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January has come and gone and everything seems to have returned to normal after the holiday excitement. Christmas lights are down and there is a chill in the air. Everything seems blue but one thing that is around the corner will definitely warm your heart. Valentine’s Day.
As much as people say that Valentine’s Day was totally made up, Valentine’s Day is
much more than hearts, cards, and chocolate. Valentine’s Day is to celebrate in the memory of Saint Valentine, who was a martyr and lived his life for love. February 14th was a feasting day in Saint Valentine’s honor. Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world to this day and the United States and Britain are no exception!
I grew up in the US where I have seen so many flowers, cards, and sweets given to loved ones, along with packed restaurants booked to the brim with reservations. Britain has the same customs but unlike the Americans, many Brits write poems, sonnets, and more to pay a tribute to Saint Valentine.
The children of Britain also get to be a part of the celebrations! When I was growing up, the only thing I did was give Valentine’s Day cards to my classmates along with some candy hearts. The children in Britain sing special songs and are given treats and money in return. In some regions, tasty Valentines buns with plums, raisins, or caraway seeds are enjoyed as well. These buns are also eaten in honor of the birds. Valentine’s Day is dubbed “Birds Wedding Day” because February 14th is the time for birds to begin looking for a mate. Geoffrey Chaucer even wrote a poem about the birds: “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”
Mid-February in Britain also signifies the changing of seasons from winter to spring. With the birds and everyone rejoicing, it certainly adds a spring-filled cheer!
Of course, not all the gifts have to be the standard flowers and candy. Tea lovers enjoy a nice cuppa, perhaps even with their date! English Tea Store’s Lover’s Leap can be purchased by itself or as part of a number of samplers (Tea Lovers being one). The Lover’s Leap is a black tea which can be enjoyed during a nice Valentine’s Day tea. The Lover’s Sampler is also a nice variety for your V-Day tea, letting your guests pick which tea they want to try! Don’t forget to whip up some fresh scones, too! Home baked goods are always the best gift of the heart!
The Chocolate Mint Flavored Black Tea blend from English Tea Store is the delectable paring of chocolate and mint. This tea delivers a bright and coppery infusion and a chocolatey mint flavor that is especially prominent when milk and sugar are added. We find this tea tastes best when served hot, but it can also be enjoyed over ice. Using flavoring oils, not crystals, gives the tea drinker an olfactory holiday before indulging in a liquid tea treat.
Rather than write more about the traditional chocolate Valentine gift, I’d like to point out a new feature on our site that starts with this tea. It will be slow in coming, as all good things are, but you will no doubt find it helpful. One by one your tea merchandiser Tammy is added very detailed information on each of our teas. Here is what she is presenting for the Chocolate Mint:
Cup Characteristics: Fresh lovely mint combined with full flavored chocolate tea that is wonderfully reminiscent of an after-dinner mint
Infusion: Bright and coppery
Ingredients: Black tea, Blackberry and Peppermint leaves, and Natural flavors
Caffeine/Antioxidant Level: Medium/High
Grade(s): OP (Orange Pekoe)
Manufacture Type(s): Orthodox (Traditional leafy)
Region: Nuwara Eliya + Dimbula + Uva
Growing Altitudes: 4000-8500 feet above sea level
Shipping Port(s): Colombo
Our first February tea of the month is ceylon green. Imported from Sri Lanka, our Ceylon Green is characterized as smooth and subtle. According to wikipedia, tea production is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka. Originally known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka is an island country in the Indian Ocean. Great Britain occupied the coastal areas during the Napoleonic Wars to prevent France gaining control. In 1972 Ceylon’s name was changed to Sri Lanka when it became a republic. Currently, tea accounts for 2% of Sri Lanka’s GDP, generating roughly $700 million annually to the economy of Sri Lanka. It employs, directly or indirectly over 1 million people. Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest producer of tea. With all of these amazing stats, Ceylon Green is still one of the unsung heroes. Most of Sri Lanka’s tea exported is black, and green tea is typically imported from Asian countries.
Ceylon in tea refers to a location, not a type of leaf. Ceylon Green tea is prepared from the fresh leaves of the tea plant, unlike Ceylon Black, which is made from the aged stems and leaves. Ceylon Green is often described as “full bodied and pungent, with a malty or nutty flavor.” Whether you go with that or “smooth and subtle,” you will get 15% off if you purchase it now! I have no doubt our readers will weigh in with their own adjectives.
While searching online for tea I found the history of PG Tips. It is not everyday that a product such as tea has a unique story behind it. I do not know about you, but I find the history of how a business came about to be quite fascinating.
