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Halloween may be over now and there may be that sad feeling that the festivities are over with (at least until Thanksgiving), but it’s just getting started in the UK! November may be all about Thanksgiving in the United States but for the British, it’s about Guy Fawkes and bonfires!

Now, who was Guy Fawkes, you ask? Guy Fawkes had a large role in the the Gunpowder Plot as he and other British Catholics wanted to use gunpowder to blow up the Houses of Parliament. The then monarch, James I, was not a supporter of the Catholics. In fact, he was unempathetic towards them. He even evicted Catholic priests which angered the Catholic population.

FPUD_TAT_BTP_-00_Tate-and-Lyles-Black-Treacle-454gFawkes’ motive for the plot was because he wanted to help re-establish Catholicism in Britain by blowing up Parliament once it was opened. James I’s daughter was his successor and a strong Catholic, who would help put faith towards the Catholics once again if she were in power. Fawkes was put in charge of guarding the gunpowder placed underneath the House of Lords. He was to set off the gunpowder, subsequently blowing up the cellar he was hiding in. Unfortunately, he was caught and taken to the Tower of London where he was tortured until he gave the names of his fellow plotters. All of them were executed.

Ever since November 5th, 1605, bonfires were lit to celebrate the safety of the King and is now a tradition. This day has been known as Bonfire Night ever since. People in Britain celebrate with fireworks and burn effigies of Guy Fawkes, being placed on top of or thrown into a bonfire to burn. When the Guy Fawkes effigy is made and not yet burned, villagers and townspeople usually wheel him around shouting, “Penny for the Guy!”, collecting money for fireworks.

The night(s) before, usually November 4th, is known as Mischief Night. Children and teenagers are usually known for playing practical pranks like putting treacle on doorknobs or tying up gates (usually harmless).

Bonfire Night is not just known for fire and fireworks, but also for traditional food! While people munch on hot foods and drink like hot chocolate, mulled wine, tea, toffee apples, and soup, but everyone has to have their Parkin cake! Parkin is a slightly sticky sponge cake made with oatmeal and black treacle, either bought in shops or made right at home.

If you or someone you know plan to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, please be safe and warm!

Break out the tea kettles teaapke1000033268_-00_ovente-electric-glass-kettle-1-5-liters-red_1and tea cozies! Autumn is finally here after a long and brutal summer! Back in June, I compared and contrasted how British and Americans take their tea during the summer. While most Americans drink their tea iced during the hot summer months, the British stick to tradition and continue to enjoy their tea hot. With Autumn, or Fall, as some call it, the weather finally begins to cool down enough for a nice hot cuppa tea and some hot, fresh baked goodies. The leaves change into beautiful colors while some cool rain may fall along with the leaves.

Tea is already a very comforting beverage but when you mix it with the things you affiliate with Autumn, it’s even better! Autumn in the United TEACKCK1000016677_-00_Scone-Mix-Pumpkin-Cranberry-15ozStates is already associated with the smells of cinnamon and maple. Then there are apples and pumpkins being harvested. A good population of Americans like to think of Fall as a cozy time, which is possibly why they list Autumn as their favorite holiday (next to Spring/Summer, of course).

All this talk of Fall makes me want to enjoy tea all over again. Since summer has ended, many people have returned to their normal lives, so it’s nice to take a break and catch up with them to enjoy a good cup of tea and a freshly baked pumpkin cranberry scone, straight from your oven. Try some cinnamon tea like Harney and Sons Cinnamon spiced tea for a good kick of cinnamon and warmth or Stash Pumpkin Decaf.

More Autumn here on the blog soon!


(c) Crystal Derma for The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

As a tea lover, I can’t go a day without at least one cup of tea. I brew my tea either using teabags, self-made teabags with loose leaf tea, or loose leaf in a strainer. Lately in my efforts to go green, I have begun to use the strainer as much as I possibly can. I find it fun and easy to use and it’s very interesting to open the strainer after brewing to see the steeped tea leaves. I have noticed that the tea leaves expand in the hot water, so it’s very important for the tea to have much room to brew as it can. If you have seen advertisements for tea (at least in Britain), you will notice they boast how much room the teas will have to brew. So far, PG Tips is a game changer with their pyramid tea bags, while Yorkshire comes square and Typhoo is round and flat. The teabags also do not have tags or strings. Many tea companies have eliminated the use of these due to their efforts to reduce paper and other material waste that would affect the earth.


