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(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.

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(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!

~CD

Happy 2015! It is once again the New Year and that means new everything! It does not just mean “new year, new me” but as a way to start anew. There are 365 brand new days ahead of us and we have the power to make each of them great! So while we ring in the new year by raising our glasses (whether it’s champagne or tea), others have their yearly rituals to ensure good luck in the coming year.

© Freds | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Freds | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Great Britain rings in the new year with fireworks over the Thames with everyone cheering and shouting their celebrations, singing Auld Lang Syne. The British then open the back door of their homes to wish the old year farewell and reflect on the year passed. The first-foot of the new year is very important. To ensure good luck to the residents of the house, the first entrant to the front door must usually be young, male, good-looking, and healthy. He must also be dark haired and carrying a bit of coal, salt, bread, and money. It’s apparently even better if this gentleman is a stranger! The children also wake up early to visit their neighbors to sing some some New Year’s songs. The neighbors usually give the children sweets, apples, mince pies, and coins in exchange for the songs. This is usually done until noon.

© Fedor Patrakov | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Fedor Patrakov | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Over in Scotland, people celebrate Hogmanay. It is the celebration of New Year’s Eve, lasting from the last day of the year up until January 2. The Scottish take it a whole new level! Fireworks and musical performances line the night at the big moment! Then at the stroke of midnight, the partygoers begin to sing Auld Lang Syne, a Scots poem by a gentleman named Robert Burns. Linking and crossing arms arms and singing at the last verse. The song is also played in Times Square in New York City after the ball drops (did you know that the ball is usually made from Waterford Crystal in Ireland?) at midnight.

© Josiah Garber | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Josiah Garber | Dreamstime Stock Photos

And much like Britain, Scotland also partakes in first-foot. They give coal, shortbread, whisky, and a black bun, which is a type of fruit cake covered in a delicious pastry. The guest is then give food and drink. In Britain, it is also a good gesture to offer tea to the guest. Possibly to accompany some delicious shortbread or mince pies/black buns. The first entrant of the year might fancy a good cuppa after such a celebration.  The pick could be the standard Typhoo or maybe something a little more different, perhaps a good Irish or Scottish tea? Keep in mind the people over in the UK have entire store aisles devoted to tea, so the choices are endless!

~CD

Editor’s Note: I am including the English version of Auld Lang Syne here for those of us who never really knew exactly what is sung (italics for original Scot/modern English translation):

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and days of long ago?

CHORUS:
For days of long ago, my dear,
for days of long ago,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for days of long ago.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for days of long ago.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since days of long ago.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since days of long ago.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for days of long ago.

CHORUS

Prepare to get hammered … uh, squared off … hm, nailed … er, leveled … oh heck, let’s just get acquainted with a British-ism: builders tea. It’s one of those odd names like “toad in the hole” and “spotted dick.” A quick peek reveals something more familiar, such as “sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter” and “sponge pudding made with golden syrup, suet and raisins” respectively.

Steeped loose, of course! (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Steeped loose, of course! (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

What Is Builders Tea?

Basically, “builders tea” is a term to describe a strong cuppa black tea with milk and sugar. It is part of the growing trend in Britain toward more specialty teas, with the term “builders tea” being a bit of a snub to those who like their tea basic and tasty. Or some folks use it to show how “unsnobby” they are about their tea. Oddly enough, folks working in the building trade have begun switching to coffee and tea drinkers on a budget, who used to drink premium teas, are returning to builders tea. And the world of tea spins round and round!

Builders Tea Competition

There is quite a debate out there on which tea brand makes the best builders tea. However, everyone seems to agree that steeping that tea strong and adding the right amount of milk and sugar (or other sweetener) is the way to go. Recently, a brand has appeared on the market actually called “Make Mine a Builders Tea” — what chutzpah! Claiming a whole style of tea as their own brand. Sounds to me like a time for a bit of a builders tea competition. Time to get started!