You see PG Tips began with an entrepreneur who opened his first shop in Manchester, United Kingdom in 1869. Mr. Arthur Brooke opened what we would call a modern day coffee house selling coffee, tea, and sugar. He had the fantastic idea to break the mold of other tea companies who were producing blended teas. Mr. Brooke produced pure, high-quality teas from India and China making his brand quite popular. Who would have thought being different and innovative could work?
Following Arthur Brooke’s influence of innovation and creativity, PG Tips launched a novel advertising campaign involving chimpanzees. At this time there were not many commercials aired in the United Kingdom. PG Tips hit gold with the campaign for the chimpanzees to be one of the longest running characters in British television advertising.
Another bit of the story is PG Tips produced the most expensive tea bag ever made. The tea bag was covered in 280 diamonds raffled off to raise money for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Okay, okay, I know-do not give away the entire story. Sit down with a cup of tea and check out the rest of PG Tips’ history.
© 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 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 entry originally published 01.23.2009
I like both Redbush (Rooibos) and Honeybush teas, though both are actually the leaves of flowering legumes, and not really tea at all. Neither has caffeine, both are low in tannin, and both come from Africa. Both are rich sources of antioxidants. Both have naturally sweet undertones. Close cousins, both these herbs require a longer-than-Ceylon steeping, of 5-7 minutes. Because of the low tannin, the “tea” will tolerate this length without becoming bitter. Rooibos is only grown in South Africa, and Honeybush is rarer still, relegated to only the eastern and western cape regions of South Africa. Both are harvested by cutting and bruising, oxidizing (fermenting), then drying. Given the similarities, why choose one over the other?
Honeybush was one of the first black tea substitutes. There are 23 species, each with a slight varietal flavouring. Originally cultivated by hand in the mountainous regions of east coast South Africa, much honeybush is still hand picked today. However, in 1998, group of South African farmers formed the South African Honeybush Producers Organization (SAHPA), which promotes new growing and production techniques. As a result, two large Honeybush plantations have opened since 2001, as have many Honeybush research partnerships. If you have tasted this tea, more prolific Honeybush is a very good thing! This tea is usually composed simply of honeybush, which carries undertones of wood and honey. It is so aromatic that it can be steeped on the stove and left to scent a room. It is likened to a hot apricot or dried fruit mixture in taste and a bit of honey added while brewing enhances the natural flavour. It is said to have a stronger but more pleasant flavour, than Rooibos.
Rooibos, Honeybush’s more robust cousin, has long been believed to alleviate headaches and stomach aches. It also answers to the name Red Tea, Bush Tea, and Red Bush Tea. It has an earthy, creamy, sweet flavour. Unlike most teas, there is nutrition information accompanying this herb. Though trace, a typical cup of Rooibos contains Iron, Potassium, Calcium, Copper, Zinc, Magnesium, Fluoride, and Manganese. Unlike plain honeybush, rooibos often comes flavoured: strawberries, lemon, orange, peach, pina colada, bourbon street vanilla, the list is endless. It is said to taste more “medicinal” and the flavoring helps cut down on that. Unlike honeybush, if you steep it a bit less than the 5-7 minutes, you will still get a full-bodied cup. The needle-like leaves are fermented, which gives the plant its reddish color and enhances flavor. Unoxidized Rooibos is available as “green” rooibos but is grassy, malty, and pricier than the red version.
Those who have tried both range from “very similar” to “distant cousins who don’t even talk and I much prefer…” I am drinking a porcelain cup of unadulterated, delicate honeybush right now and it suits me fine, just as a rich rooibos in a thick earthenware mug on a snowy day does.
January brings fresh beginnings and with it, many new resolutions. There are the typical “lose ten pounds,” “make time for family” and other very worthwhile goals. But many of us choose to try new things, or master a hobby or skill. The English Tea Store brings you teas of the month, which is a featured selection offered at a discount. In January it is Buckingham Palace and China Jasmine Green teas. In the spirit of learning and trying new things, we will be exploring the monthly teas in depth here. Today we will look at the Buckingham Palace.
The Buckingham Palace Garden Party tea loose leaf blend is a delicate medium tea with a hint of Earl Grey and Jasmine. This is a lighter afternoon tea.
