bit disconcerted at the trend toward shaving seconds – or even minutes – off of how long it takes to prepare it. While that sort of thing seems to fit in with what I know about the coffee drinking experience (which is not much), it doesn’t seem quite right for drinking tea, something that many of us perceive as a slower paced, more leisurely kind of experience.

Yorkshire Red Tea Bags (ETS image)

Yorkshire Red Tea Bags (ETS image)

I’ve written about this very same topic a few times before, most recently in this article. Which questioned the need for gadgetry that is supposedly able to turn out a cup of tea in about a minute. Which is useful if you’re on the retailer’s side of the equation and you want to prepare more tea in a short time. But how does it affect the quality of the tea itself, not to mention what for many is the more low-key experience of drinking tea?

Rather than rehash the topic of one-minute tea let’s move on and tackle the even more fast-paced and thrilling subject of 25-second tea. Yes, that’s right. It seems that the optimum amount of time to steep your tea in teabag form is a mere 25 seconds. That’s according to Martin Isark, a “professional food and drink taster,” who recently undertook to study the issue. Whatever his qualifications for doing so might be, the study was interesting enough to catch the attention of the press in that great tea-drinking part of the world that we know as the United Kingdom.

Over the course of two days Isark sampled 400 cups of tea made with teabags from some of the most well-known British tea firms. The manufacturer’s recommendations for steeping times for those teas ranged from 40 seconds to five minutes.

Though he claims that 25 seconds is an optimum time for tea steeping, Isark is not a fan of this type of tea, which he notes is often made “with tiny particles of broken leaves that have lost the wonderful flavour nuances” that we’re likely to find in other teas. Though he claims to be a fan of pricey first-flush Darjeeling tea, he did allow that of the teas that he surveyed Yorkshire Tea got his thumbs up as the best of the bunch.

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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.

Quick – name a tea estate. Yeah, me too. Even though I’ve written about tea for nearly a decade, I find that I’m a bit stumped by that one. The few exceptions would be Tregothnan Estate in Britain, and our very own Charleston Tea Plantation, located in South Carolina. Though admittedly these stand out more for the fact that they are tea estates located in countries where such things are not normally found.

One of the few other tea estates that I personally know by name is Makaibari Tea Estate, in Darjeeling. The Darjeeling region of India, though it produces only a tiny fraction of the tea that issues forth from India’s more productive Assam region, has become synonymous for the most part with high-quality premium varieties of flavorful black tea.

As they claim at their web site, in a brief overview evocatively titled The Magical Mystical Makaibari, the estate “is the world’s first tea factory and was established in 1859.” Real Darjeeling tea (as opposed to the substantial amounts that are said to be counterfeited) generally sells at something of a premium, compared to many tea varieties. But some of the teas that come from Makaibari, and in particular their Silver Tips Imperial, take the notion of premium to a new level, with prices that are measured in multiples of many other Darjeeling teas.

As the company notes at their web site, Silver Tips Imperial is the world’s most expensive tea. As they put it, “Two decades of passionate devotion has resulted in the ultimate tea experience. Plucked under full moon beams, the blaze of Silver Tips Imperial highlights the subtleties of Darjeeling terroir, imperiously.”

Which paints a very nice picture indeed, though it should be noted that this and others of the company’s teas can be purchased directly from their site at comparatively reasonable prices. Nowadays the company is passing from the hands of Swaraj Kumar Banerjee, who took over the operation in 1970. Their long standing reputation goes a long way toward explaining why the new owners – the Luxmi Group, also of India – say that Makaibari “is the jewel in what is called the golden mile of the most important grow region in the world. If Darjeeling is the champagne of teas, Makaibari is the Krug or Henri Giraud.”

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 word is that tea can be good for your health. You might have already heard that one. Or you might have read some articles on the topic, such as the ones we have listed here. But as I was sorting through patent records recently, something I do from time to time, I discovered that tea has been proposed as a remedy for some ailments that we probably haven’t covered at this site.

If you’re like me, you can’t help but cast a skeptical eye on remedies and alleged cures for hair loss. I’m not saying that a patent for Hair Treatment Lotion is one to generate skepticism, but one can’t help wondering. It was issued a few years ago and, to summarize, “the invention provides a hair treatment lotion of green tea, gentian, and geranium in aqueous solution, and methods for using this lotion to prevent or treat hair loss.”

If that’s not enough hair loss remedies for you try, the even more recent Composition and Method for Treatment of Hair Loss With a Combination of Natural Ingredients. It apparently does not use actual tea as one of its components but rather epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), an active compound in tea that’s alleged to provide a wide range of health benefits. There’s also some caffeine and saw palmetto berry extract in there, just to liven things up.