1 – Make Mine a Builders Tea; 2 – PG Tips; 3 – Typhoo (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

1 – Make Mine a Builders Tea; 2 – PG Tips; 3 – Typhoo (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

We used the tea dust from three bags in two cups of boiling water and steeped for five minutes. (We know that a certain tea guy recommends steeping black teas only 2-3 minutes, but…) Then, we added milk and sweetener and the tasting began.

  • PG Tips — Single estate teas from around the world blended in precise proportions set by the tea tasters. The dry tea is a bit coarser and darker than the other two teas. Taste results: Strong yet smooth when served “builders style.”
  • Typhoo — The blenders taste up to 500 teas every day just to make sure that all the teas are consistently excellent in quality, flavor, and character. Taste results: Strong with that distinctive Typhoo difference, even when served “builders style.”
  • Make Mine a Builders Tea — Named after the phrase “Make mine a builders,” this tea is a blend of hand-picked teas from tea estates in Malawi, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. They steep up a strong color and body. Taste results: Slightly stronger flavor (and the dry tea is also more aromatic) that stands up very well served “builders style.”

There you go. Three cuppas, good and strong and hot, for when you’re done building that railroad or skyscraper or maybe just a modest dollhouse or backyard fort. Enjoy!

© 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.

What’s the strangest place you’ve ever drunk a cup of tea? Well, no matter how strange it might be it probably doesn’t compare to drinking it in a wind tunnel. Which is what British adventurer and TV personality attempted to do in 2011 to further the noble cause of helping Typhoo Tea sell more of their wares. Granted, trying to drink tea in winds of up to 150 mph is something of an exercise in futility, but you’ve got to give Fogle an “A” for effort. See the official Typhoo video of the event here or click on the image below:

Ben Fogle in Typhoo Tea's Ul-Tea-Mate Challenge (Photo source: screen capture from site)

Ben Fogle in Typhoo Tea’s Ul-Tea-Mate Challenge (Photo source: screen capture from site)

In August, 2012, the good people at Virgin Balloon Flights sponsored an event that gave a whole new dimension to the term “high” tea. They hosted what was “believed to be the highest open-air airborne tea party” sailing above the Earth in one of their balloons at a mere 1,300 feet. Sandwiches and cream cakes were served during the hour-long flight, along with Twinings tea and sparkling wine. You can read all about it at the company’s blog but judging from their current list of offerings you don’t have the option to recreate the experience for yourself.

If you’re a hardy sort looking for an offbeat place to take tea, albeit one that’s a little more down to Earth, you might check out a pair of tea houses located in the Canadian Rockies. There’s Lake Agnes Tea House, which was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway as a refuge for hikers and which has been serving tea since 1905. It’s located at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada, at an elevation of about 7,000 feet, and you’ll have to hike to get there, although they note at their Web site that you do have the option to rent horses.

In the same general neck of the woods and at about the same elevation you’ll also find another tea house, located at the end of the trail of the strikingly named Plain of Six Glaciers hike, which appears to be a slightly longer and somewhat more strenuous hike than the aforementioned. Read all about the hike and the tea house, and check out a selection of great photos in this blog post.

Last up, some perennial favorites that we covered a few years back but that are worth another quick mention. Here’s the ever popular video of astronaut Don Pettit drinking tea globules with chopsticks onboard the International Space Station. Tea, South Dakota isn’t named for the beverage but it would be a great place to have a cup of tea, even so. Or you could try the town of Pu-er, in China, which is actually named for a type 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 this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

As someone who spends a fair amount of time studying and writing about the history of tea I can’t help wondering occasionally about some of the teas people drank in days gone by. Wondering specifically, that is, what those teas tasted like. Of course, unless I manage to lay my hands on a time machine, there will never be any way to truly know. Even the most detailed description of what a tea from yesteryear might have tasted like isn’t sufficient to the task, given that matters of taste are so subjective.