(c) Crystal Derma for The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

The teabag came to be entirely by accident! In 1908, a tea merchant named Sir Thomas Sullivan sent packets of loose tea to potential buyers in silk-muslin sachets. The buyers took this as a new way of brewing tea by simply tossing the bags into boiling hot water to brew and enjoyed it. Sullivan was confused and surprised when his customers began to ask for “tea bags” but was unable to continue his silk-muslin combination due to high costs of silk. To combat this issue, Sullivan adopted the use of gauze sacks.

Since then, tea has been sold in bags but before the teabag, it was sold loose and brewed in infusers and strainers. In 19th and 20th century England, however, tea was brewed in silvery tea balls (also called tea eggs). Some are made with mesh so the tea leaves have a harder time escaping, while others are metal with tiny perforations. These have been making a comeback lately since many people are trying to make efforts to go green. It is good to use larger-leafed teas like Organic Pearl River Green Tea to steep inside an infuser. If you have a tea with tinier leaves, like Organic Peppermint Tea, it is probably a better idea to use a paper filter so the tea leaves do not seep through the strainer and float throughout your tea. However, everyone’s tastes are different. Either way, brew green!


How to make tea latte

(c) Crystal Derma for use by The English Tea Store, all rights reserved.

I recently made a visit to the Washington DC area to visit my fiance. Now, I am engaged to a wonderful man. He makes me coffee and cups of tea whether I want it or not and I always want to return the favor. So when I was out there, I offered to make him a cup of tea. However, he was surprised when I brought him his cup of Lover’s Leap with just milk and sweetener in it. “I thought you were going to steam the milk,” He said. “Like make it a latte.” It made me raise an eyebrow. The people in Britain do not take their tea in latte form. I take my tea with a simple milk and sweetener. I’m still trying to pick up the habit of drinking it more than once a day.

What exactly is a tea latte? It’s just like a latte made with coffee or espresso. It has steamed milk but instead of the eye-opening java, it’s tea! My fiance works for a certain coffee shop that makes a very popular kind of tea latte. Actually, two types. Green tea and chai tea are very popular among the masses but it can also be made with other kinds of tea like black.

In order to make a tea latte, one would need a steaming wand to froth the milk. I know that not everyone possesses that type of equipment. However, my fiance told me that I could make it at home by using a whisk while heating up some milk. So I brewed some Yorkshire Tea just like I normally would and added my homemade whisked milk. The addition of sweetener made things even better. The result? Very creamy and delicious! The latte stays hot with the addition of hot milk rather than cold milk when making a British style cup of tea.

The most popular types of tea lattes are chai and green tea. The one I made was pretty much considered a “London Fog” with the latte being made with black tea. I enjoyed the one I made so I can’t wait to make one for my loving fiance next time I see him. I can show him my latte making skills!

Simple Tea Latte

8oz water
8oz milk (either dairy or non)
Whisk or fork

Boil the water and steep your teabag like you normally would, discard teabag. Then, using a saucepan over low heat, heat the milk and whisk/stir with fork until the milk becomes hot and/or frothy. Pour into tea, and sweetener or syrup. Enjoy!


Editor’s note: I used to be a barista, and am a bit of a snob. I have the Brevelle machine in my kitchen to prove it. :) I highly recommend using a steaming wand. A note on steamed milk, regardless, is that when it reaches the proper temperature (130-160 degrees F) the natural sugars are brought out and it is the sweetest – too hot you scald; not hot enough you do not draw out the natural sugar. The steaming also stretches the milk – expands it – and you want about 30% stretching or you end up with a cappuccino consistency. One final note – you do not want to add too much air when you whisk, or you can destroy the smooth consistency of the milk.

The Groundhog was right on his prediction when he said there would be six more weeks of winter. Pretty much everywhere in the United States there is snow, freezing rain, or just cold in general. I have been fortunate enough to live in a state that has managed to avoid most of the dreary, wintry mess of a season. That is, until now.

Yesterday I left sunny California for over a week to go to the icy cold East Coast of the United States! I normally love cold days in California but the lowest it usually gets is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m staying where subzero temps are the norm for now. Brr! So to help handle the bitter cold, I will be packing a lot of tea with me, including some picks for this month’s teas of the month that are sure to keep you nice and warm until Spring arrives!

TOLSLL_ESTNON_-Nonsuch-Estate-tea-loose-leafFor a sleepy wintry morning, the Nonsuch Estate Tea is a good choice. It’s a little strong so it’s perfect for the morning. It has a fruity but floral-like maltiness to it that I find yummy. This tea is a blend of Nilgiri tea from South India where it is grown 5000 feet above sea level.

