Your comments on the last post have really got me thinking about many tea-related issues. . . Not least among these is the way that, unlike so many other British and Irish products, where tea is concerned brand loyalty is still strongly bound up with a sense of place. As the disturbing quantity of tea and tea-related kitchen wares might suggest above, I am a foolish devotee of Yorkshire Tea; Barry’s is apparently a Cork thing, in Belfast they like Nambarrie, in Newcastle, Ringtons. In Cumbria, you can still find Farrer’s “Lakeland Tea,” (delicious) Botham’s of Whitby makes “Resolution Tea” (also very good) and down the road in Musselburgh they blend Brodie’s “Famous Edinburgh Tea” which shamefully, despite almost a decade in this city, I’ve never tried. None of these teas are remotely fancy: they are ordinary everyday teas, all are available in convenient bag form; most seem to be tannin-rich, strong Indian blends; and all are, as I say, deeply associated with region. Without knowing much about this, I imagine these ‘regional’ branded teas must have begun to emerge when importers, merchants and blenders might also have had a chain of local shops and tea rooms, and began to market their own products – perhaps at the turn of the twentieth century. I think I now need to read much more about this. In the meantime, I realise that my local tea knowledge has a distinctly Northern flavour, so I would be really very grateful if those of you in the West Country, Wales, East Anglia, the Midlands, London and the South East could let me know of any existing regional teas that inspire brand loyalty among local communities in a similar manner to Barry’s, or to Yorkshire Tea. I shall then do a little research, and prepare a post, with a compendium of regional teas.

And just in case you were in any doubt at all that I LIKE TEA – bear in mind that this heartening image is the first thing I see when I open my eyes every morning. A good incentive to get up and put the kettle on.

It also occurred to me that many of you might be unaware of one of my favourite tea-related texts: George Orwell’s essay, “A Nice Cup of Tea”, which he published in the Evening Standard in 1946, and which I reproduce here for your amusement / edification. I love so many things about this essay – particularly the assumption that “a nice cup of tea” should make one feel “wiser, braver, and more optimistic.”At the height of rationing, “six teaspoons per pot” seems a bit excessive, and as Tom (or any other scientist) would tell you, the milk should definitely go in first so that it warms up slowly, and its proteins are not denatured. Otherwise, I find myself in general agreement with the remaining ten of Orwell’s “golden rules.”


(Orwell with a Nice Cup of Tea)

A Nice Cup of Tea

If you look up ‘tea’ in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.

This is curious, not only because tea is one of the mainstays of civilisation in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.

Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.

Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.

Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.

Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.

Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

These are not the only controversial points to arise in connection with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilised the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.

First published in The Evening Standard, January 12th, 1946

128 thoughts on “a nice cup of tea

  1. Our family is all very opinionated about tea – even my parents who drink it so weak the water was only poured over it. I only discovered a taste for tea away from home; Tiger tea from Dunedin (NZ) brewed in a Parish sized tea pot while actually IN a parish kitchen (the home of a girl from school while a big bunch of us worked on a school house event of some sort. Recently in Canada I discovered Yorkshire Tea (Red) on the shelves of the local shop and it is Very Yummy. Especially with the unhomogenised organic milk in a glass bottle we get occasionally for treats. Thank you for your enthusiastic enjoyment of it!

    I agree too regarding sugar in tea EXCEPT when one is VERY cold and wet and tired. And then it is of course an entirely different drink.

    Unlike Orwell there seems to be a widespread affection for metal teapots in the family and everyone around the age of starting to do the dishes hears the story of my Mum’s mistaken scrubbing of her Grandma’s pot back to shiny metal on the inside. Apparently she swooped in on the scene of the crime, unable to salvage the situation, crying “Oh! I’d just got that one nicely worn in”. Mum’s teapot now (despite the weak tea) is lovely and dark on the inside with a golden glow up near the top. Orwell also doesn’t seem to care about warming the cups – swirling the hot water from heating the pot in the cups before tossing it is a final touch when making tea and toast in bed for someone or other.

    At work here they have a Keurig coffee machine that is also used to make tea. It is very fast and doesn’t create a tea bag problem in a meeting but eugh! the tea is horrid. The English guy in the office uses it only to make hot water which is very wise.

    Katherine Mansfield has a brief tea based exchange in a book of short stories. To me the stories in this book sound terribly homesick. I wouldn’t extend her observations to Germans in general or into today but they are very crisp characterisations.
    In a German Pension, Germans at Meat
    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1472/1472-h/1472-h.htm

    “Ah, that’s one thing I CAN do,” said I, laughing brightly. “I can make very good tea. The great secret is to warm the teapot.”

