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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.

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.

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.

I’ve started noticing a trend in the logos of many online tea vendors. They are looking a lot alike, more so than usual. Design tends to go this way. Some of you might remember the 70s styles and color palettes (things like avocado, harvest gold, and chocolate brown). Then there was the 80s, the 90s, and so on. I found 6 that featured teacups, steam, and possibly a tea leaf that were pretty much in the same style and with similar colors.

Teacup logos for various online tea vendors (composite of images online)

Teacup logos for various online tea vendors (composite of images online)

They’re all great. They all say “tea” loud and clear. And they have the essentials stripped down to their simplest form. In one of my design classes years ago, we called this “essentialism” – using a minimum of visual information to convey the image of an object. You can clearly see that teacup. The steam is also quite recognizable. The tea leaves are fairly obvious, especially to anyone familiar with where tea comes from. Several look like they were done by the same design.

The vintage designs had a lot more detail, like this one:

Vintage tea tin with a rather elaborate design. (From Yahoo! Images)

Vintage tea tin with a rather elaborate design. (From Yahoo! Images)

The additional detail doesn’t necessarily tell you more about the product, but it does convey a very different feeling. While the more essentialist (or minimalist) ones above say “tea,” the older one conveys a whole feeling of warmth and comfort. Both are fine but different – yesterday with its simpler lifestyle but more detailed imagery and today with a lifestyle crowded with movie downloads, social media, video games, sports events, and tons more, that cries out for a bit of simplistic design. Gee, sort of a yin-yang thing.

Of course, The English Tea Store, owner of this blog, has a more complicated logo that includes a reference to something fairly but not exclusively British: a coat of arms and a shield. And there’s a teapot on the shield. They leave the rest up to you.

By now you’re wondering where this is all leading. Well, no where, actually. The designer in me just wanted to point out the similar designs I was seeing and share the joy!

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.

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.

I’ve lost track of how many old tea books I’ve written about by now. But it’s safe to say that, if you were so inclined, you could spend quite a bit of time reading these volumes, all of which I’ve accessed online for free. I was starting to think I was exhausting the supply of said tomes when I ran across an 1868 book by Edward Fisher Bamber. Who doesn’t get points for creativity when it came to naming his book – it’s simply called Tea.

But even though there wasn’t much thought put into the name and though it’s not a very long book, it’s always interesting to look at tea from the perspective of someone who lived a century and a half ago. Given that he seemed to write mostly on topics related to mechanics and engineering, it’s not completely clear what led Bamber to write about tea. But he suggests in the Preface that perhaps the “general” reader “may care to know more about the Tea he drinks than the price of it.”

It’s hard to find much biographical data about Bamber, but it appears that he was British and the book is written from the perspective of a British subject. He claims that at the time he and his countrymen consumed more than twice as much tea as the rest of the world. As he notes, “there is probably not a house in the United Kingdom in which Tea is not infused.”

He goes on to present a brief history of tea, noting that it made its way into Europe in 1610, into Holland, and then into Britain just over a half century later. Green tea supposedly came around in 1715, says Bamber, and by this time larger quantities of tea were being imported and the specter of adulteration was beginning to rear its ugly head more frequently.

Bamber proceeds to give a rather detailed breakdown of tea prices and tax rates and the like, which the casual reader might want to skim (or skip) over. Next up is a fairly in-depth – but more readable – chapter on tea cultivation and another on manufacture. He closes with a few brief travelogue type pieces about tea estates in India and that’s the extent of it. Take a look at it 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.

It’s likely that most of the robots actually in use these days are being put to work in less than glamorous situations, such as being employed in some type of industry. But it’s the more or less human type robots that we see in science fiction that tend to capture people’s imagination. Robots that tend to act in ways that real humans might. Including robots that serve tea.

Yes, that’s right. Something I’ve noticed over the years that I’ve been writing about tea is that for some reason robot designers like to give their creations the ability to serve tea. Depending on your definition of what a robot is, this sort of thing goes back several hundred years to the Karakuri of Japan. The Wikipedia entry for them describes Karakuri as “mechanized puppets or automata” that perform one or more activities.

As this article from Smithsonian magazine notes, these activities might include shooting arrows or serving tea, to name a few. If you’re feeling ambitious, that article links to another one that provides instructions to actually make a Gakken Tea Serving Robot, which is modeled after a Karakuri. It’s not for the faint of heart but there it is. For some quite technical background on how a more modern version of a tea serving robot operates, take a look at this research paper from a team of Japanese scientists.