Next up we have the Mim Estate. I really like its name, which I learned has come from Mim in Northern India where you can see Mount Everest on a good day! Our Mim Estate is a Darjeeling, second flush. A second flush is a harvest in June where the tea is fully developed. When I tried it, I could taste a hint of currant and muscatel (grape). It tastes pretty light if you like a less strong tea but I find it nice to relax with a few digestives or scones.

When traveling, sample packs are the way to go since they are small so they save space in your luggage. The Estate Sampler has a few of our estate teas including the ones I mentioned above plus others. it’s a nice gift to give to your host (always try to bring a gift since they are kind enough to let you stay at their home), or share it with the loved ones you came to visit.

The upside to my trip is that I won’t be having tea by myself! My fiance will be joining me and he will enjoy a few cups with me during the cold, bitter days. As February winds down to a close, I still find it the month of romance and I would love to make my dear a nice warm cuppa (cross your fingers that I get him into my biggest tea obsession, PG Tips.


Loose Leaf Tea

Are you dissatisfied with your cup of tea? The reason for this may be you are making tea mistakes. Did you know tea leaves expand during the brewing process and tea can be brewed too long? Read on to see if you identify with any tea mistakes.

Mistake #1:    Several tea drinkers believe tea purchased at their local grocer is good quality. The reality is these tea bags contain dust and crumbs of tea leaves. In all actuality, tea tastes best when brewed from loose-leaf tea leaves.

Tea bags were invented 100 years as a way to send samples to customers. Therefore, the trend caught on and over the years severely affected the quality of the tea.

Mistake #2:    Using tea strainers that are too small. Most people who drink tea own a mesh infuser ball that can only brew one cup at a time. Rather than using a mesh infuser ball, it is a good idea to consider switching to a t- sac for brewing loose-leaf tea. Using a t-sac will create an improved tea drinking experience since there will be room for the tea leaves to expand releasing their flavor.

Mistake #3:    Brewing tea using tap or microwaved water. Tap water has a chemical aftertaste and microwaved has a slight metallic taste. Both of these factors can significantly affect a tea’s taste. Instead of using tap water placed in the microwave, the best choice is cold filtered water. You will notice a difference in the flavor of your tea.

Electric Kettle Starter Kit

Electric Kettle Starter Kit

Mistake #4:    Forgetting to shut off your kettle or not emptying it after each use. Unfortunately, many rust out inside or the bottom gets burned. I will admit purchasing a quality kettle can be costly, but it will pay for itself within the first few cups. To prevent your kettle from getting ruined do not leave the water boiling until it evaporates, empty the unused water every time, and leave the lid open so it can air dry.

Mistake #5: Incorrect water temperature or brewing the tea too long. Green teas need rapid steaming water and black teas need almost boiling water to brew properly. Green teas brew quickly in two minutes, whereas black teas need 3-4 minutes. Over brewing green tea makes it taste like an over cooked vegetable. Over brewed black tea has a bitter flavor.

Mistake #6:    Using cream or half-n-half instead of milk in tea. Cream and half-n-half camouflage the flavor of tea. All you need is a touch milk to enhance the flavor of your tea.

Tea Canister

Tea Canister

Mistake #7:    Tea is not stored properly. The best place to store tea is in a tea canister away from the stove. It needs to be protected from heat, light, moisture, and other flavors. Tea absorbs other flavors surrounding it. Therefore, if you place it next to cayenne pepper your tea will taste like cayenne pepper.

Do you make any of the tea mistakes? If you do, it is okay many fellow drinkers probably commit the same errors. If you are a lucky person who is a tea expert, that is fantastic. Either way, sit down and enjoy a cup of tea.

© 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 the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A classic OLS/ETS blog entry originally published 02.03.2009


Brewing Tea

Tea is becoming a popular beverage and new tea drinkers are asking for clear, easy instructions on how to brew. For those people who are new to tea or veterans of the fabulous beverage, there are a few simple steps to a perfect cup of tea. The first step to brewing the perfect cup of tea is to heat the teapot before adding tea. To do this, all one needs to do is add boiling water to the teapot and swirl it around to bring it up to temperature. Pour it out and select your favorite tea. Keep in mind that adding boiling water to a cool teapot will immediately cool the hot water and the concept is to maintain the proper steeping temperature.