Typhoo – putting the “oo” into the Diamond J“oo”bilee

Typhoo – putting the “oo” into the Diamond J“oo”bilee (Photo source: screen capture from site)

While a simple web search will turn up any number of “classic” tea blends, there have been several attempts lately to recreate actual tea blends that consumers from yesteryear might have recognized. Which is what the blenders at Typhoo Tea did recently, in recognition of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

The curiously named Diamond J“oo”bilee tea is a limited edition commemorative blend that pays tribute to Typhoo blends that would have been in circulation when the Queen took the throne in 1952. Although one blender was quoted as saying about this tea, “We wanted to create a blend that stayed true to the period but also suited today’s palate as there have been many changes in how we enjoy our tea over the last 60 years.”

Harney & Sons is one of many other tea firms that have also created their own version of a Diamond Jubilee blend. In this case the blend is part of their Historic Royal Palaces of England series. While they may not necessarily attempt to recreate classic teas part and parcel, the blends, as they put it, pay “homage to tea’s imperial history and roots.”

Another prominent effort in this area found a master blender doing tea forensics of a sort and trying to recreate a blend that pays tribute to the Boston Tea Party. It’s an initiative that’s tied in to the recently opened Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, which I wrote about here. Said tea blender, Bruce Richardson, recounted his efforts to come up with the Tea Party-inspired Abigail’s Blend in an article at the museum’s web site.

See also: Tea and the Diamond Jubilee

© 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.

Capt Scott Tea

A tin of tea from the ill-fated 2nd expedition by Scott and team to Antarctica

Tea had a landmark anniversary in January of this year: it was the beverage of choice on the expedition to the South Pole led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, which his team reached in January 1912. An unopened tin of this tea, retrieved from the expedition’s campsite years later by Ernest Shackleton and taken to New Zealand, is on display at the Powerhouse Museum. A label on one side of the tin says “TOWER TEA THE CHOICE BLEND FINE INDIAN & CEYLON TEA 11b Nett Weight.” It was produced sometime between 1895 and 1905, meaning that Sri Lanka (called “Ceylon” then) had been growing tea for only a few years, having switched from coffee growing due to a blight.

Jules Verne wrote about a fantastical journey to the center of the earth, a fictional account of exploring unknown reaches of our planet. But there are real explorers — people like Scott and his team who traveled to the far off place (at least from their part of the planet in the UK) of Antarctica (reaching the South Pole in January 1912 — 100 years ago) — and tea was part of the journey!

Okay, so the expedition wasn’t, if you’ll pardon the expression, a walk in the park, and Scott himself, once they reached Antarctica, was heard to proclaim “Great God! this is an awful place…” and they suffered frost bite, injury, malnutrition, and exhaustion, but they had tea with them! Sorry, was I being sarcastic there?

Cameras were another important part of Captain Scott's Antarctic exploration

Cameras were another important part of Captain Scott's Antarctic exploration

Actually, I admire people who can leave the comforts of hearth and home to pit themselves against this big ball we all live on, and to do so in an age where the technology (things like thermal underwear, for example) is not there to help out is even more admirable. Scott was seeking to lead a team of explorers to the South Pole and to carry out some scientific observations along the way. He arrived at the South Pole only to discover that Norwegian Roald Amundsen was already there. Sigh! So much for being first.

But wait, it was still quite an achievement and certainly makes many of our accomplishments seem humble in comparison. Some blame him for the deaths of his team on their return trip (an 800-mile trek on foot in temperatures that got up to -30° on a balmy day), but each one was there of his own accord, not through any coercion.

In June 2010, it was reported that Typhoo raised £20,000 to go toward preserving the 50’x20’ rough wooden hut built by Scott’s team on Ross Island in the Antarctic. They have also teamed up with Tesco, a British supermarket chain, to market a special blend (a replicate of the original blend that traveled with the Scott 1910-1913 expedition) they produced of strong tea, appropriately named “Captain Scott’s Strong Blend.” (The Typhoo company, originally called Ridgways, produced the tea that traveled with Scott 100 years ago.) A small amount of the purchase price of every box of this tea sold went to the preservation fund.