Here’s an article from several years ago about a tea-serving robot of a more recent vintage. It also originated in Japan, thanks to the efforts of the automaker, Honda. The robot, named Asimo, has a section at Honda’s web site, where you can keep up with the latest news, watch videos and even download a related desktop widget.

As of a few years ago, Popular Mechanics reported that Asimo’s services could be rented for a mere $100,000, a price tag that’s obviously out of most people’s range. If this is too pricey for you but you absolutely have to have a tea robot you might be able to console yourself with this relatively affordable robot tea infuser.

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.

Collectible Teapot and Tea Calendar 2015 (from Yahoo Images)

Collectible Teapot and Tea Calendar 2015 (from Yahoo Images)

When I wrote a profile of tea person and author Babette Donaldson a little while back it somehow escaped my notice that she had written a tea-themed book for children. Although I guess it’s more correct to call it a book for both children and adults. It’s called Fun With Tea: Activities for Tea Loving Adults to Share With Their Favorite Young Sippers and it’s described as a “teatime activity book for all ages and various kinds of tea parties.”

Over the years I’ve written about some of the various ways that tea has made its way into fiction and here’s yet another example. It’s the recently released Tempest in a Teapot, by Amanda Cooper. It’s billed as A Teapot Collector Mystery and it’s apparently the first in yet another series in the popular field of whimsical themed cozy mysteries. And while we’re speaking of teapots it’s as good a time as any to make a note on your calendar to pick up The Collectible Teapot & Tea Calendar 2015, by Annabel Freyberg and photographer Martin Brigdale.

Speaking of tea and fiction, one of the better known titles that uses tea and yet has nothing directly to do with tea is due for a reissue later this year – when it will appear for the first time in a trade paperback edition. That’s The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, by the late Douglas Adams, best known for his The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

If it’s tea houses that thrill your soul then you might want to get a look at Neo-Chinese Style Tea Houses, which just made its way to bookstore shelves. Which I first mentioned in an article on tea houses and the like called A Space for Tea. It’s an impressive coffee table (pardon the expression) type book and as the description notes, it “showcases some of the most elegant teahouses, simple yet contemporary in design; beautiful corridors and intimate rooms lead towards escape and sanctuary with a unique purpose.”

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 avalanche of tea books seems neverending, with many of them highlighted on this blog by my fellow blogger Bill Lengeman (his latest: Recent and Upcoming Tea Books 17). At some point my mind starts to overheat, the gears start to go “Screeeeee!” and I call out “Enough!” The next words out of my mouth are usually “Are there too many tea books?” As usual, it depends.

Sipping Vanilla Comoro while leafing through “The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea” (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Sipping Vanilla Comoro while leafing through “The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea” (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

“Too many” usually means there is far more than is needed to meet a specific requirement. In my early days of writing about tea, my Harney & Sons tea book was a must, but a horde of books on tea would have been repetitive and overwhelming. This book covers basics and helps those just starting to learn about tea. Another book called simply Tea was also a great intro. And it has lots more large, gorgeous photos. Ah! The visually oriented part of my brain was made very happy.

“The China Tea Book” – gorgeous and informative! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

“The China Tea Book” – gorgeous and informative! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Sooner or later, tea drinkers find that they want to focus on certain types of tea. In my case, I am shifting more towards an Asian experience (it’s about 20% of my tea drinking right now) and so wanted to focus my reading more in that direction. So, when I had the chance to receive a review copy of a book about tea in China, I said “Sure!” So, my tea library grew when The China Tea Book arrived. Great info and more gorgeous photos. The perfect book to peruse during my Afternoon Oolong session.

In between the books named above, other tea books came my way, some fiction, some more factual, and some a total jumble. Some were fun reads, others bored me to tears. But I digress. The question still remains about there being “too many” tea books.

As far as the world is concerned, there can probably never be too many tea books, but for my little library, I’m going to be very selective and avoid the daily barrage of new tea books that come on the market. One reason: most of them repeat information I can readily find elsewhere and others are published more as vanity books than to add to the array of knowledge about tea. That brings up another question: are there too many inaccurate and frivolous books out there about tea? The answer is……

Sorry, that’s for another article!

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.

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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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