PG Tips Tea Bag

The second step is selecting either loose leaf tea or tea bags. For those people who choose to use loose leaf tea, a large teapot with a tea strainer is a good place to start. A large teapot is ideal for this type of tea to allow the hot water to circulate and allow the leaves plenty of room to bloom during the steeping process. Tea bags are also suitable for making a perfect cup of tea, but they do not give the tea enough room to move about during the steeping process. Fortunately, many newer teabags are of a pyramid shape alleviating this problem. Regular tea bags routinely use fannings and tea dust to enhance flavor. Also, be sure to move the bag around a few times to circulate the water. Now that you have selected loose leaf tea or tea bags, it is time to mention measuring your tea. Measuring tea is very important to ensuring a pleasant flavor and aroma. The typical rule is to use 1 teaspoon of tea per cup (8 oz.) of water for a perfect cup of tea. If you are brewing a pot of tea then the ratio is 1 teaspoon per person plus one for the pot. Along the line of measuring water and tea, one needs to pay attention to the temperature of water used. Different teas achieve their best taste when using the optimal water temperature. For example, both green tea and white tea taste best when brewed with steaming water (150°-180°F).

Loose Tea

The final step in making the perfect cup of tea is proper steeping times. I will admit it is very easy to over steep tea and produce a cup that is less than pleasing. A general rule of thumb is the heavier the tea, the shorter steeping time. For example, black tea will steep for 2-5 minutes in water at a rolling boil, whereas green and white teas need to steep for 1-4 minutes in steaming water. Herbal teas are steeped for 5-7 minutes in water that is at a rolling boil. Do these ideas inspire you to brew a perfect cup of tea? I do not know about you, but I am ready to get my teapot, strainer, tea, and teacup and enjoy a delicious cup of tea. My favorite tea is Black currant tea manufactured by the English Tea Store. What is your favorite flavor of tea? Please, leave a comment and share. It is always exciting to hear from readers. Enjoy!

So often I get comments from folks saying that they are scared to try various teas. Or scared of tea altogether…it’s too complicated…it can turn out bitter…it can get oversteeped or have no taste at all… and so on. But don’t let tea scare you! It’s really quite simple. No need for witches’ cauldrons, strange ingredients like bats’ wings, and sorcerers’ apprentices making your brooms and buckets (or your teapots and cups) dance all by themselves. You just need to know a few conjurers’ (that is, steepers’) secrets.

A magic brew! (composite image by A.C. Cargill)

A magic brew! (composite image by A.C. Cargill)

Conjurers’ Secret #1

Make sure your water is free of ghosts and goblins and things that go “bump!” in the night. The better the water, the better start to that pot of tea. And the less likely you will be of getting frightened to the point of having your hair turn white (unless it already is white, in which case you will be shocked into it turning some other odd color such as fuchsia or even mauve). I use bottled spring water to be sure it is free of chlorine and chloramine, but you could use a filter on your kitchen faucet to reduce excess minerals in the water.

Conjurers’ Secret #2

Use a proper cauldron……uh, tea kettle. It needn’t be large enough for Hansel and Gretel to fit in though – just enough to hold the amount of water you’ll need to heat for your tea. They have quite a size range, so just select the one closest to the amount of tea you usually make at any one time. My tea kettle holds about 48 ounces (6 cups) of water, but others are larger or smaller. And no need to start up a roaring wood fire in a forest clearing in the dead of night. There are stovetop kettles and electric kettles so you can heat water for that cuppa any time you feel the urge.

Conjurers’ Secret #3

Employ a proper teapot for steeping that tea. Which is proper will depend largely on the tea you are steeping.

  • Black tea – A ceramic teapot, a Brown Betty (earthenware teapot), a glass teapot, or even a silver teapot.
  • Green tea – Lots of options from a glass (yes, a glass!) to a gaiwan to a Yixing teapot to even a porcelain or ceramic teapot.
  • White tea – same as for green tea.
  • Oolong – gaiwan, Yixing teapot, ceramic/porcelain teapot, even a glass.
  • Pu-erh – gaiwan, Yixing teapot.

Conjurers’ Secret #4

Let the tea dance with the water. You needn’t play any music, though. The dance of the tea seems to go with it’s own music, and it’s not “Night on Bald Mountain,” “Thriller,” the theme from “Ghostbusters,” or even “Monster Mash.” The leaves will float and sink and rise back up. They will become bloated as the cells refill with water that was evaporated out of them during processing. But unlike corpses in a swamp, these leaves become quite lovely as they swell up in that water.

Conjurers’ Secret #5

Watch out for the time. Remember that just as Cinderella’s dress turned back into rags, the coach turned back into a pumpkin, and the horses, coachman, and footmen turned back into little critters when that clock finished striking the hour of midnight, so will your tea turn into something rather unpleasant or even downright monstrous…like those gremlins getting water splashed on them or Swamp Thing becoming a deformed (but still gentle hearted) creature saving Adrienne Barbeau from disaster…if you oversteep. How long you can let your tea steep will be a matter of your own personal taste as well as a matter of the tea you are steeping. Black tea usually goes 3 to 5 minutes while you chant “Don’t be bitter. Don’t be bitter.” (Works every time.) Green teas are generally steeped only 1 to 3 minutes. Don’t forget to chant. However, some pu-erhs can be steeped as short as 30 seconds and as long as 10 minutes and you usually don’t need to chant to avoid bitterness, especially if it’s a pu-erh that has been aged at least 10 years.