At least three times each summer, the Queen holds a garden party at Buckingham Palace, as well as one in Edinburgh. Queen Victoria began this tradition in 1860 with what was called “breakfast” but was actually served mid-day. Back then, she hosted two of these events a year; in the fifties the third was added. Originally a prestigious debutante rite of passage, they now include honorees recognized for service. From 4-6PM, the over-30,000 guests are invited to stroll the grounds while royalty mingles through a series of laned walking paths. Each royal family member takes a different path so guests never know whom they will run into. The beginning and end of the event is marked by the National Anthem. According to the British Monarchy website, even though the event lasts only two hours, a staggering number of sandwiches, slices of cake, and cups of tea are served by over 400 waitstaff. Over 27,000 cups of tea are served from long buffet tables.
The tea that is served is a delicious Palace medley of five teas: Ceylon Early Grey, Jasmine, Assam, Dimbula Ceylon, and Ceylon East of Rift. The intriguing hints of high-grown pure Ceylon Earl Grey blend effortlessly with the soft jasmine from Fujian Province. Couple this with malty Assam (from the estate of Borengajuli), flavory Dimbula Ceylon (from Hatton), and golden cup East of Rift Kenya (from Kambaa and Kagwe); and you have one of the most flavorful teas to come from the British Isles. The flavours present themselves at separate times in the drinking of the tea so no two cups are ever the same.
With December coming to a close, the frantic holiday rush picks up and it’s hard to find a good time to wind down and relax with a good cup of tea. My seasonal picks for the month of December from the English Tea Store are sure to delight and soothe even some of the most frazzled holiday preppers.
For a good holiday tea to entertain your guests who enjoy tea, English Tea Store’s Holiday Spice is a must. The spicy flavors and a hint of orange will take you into the spirit of the holidays along with a burst of energy to keep you going. I enjoy my cup without milk and a hint of sweet.
For those in the mood for some mint flavor, you are in for a treat! The English Tea Store chocolate mint tea is a good pick-me-up. At first, I thought chocolate tea was not my thing and I am a huge chocolate lover but I felt not in tea. Once I opened up my bag, however, I was in heaven. A minty chocolate scent burst up to my nose and I thought to myself, This is tea? I immediately brewed my cup in anticipation, sweetener and milk nearby. I expected it to taste a little bit like a peppermint mocha and it does, but not as strong as I thought it would be. Milk made the flavors more subtle yet. Delicious.
Finally, my favorite is the peppermint tea. If you have never tried peppermint tea, you must. Fine tea leaves allow room for minty flavor in your cup. It’s good any time of day, even before bed since it’s caffeine free! Plain sweetener is just fine but some honey is also good for more natural sweetness. I like to mix both. If you like peppermint with a caffeinated kick, I would suggest the Stash White Christmas tea if you order it before it’s gone. It has not only peppermint but a bit of ginger in it.
I hope you join me again next month for January’s tea roundup. In the meantime, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings!
Christmas is almost here and that means fun and festive times with friends and family! Delicious food, the smell of the Christmas tree, decorations, the holiday specials on TV, and the arrival of loved ones. After the festivities comes everyone’s favorite activity: presents. Now, I love to receive gifts as much as the next person does, but I discovered as I got older that I love to give more than I love to receive. The exciting feeling of deciding what to give someone. If money is tight, I like to bake gifts. The best part, though, is seeing their faces light up when they unwrap the gifts.
So if you’re shopping for a tea lover (or even a coffee lover), mugs are some of the best gifts you can give. This past August, my oldest sister and I were shopping in a department store when we spotted the cutest mug for our stepmother. She isn’t much of a tea person but a huge coffee drinker and mugs are also her thing. She has a collection herself that I am not allowed to use (except for one mug that I love to use, hee hee). I knew I immediately had to purchase that mug for her (especially while I had some extra money. Never too early to start). It’s a cat that says, “I have an attitude and I know how to use it!” So I got this along with a bag of Minnie Mouse (she is a fan of her) jelly beans and that was the gift. I know she won’t eat the jelly beans but she will definitely use the mug.
I was lucky and picked this up in the summer when the holidays were 4 months away, but if you’re in a pinch for time this holiday season, just find a clever mug (Doctor Who, clever sayings, or whichever. There’s a mug for pretty much anyone) and fill it with some tea and honey sticks. A few envelopes of the Twinings Christmas Spice to warm up their holiday or the Twinings Winter Spice to soothe them into a crisp apple joy. Better yet, you could mix them both up and put a little ribbon or two. If tea is a little short, hot cocoa or sweets are always the best, especially chocolate!