Huntley and Palmers Digestives

Huntley and Palmers Digestives

Among the things found in Scott’s hut when it was dug out from under ice and snow by an expedition in 1956 was a package of Huntley & Palmers Digestives, well preserved (that is, not moldy and fairly intact) although probably not as tasty as they were in 1910 when they were packed aboard the ship for the long voyage across oceans to the hut in McMurdo sound. I think I’d rather have some fresh McVitie’s Chocolate Digestives!

Next time you’re enjoying a good strong cuppa Typhoo tea, remember those intrepid, albeit ill-fated, explorers, traveling to the far reaches of our planet. Cheers!

My thanks to May King Tsang, another writer for this blog and a knowledgeable tea consultant, for passing along to me an item she saw in Twitter about tea being on Scott’s expedition to Antarctica.

See also:
Typhoo Tea — The Doctor Is In
Tea Pioneers of Great Britain

© 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.

Typhoo tea

Typhoo tea

If you head out to the Internet looking for tea books from yesteryear, you’ll find enough to keep you occupied for a very long time. I’ve written about quite a few such works in these very pages, but to the best of my recall I can’t think of one that was written by an author who later went on to found a well-known tea company.

Until I recently ran across a book called A Popular Treatise on Tea: Its Qualities and Effects, that is. This particular tome first saw the light of day in 1863 and its author was John Sumner. Along with his father William, Sumner later founded a grocery business that went on to become Typhoo Tea, though it was apparently John Sumner, Jr., who took the firm into the territory of tea selling. Trivia fans, take note: the name Typhoo is apparently derived from a Chinese word for doctor.

Sumner opens the book with the bold statement that “the great Anglo-Saxon race are essentially a tea-drinking people.” Which is a matter that could probably be disputed, given that Europeans had only been drinking tea for about two centuries. But there’s no disputing his further assertion that among said people tea was now considered “one of the necessaries of life.”

From there the book is broken down into a structure that’s fairly typical for these kinds of works, starting with a chapter on the history of tea and moving on to one that looks at various botanical aspects of the plant. From there it’s a chapter on the assorted and sundry varieties of black and green tea that were popular at the time, many of which (Twankay, Hyson Skin, Imperial) will be unfamiliar to tea drinkers nowadays.

Chapter four tackles an unusual topic, looking at various tea substitutes used in other parts of the world. Among them are coffee; Paraguay Tea, or what we know today as yerba mate, and enough other items to fill a large chart. Other chapters look at the chemistry of tea, in which Sumner remarks on the beneficial compound theine, or what we know today as theanine.

Sumner also looks at the medicinal properties of tea and summarizes the various pros and cons regarding its consumption. He winds things up with a chapter on the social influence of tea, where he quotes an earlier writer who goes so far as to make the grand statement “tea and the discontinuance of barbarism are connected in the way of cause and effect.”

Here, 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.

In the blue Mediterranean lies an archipelago of islands, one of which is named Malta. Not quite the setting where you would expect tea experts and tea traditions dating back centuries. And best known as the origin of “The Maltese Falcon” — you know, that troublesome little statue that people were bumping each other off for in the classic 1941 movie.

Sidewalk cafés in Malta

Sidewalk cafés in Malta

Being in a strategic position, Malta has a long and varied history. Control changed hands many times. The Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, French (under Napoleon), and finally the British took turns claiming sovereignty there. Each left their mark on the culture and language of the people there, with the British imparting their love of tea to the locals during their century of rule. Malta became independent in 1964 but retains the tea traditions and much more.

Importers Borg & Aquilina, established in 1916 while the British were in control, got the idea to start importing tea to Malta in the 1930s, despite coffee being the most common beverage at the time. Wooden boxes filled with loose tea bearing brand names like PG Tips, Typhoo, and others that were already British favorites began arriving on the island. In the 1960s, Borg & Aquilina started putting the tea in square bags, branding them with the name “Lion.” In the 1990s they did an upgrade of their machinery so that the process was fully automated and switched to the round teabag shape.