Bonus: Your Special Spell for a Perfect Tea Time

Round about the cauldron go;
In the lovely tea leaves throw.
Leaves that on a mount’n did grow
Slept in winter under snow.
Pluck’d and processed while it’s hot
Ready now to steep in pot.
Toss in whole the black Typhoo
Box and all into the brew;
Add in pouch of some Earl Grey
Steep up quick ’fore light of day!
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Drink it when the time is right
Drink to make a perfect night!

(My thanks to Shakespeare for the inspiration.)

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.

Perfect? For me, but maybe not for you. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Perfect? For me, but maybe not for you. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Hundreds and maybe even thousands of articles are written on how to steep tea. Plus a ton of videos. Even so, new information always seems to pop up in discussions with tea-loving friends online. A recent incident prompted me to put down some thoughts on tea steeping instructions, and I hope you will excuse any that are repeats from past articles I’ve written. It can be tough to keep track.

First Things First

People who are new to tea or who want to explore tea beyond their normal morning or afternoon cuppa need a starting point. A general guide will be a good first try with any tea. Use boiling water for black tea and infuse for 3-5 minutes, for example. Use water heated to about 180-195°F for oolongs and infuse for 2-3 minutes, for another example. But after a few times, you will naturally find yourself trying other water temperatures and infusion times. You will leave this first guidance behind.

Moving on to Your Own Preferences

Tea invigorates, and so you will find your brain stimulated to try new things with it. The more you try, the more you will experiment. You will find that oolongs are quite varied, that you can steep them anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. You will notice a difference in your black tea when you use water that is slightly below boiling (about 200°F) and infused for 2 or 3 minutes instead of the usual 5 minutes. You may find that a whole teaspoon of dry tea per cup of water is too much – or too little!

What It All Means

We all need that start, that first instruction in how to do something. Our parents held our hands as we took our first steps and soom we were running. Our teachers started us with the alphabet and soon we knew how to read whole words and sentences and paragraphs. The first flute lesson is about how to hold it properly, where to place your fingers, how to blow across (not into) the opening, and then you can begin learning to play. So it is with tea. Steeping instructions hold your hand, teach you basics, and help you prepare for the experience. Then, you can follow your own way. Life is like that, too. Gee, no wonder tea is so popular!

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.

Iced tea with lemon (stock photo)

Iced tea with lemon (stock photo)

Lemon and tea. They go together like, well, like birthday cake and mustard. But that’s just my opinion. Yours may vary and for a lot of people lemon is an essential part of the tea-drinking experience. But how did this come to be? It might be a task for a mightier historian than yours truly but I figured I’d try to sort it out anyway.

As it turns out, finding a definitive answer was not as easy as I anticipated. But one point that came to mind while researching the topic was the term “limey,” formerly (and perhaps still?) used to refer to British sailors. The term is derived from the practice of giving limes to these sailors to help prevent a dreadful malaise known as scurvy. In truth lemon juice would do just as well as lime and was often – perhaps more so than lime – given to sailors and frequently mixed into their grog (watered down rum).

For my money the combination of tea and lemon doesn’t seem like a particularly intuitive one. But given the fact that the British were rather fond of tea by this time, it’s probably not a big leap to speculate that lemon juice managed to make its way into tea as well. In 1794, a British sailor named William Hutchinson even theorized that it was his consumption of tea that help drive away the scourge of scurvy, though he did not mention lemon or other citrus. Which might not be totally farfetched, given that some types of tea are rather high in vitamin C.

But that’s kind of beside the point for the purposes of this article and doesn’t quite sort out how lemon came to tea. Fortunately, a recent book called Modern Tea: A Fresh Look at an Ancient Beverage, by Lisa Boalt Richardson, gives a few more clues. It suggests that the concept of punch – supposedly from the Hindi word paunch – was picked up by British sailors in India. It was composed of water, sugar, lemon, arrack (distilled palm syrup) and tea. Later versions of punch might or might not have contained lemon and tea but in the end it’s likely that lemon might have made its way to tea through one of these paths.

Which ultimately led to what some feel is the greatest combination of tea and lemon. I think you know the one.

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, 2009-2015. 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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