    “Warm the teapot,” interrupted the Herr Rat, pushing away his soup plate. “What do you warm the teapot for? Ha! ha! that’s very good! One does not eat the teapot, I suppose?”

    He fixed his cold blue eyes upon me with an expression which suggested a thousand premeditated invasions.

    “So that is the great secret of your English tea? All you do is to warm the teapot.”

    I wanted to say that was only the preliminary canter, but could not translate it, and so was silent.

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  2. While I appreciate Mr. O’s comments I shall continue to enjoy my 3-4 cups of tea a day without all the formality. I brew mine by the cup with leaves in a large basket that fits into my 16 oz. mug.

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  3. From one tea lover to another, smashing post! I was born a bread in Yorkshire and it is still my standard drop. I now reside in Maine there is a small and increasing love of the stuff here, but it doesn’t have anything on the magnitude or cultural significance of back home.

    I’ve been posting about tea and it’s relationship to the great outdoors for some time now http://www.vintagehikingdepot.com/category/tea/ enjoy!

    Thanks again for a great post

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  4. What a great essay and so help me I read every reply!! Just finished a pint, really, of Brook Bond Red Label. Am surprised no one mentioned it. Have drunk it for so many years am sure my innards are Black! And have been able to find it everywhere. I was told it is one of the preferred
    teas of East Indians. I do drink it frequently, morning , noon and night out of a Scottish Buchan pottery beer mug. It has been years since I put the milk in first. Always warm the mug first though!
    My sister and I made tea once on the coast of Maine and almost gagged……..minerals her husband said!!!

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  5. Forgot to add, my English stepfather was brought up in the south of england and is a firm and habitual tea drinker. Unlike myself, he is more than happy to drink PG tips or Tetley 3 times a day. (But perhaps this is down to his being less discerning/snobby regarding tea than I am, rather than his geographical upbringing?)

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  6. I have no idea if there is a regional link to tea in the UK as my family is from London by way of Malaysia (by way of China, back in the 19th century) but varieties that we seem to enjoy drinking include the anonymous ‘green tea’ served in all Asian restaurants (strangely, it tastes very different from the Twinings type of generic green tea which I think is stronger and harsher); jasmine tea; and lady/earl grey. A box of Dilmah ceylon tea also appeared in the tea cupboard upon my grandparents’ recent return from Malaysia which is nice, quite light. I would say that these teas are all quite fragrant and best served without milk. I grew up in London (though I was born in Edinburgh) and more than my Malaysian-born grandparents, enjoy English breakfast, Yorkshire brand and assam teas – varieties/brands/blends which are more robust, and nice when served with milk. These definitely seem like more British teas to me, rather than east or south-east Asian, and could theoretically be linked to a slightly more ‘British’ upbringing, although I’m not really sure if that’s correct!
    On my paternal side, my Polish grandfather drinks tea like all eastern Europeans: hot, with lemon and sugar, and sometimes via a samovar.
    So as far as I see it, based on my (albeit very individual and not necessarily universal – I am a Edinburgh-born, London-raised, Malaysian-Chinese/Polish/Danish person) family experiences, tea preferences seem to be more broadly related to culture, as well as being specific to any one region in a country (I imagine in China that there are different teas for every region or even village, just as there are different dialects and cooking styles) (although the dialects, amongst so many other things, were stamped out by Mao). But I do enjoy pretty much any type of tea.
    Anushka

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  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_pekoe for a useful explanation of this name/ description of black tea leaves. I went to a tea plantation in Sri Lanka and it’s educational to find that the smallest scraps of broken leaves (nearly dust!) are those that find their way into tea bags. For the best cuppa – Sri lankan orange pekoe, in a pot, china cups and milk in first. No sugar. Having said that M&S tea bags in my favourite mug, milk in last works for me too. I’m in the north west UK with nice soft water and tea is lovely most of the time – I lived in Poole for a year or so and the hard water made tea a bit of a trial. And my kettle became a mess of pale orangey yellow lime scale. Ug. Obviously your tea bag/leaf tea makes a difference to tea ‘outcomes’ but I suspect it’s your water that’s crucial!
    In New York tea was served as a cup of hot water plus a tea bag. Mr.Orwell would not have approved.

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  8. I love this post and all the comments. I like to drink Twinings English Breakfast tea. (Where I live, the water is very hard.) I used to love Twinings Earl Grey, but now I must have EB for some reason.

    BUT in the hot humid Kentucky summer afternoons, I must drink iced tea. I brew it up just as though I were going to drink it hot, except that I add 5 or 6 mint leaves from the garden. (Kentucky Colonel mint, of course! for the mint juleps at Kentucky Derby time) I add about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar (this is *nothing* to the amount of sugar most Southerners put in their iced tea, which they usually call “sweet tea”), and pour it over lots and lots of ice. I put a fresh sprig of mint in it so that I smell the delicious, refreshing mint as I drink my tea and listen to the refreshing tinkling of the ice cubes against the glass. Bliss! Every time I read a No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book (Alexander McCall Smith) I am mystified as to how Mma Ramotswe can drink hot tea in the afternoons in that hot weather.