Of course, this growth in Borg & Aquilina meant a growth in tea consumption among the people of Malta. Coffee shops started also serving tea, tearooms opened up, and eventually herbals as well as fruit-flavored teas became available, although they along with green teas were in limited demand. Black tea ruled in Malta. With milk and sugar. Very British.

In the capital city of Valletta is Caffe Cordina, one of Malta’s oldest cafés, founded in 1837. The building it is in was damaged during World War II, but the business thrives. The founder Cesare Cordina came from Italy, starting the business as a sweets and pastry shop. A tearoom, bar, and finally an outdoor café were added. They hosted a sit-down dinner for 1,300 when Prince Phillip visited in 1964 to officially acknowledge Malta’s independence. Truly a café full of history. Today, the café is a landmark as well as a place of charm and elegance. The main hall boasts a vaulted ceiling with paintings by Maltese painter Giuseppe Cali and gilt interior with mirrored walls. They offer 12 choices of tea selections.

The Maltese seem to prefer straightforward stronger dark tea and the more sophisticated-palate-pleasing green teas, as well as light teas such as Early Grey, and of course traditional English Breakfast.

No need to chase around San Francisco or hire a private detective to find your Maltese tea connection. Just steep yourself a nice cuppa one of the above teas and stick the Bogey classic in the DVD player. Here’s looking at you, kid!

© 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.

There are quite a few “breakfast blends” out there. These are teas that have been blended to “pack a punch” to help you start your day. However, some of these excel in flavor while remaining mild to such an extent that they go beyond breakfast.

These blends often contain teas from the Assam, Nilgiri, and Darjeeling tea-growing regions of India, from Kenya and Rwanda in Africa, from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and Taiwan, and of course Keemun from China. These teas take milk well which is one of the qualities that makes them perfect for breakfast.

Scottish Breakfast and English Breakfast Blend #1

Scottish Breakfast and English Breakfast Blend #1

If you’re the kind who drags a bit in the afternoon, though, these teas will be great choices then, too. For this time of day you may want to enjoy them without the milk and with just a bit of some type of sweetener, such as agave nectar (one I omitted mentioning in my sweetener roundup). You could also steep them a bit lighter so that they won’t be bitter.

A few recommendations:

Breakfast Blend #1 — Assam, Ceylon, and Kenyan teas blended to perfection so that the maltiness of the Assam balances with the sweet Ceylon and the mild Kenyan for a wonderful flavor. Whether you prefer milk or just a bit of lemon, this will perk you up mid-afternoon or even at dinner.

Breakfast Blend #2 — Don’t let the name fool you. This tea is quite different from blend #1. For one thing, the leaf pieces are much bigger, meaning that it steeps up a bit milder while #1 steeps up strong and fast. You can also get a couple of infusions from the same batch of leaves. It’s another tea that’s great for both lunch, afternoon teatime, and even dinner. It’s a blend of high-grown Kenyan, Ceylon, and 2nd Flush Assam that pleases.

Devonshire Tea — A light-tasting blend of Kenyan teas from four plantations high in the mountains. Great with or without milk. While relatively new on the market, it is quickly becoming a tearoom favorite for that Devonshire Style Cream Tea.

Harney and Sons English Breakfast Tea — Ceylon tea adds flavor, Assam gives malty strength, and Kenyan brings out a bright color. It takes milk well and is considered by many to be the ultimate all-day tea.

Golden Moon English Breakfast — A blend of Keemun from China with Assam, Ceylon, and a touch of Darjeeling produces a reddish-brown liquid with a flavor that wakes you up. Enjoy with breakfast or any time of day either with milk, straight, or your favorite black tea enhancer.

Typhoo Tea — Strong and full of flavor. If you like it straight, just shorten the steeping time from the normal to 5 minutes to 3 minutes or so. Hubby and I steep it by the potful and gulp it with breakfast and lunch.