If it’s the scourge of migraines that plagues you, then you might find it interesting to review a 2005 patent with the unwieldy title, Comprises Brewing Black Pekoe Tea, Then Adding Aspirin Tablets, Apple Cider Vinegar, and Honey. Which pretty much says it all, except to note that “The entire hot and concentrated composition is then cooled over ice so that a person suffering from a migraine headache may quickly drink it.”

If you’re looking to recover more quickly from your next bout of exercise, there may be hope in the form of a 2013 patent called Use of Tea-Derived, Theaflavin Enriched Extract to Increase Exercise Performance and Reduce Exercise Recovery Time. Then there’s the Anaerobic Tea Steeper and Method of Use. This one is not designed to address any specific treatment but rather is intended “to maximize the preservation of the antioxidants in the aqueous tea extract to be used as a health-promoting beverage.”

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.

Ecstasy is a glass full of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth. – Alexander Pushkin

Czar Nicolas Russian Caravan Tea (ETS image)

Czar Nicolas Russian Caravan Tea (ETS image)

If you’re like me, then when you think of great tea-drinking nations, you probably think of the United Kingdom. Who are actually topped in tea-drinking by countries like Turkey, where they consume nearly three times as much as the Brits on a per capita basis. Then, there’s Morocco, Ireland, and Mauritania, all of which fill the spots on the list just ahead of the UK.

One of the countries that you might not think of when you think of great tea drinkers is Russia. But they have a long history of tea drinking and are credited with popularizing and possibly even inventing the samovar, one of the world’s earliest tea gadgets.

Given the proximity of the two countries, it’s probably no surprise that China eventually started trading one of their precious and unique commodities – tea – with Russia. Russians are first thought to have tasted tea – at least according to the historical record – in the early seventeenth century when envoys from the Tsar, who were dispatched to Mongolia in 1616, encountered a strange beverage made with leaves. About two decades later Mongolia made a gift of about 600 pounds of tea (though that amount varies, depending on the source) to the Tsar. His envoy grumbled a bit, remarking that furs would have been a better choice than these curious leaves.

But tea began to catch on, and by 1674 a Swedish envoy noted that it was being sold in Moscow for 30 kopeks a pound and was claimed to be a remedy for the ills brought on by drinking too much of the harder stuff. By the early to mid-eighteenth century tea had begun to regularly make the long journey from China to Russia, often by camel caravan. Much like in Britain, as the popularity increased and larger supplies were imported, prices fell even further and things began to snowball. By 1810, according to one source, one Russian trading guild was responsible for importing nearly three million pounds of tea into the country.

And so it went. Nowadays the Russians are not ranked all the way at the top of the world’s tea drinking nations. But the beverage is still something of an institution there and enough tea is consumed to put Russia’s citizens fifteenth on the list of tea drinking peoples.

See also 5 Signs That You’re “Going Russian” at Tea Time

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.

If you were a medical person in 1877 and happened to be reading Physician and Surgeon: A Professional Medical Journal, you would have run across an article called The Use and Abuse of Tea. It begins with the following statement, “A French observer has recently tabulated the evil results which in many cases follow the excessive use of what is now the favorite beverage of Teutonic and Slavonic nations.”

It notes that said observer has presented a “formidable” list of problems that can result from tea consumption but goes on to note that opinions on the matter were somewhat divided in the English medical community at the time. With some making light of the alleged evils of tea while others were going to the other extreme and likening it to alcoholism. The anonymous author goes on to further assert that as two of the most popular “nervine stimulants” of the day (which still holds true today, for that matter) the good to be had from drinking tea and coffee outweighed the downsides of occasional abuse.

A brief listing of benefits follows and if you’re looking to stretch your vocabulary you might be interested to know that tea is thought to be a “sudorific,” meaning that even when consumed in its hot form it is said to have a cooling effect.

On the downside the author does concede that overdoing it with tea can cause nervous and digestive problems and divides the “sufferers” from excessive tea drinking into three groups. There are the “pure brain-workers,” who supposedly find their ability to think impaired by too much tea. Then there are the “women of the better classes” whose consumption at afternoon tea and the rest of the day ends up impairing their appetite and causing problems. Last of all are the working classes who turn to tea in lieu of a “cheap and appetizing mid-day meal” and suffer ill effects as a result.

On the flip side, and this should come as good news to all of us who aren’t willing to do without our tea, no matter what anyone says. There is apparently a small group of people for whom tea seems to be a “positive poison.” Which works just fine for me.

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.

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.

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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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