One of the benefits of becoming older and wiser is that I am appreciating the simple things like tea and mugs and how big of a gift they are to me. I don’t need any fancy gifts as as long as I have tea and the comfort that comes from it along with my loved ones. The past two Christmases I received a mug each year. The first mug I received, I spotted it at Target while shopping with my oldest sister. That year I had become a self-proclaimed mug collector, so I told my my sister that I fancied that cup. It had some cute Japanese anime-like drawings of adorable little ladies on it from Paperchase Kishi Kishi (which was actually from the UK, as I read on the box) that was briefly sold at the big box store but sadly is no longer there. It was only about $5 so it didn’t cost very much but I didn’t think about buying it. I unwrapped it come Christmas and it was immediately one of my favorite gifts. The next year, my second older sister gave me a sock monkey mug with two handles on it that was also stuffed with hot cocoa mix and candy canes. It was another one of my favorite gifts of all time since I love sock monkeys and mugs and this was all in one!
That is one of my favorite things about mugs. It’s a pleasing feeling to learn your friends and family know you when they get you a mug with something you love on it (or in it. You might love giant mugs that are like soup bowls)! You get to express yourself and your loves/interests with them. Collecting mugs is a good hobby to take up. There’s a wide variety of mugs everywhere, so you can do a theme or mix and match. Just be careful because the collection does add up fast!
Wouldn’t it be great to find a great tasting beverage that has the potential to improve your health? There is such a beverage – tea. Research has indicated that tea is healthier than water. This definitely a positive point since tea has more flavor. So, what are the potential health benefits?
Research has found that tea is healthier for your body than water. Surprising, since popular consensus states water is the healthiest beverage for your body. Findings have been reported that tea rehydrates the body as well as provides disease-fighting antioxidants. Tea may offer protection against stroke, heart disease, and several types of cancers.
Do you want more reasons to drink tea? Drinking tea has potential benefits such as boost the immune system as well as strengthen teeth and bones. Tea may also improve artery function by aiding in blocking LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol).
How about drinking green tea? Research has found that senior citizens in Japan who consumed one or more cups of green tea per day were less likely to present cognitive and memory problems. Green tea contains EGCG, which appears to reduce the production of a toxic protein that clogs the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease.
All these healthy reasons make me want to get my infuser and brew a cup of tea. Health benefits and delicious taste make this an excellent beverage of choice. If only everything that tasted good proved to be healthy for us.
© 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 01.23.2009
For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the heart of Winter is upon us. In the U.S., that can range from freezing cold with 12-inch snowfalls and high winds to desert highs in the 70s (the poor darlings have to wear sweaters!) and the vague threat that something moist will actually fall from the skies. Hee! Whatever the weather is like where you are, there is a perfect Winter tea for you to enjoy.
The Perfect Tea Indoors When There’s a Blizzard Outdoors
A crackling fire, warm fuzzy slippers, a few layers of pullovers, a fresh batch of scones hot from the oven… hmmm… something’s missing here. Oh, yes… tea!! But it needs to be the right tea. Here is my tea of choice:
- Blackcurrant Black Tea — A naturally flavored Ceylon black tea from estates at more than 5,500 feet above sea level. Wonderful very berry deep blackcurrant aroma and flavor with no chemical aftertaste. (my review)
A Grey Day Tea That Will Turn the Skies to Blue
Winter and grey skies go together like — you guessed it — scones and tea! And those grey skies can convey a feeling of anything from bleakness to coziness. For hubby and I it’s usually the latter. Grey skies are perfect background for a wonderful teatime, and that teatime can make those grey skies as cheerful as blue skies. A tea that is particularly effective at achieving this:
- Monk’s Blend — A tea that delivers an incredible cup with the sweetness of pomegranate and the scent of vanilla. The liquid has light and fruity notes of grenadine and caramel that create a unique, heavenly flavor. (my review)
Tea You Can Drink While Wearing a Parka (But Not Necessarily While Skiing)
Snow being one of those precipitous Winter events, people tend to associate activities like skiing with Winter, too. Even if you don’t ski, you could find yourself part of a “ski party,” that is, a group of folks spending time at a ski resort, with some of them schussing through that powder of icy crystals. Since the outside temperatures are usually at freezing or below, warm attire such as parkas are worn. I remember one such ski trip where I was the only non-skier in the lot. Bundled in a parka, I relished a nice pot of hot tea all to myself. Ah! Can’t remember what tea that was, but here’s a tea that would be good to try:
- Nine Bend Black Dragon — A classic China Black tea with a full-bodied flavor full of deep burgundy depth and delightful oaky notes. (my review)
So, is there any one perfect Winter tea? I doubt it. There are many, for each of us has that perfect one all our own. Enjoy and stay warm and cozy!
© 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.