PG Tips — Blended to wake you up, but good anytime. Small wonder it’s the #1 tea in the UK.

Bewley’s Irish Breakfast — Assam and Darjeeling combined to produce a creamy, malty, full-bodied taste. Note: They have an Irish Afternoon tea, too, blended from Kenyan and other African teas.

Barry’s Irish Breakfast — Kenya and Assam teas that steep up a liquid with pungency, strength and flavor.

The moral here is not to let the name limit you. Breakfast teas are great whenever you want a flavorful black tea. Pick one and enjoy it throughout the day.

© 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.

Sometimes basic black is best — an axiom that’s true for cocktail dress, tuxedoes, limousines, and teas to use when you want a brew to “beat the heat.” Just as most hot tea consumed in the U.S. is black tea, most iced (chilled) tea is made from black tea. And most of those are bagged teas.

Time for a chilled (iced) black tea face-off.

The Contenders:

For this comparison, I chose 4 bagged black teas that I’ve tried hot and enjoyed.

  • Devonshire Tea
  • PG Tips Black Tea
  • Typhoo Tea
  • Barry’s Gold Blend Tea

Two of them (Typhoo and PG Tips) have been staples in my tea pantry for several years now. The 3rd (Barry’s Gold Blend) has been a favorite of my hubby for a couple of years and is now one of my faves. The 4th (Devonshire Tea) has only recently come to my attention and proved to be a very delicate and flavorful black tea when hot, earning its place as a tea pantry regular. Let’s see how they all stand up to a change in temperature.

The Process:

For each tea, we used only one teabag in 2 cups of boiling water. We steeped each for 5 minutes. They steeped up to a beautiful ruby red color. We let them sit on the counter and cool for an hour or two before putting them in the refrigerator. (If you put something really hot in the ’frig, that heat can make the ’frig work overtime to cool the item.) We did not add sweetener before chilling, since we often prefer our chilled tea unsweetened. We decided when sipping the teas the next day if they needed anything added.

One thing to note: hubby and I use the “chilled” vs. “iced” method of cooling our tea. In the “chilled” method, you can steep the tea up light and avoid adding ice. If you use the “iced” method, be sure to steep up the tea stronger (use 2 or even 3 teabags instead of one per 2 cups of water) since the ice will thin it down.

The Results:

All 4 teas darkened in color from the beautiful ruby red to a rich brown. They all were a bit on the cloudy side. (However, I am not one of those who needs my chilled tea to be clear.)

Devonshire Tea — The mildness of the hot tea carries through to the chilled version. There is no bitterness, just pure tea enjoyment. Hubby and I also tried it with a touch of sweetener just to be thorough in our assessment. We are happy to say that the taste was even smoother and more appealing with only the slightest sprinkling of sweetener.

PG Tips Black Tea — A slight edge was evident as we let the liquid flow over our tongues before swallowing. However, it’s much milder in chilled form than hot, but not as mild as the Devonshire Tea. Again, we added a bit of sweetener to give a complete test. We needed to use slightly more in this tea to get rid of its edge.

Typhoo Tea — Slightly edgier than PG Tips. Darker in flavor, robust. It took more sweetener than the others to smooth out that edginess.

Barry’s Gold Blend Tea — Harsh, astringent, and needing quite a bit of sweetener to smooth out its almost barb-like edges. The caramelly flavor we love in the hot version is a mere echo at the very end in the chilled version. Still a great choice if you like your chilled (iced) tea “sweet.”

As one who prefers to buck the Southern tradition of “Sweet Tea” by drinking my chilled (iced) tea straight, I have to select for my own pleasure the tea that was best when unsweetened. That was, of course, Devonshire Tea. If you prefer yours sweetened, any of these black teas will produce a very suitable beverage.

There you have it — four options for chilled (iced) tea that shows that basic black is a great way to go. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: We received the Devonshire Tea as a sample to try. We purchased the others at a local store.

Make sure to check out Tea Time with A.C. Cargill! It’s a great place to “chill” out!

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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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