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  9. I have been drinking Assam lately, always black of course, and another tea called “China Gunpowder Temple of Heaven”- rolled leaves exploed into a refreshing green-yellow brew..it is really a lovely tea.I drink too much black coffee, and late at night I switch to black tea, no sugar. I’ve been drinking tea without milk since I was about 7yrs old, probably quite strange for a little girl to have been drinking black tea. I have a Sadler teapot in my collection also.

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  10. I forgot to say that a lovely book on tea and the culture and enjoyment of tea throughout one woman’s life is The Agony of the Leaves. I hope it is available in the UK. I seem to have misplaced the name of the author.

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  11. I have loved Orwell’s quote about being “wiser, braver, and more optimistic” for years now, but didn’t realize that it was part of an essay on tea making. Thank you for posting the whole piece! I am one with him on the question of sugar. I think you will find that proprietary blends and branded tea rooms predate the twentieth century. Twinings began as a tea room in 1706, and blending teas was a passion with many folks in the eighteenth century. Perhaps we miss some of the fun by buying our teas pre-blended!

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  12. I was going to mention my Welsh in-laws’ devotion to Glengettie tea, but I’ve been beaten to it.

    Love the article. I’m still going to put sugar in my tea though.

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  13. For Americans, the only real tea tradition is the rejection of tea as the National Beverage back in 18th century Boston – that’s when people started their devotion to coffee. But I’ve always been a tea drinker. Regional differences are fascinating, especially when we consider that tea comes from someplace else. No matter what part of the UK or the US we are from, the tea is not local. I have no idea what that means, but it seems significant. For Brits, there must be a colonial connection there somewhere – and probably also for the US preference for coffee from South America.

    As for me, my tea of choice is Mariage Freres – it’s too expensive for everyday tea, but I covet every leaf and it’s a special little luxury when life seems particularly dour. No sugar or milk for me – I’ll drink it straight!

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  14. My major concern with tea is the color of the mug. White is good, brown is acceptable but blue or green is putrid! I like my tea with skim milk…..sorry, that IS how I like it! But it looks awful in certain mugs (and being American, it has to be a mug!).

    My grandfather, a Canadian, insisted on Red Rose. Living in Niagara Falls, NY we were happy to import it for him. but the Red Rose in the US is definitely not the same, and it as ” a pity!”

    Barbara M. In NH

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  15. Over here in Lancaster, we have Atkinsons! (http://www.thecoffeehopper.com/page/95/atkinsons.htm and that photo only shows a taste of the inside) Personally, I drink Lapsang Souchong (sorry George) but we do have the house blend, Lancaster Blend tea which can be bought in bags or loose, and is indeed a strong Indian style tea.
    (Not to be confused with Lancashire Blend, which I have seen available in various supermarkets).

    On the subject of Yorkshire tea, I have had to cart boxes of their hard-water blend to France for my sister, who is working in the Alps, and requires Proper English Tea on a very regular basis.

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  16. I grew up in Northern Ontario (Canada), and tea was always seemingly reserved for visits from company (both of my parents were/are coffee drinkers). My parents and grandparents always drank their tea black, except for my sisters and I – I drank it with milk alone, and my sisters drank theirs with milk and sugar. As I got older, I could never stomach coffee and tea was my morning starter of choice. Then, I progressed to tea in the afternoon and finally tea in the evenings. At the age of 22, I got a job transfer to England – Oxford to be exact – and all of a sudden, I felt “at home”! My tea “leanings” were the same as everyone around me – except for the sugar. I was astounded that the Brits took sugar in their tea! I was also astonished at their plunking a tea bag in a cup, and not in a pot! Although I have done that when working in an office setting, I still HUGELY prefer my tea in a pot, and now that I’m back home in Canada, I only drink it out of a pot at home. Anyway, loved the article, thanks so much for sharing! Brightened my morning. And now I’m off to put the kettle on.

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  17. Something else that I had heard about regional teas and regional tea loyalty was that it has to do in part with the quality of the water found where that tea is blended – kind of like an English equivalent to the French “terroir” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terroir).

    For example, I was told that a region-specific tea, like Yorkshire tea, was blended in order to best compliment Yorkshire water (which, presumably, has something to do with the geology of the area). If this is the case, then Yorkshire tea would taste different when brewed with London or Cardiff water. I wonder if this is still the case or if water treatments and standards have somewhat smoothed out the differences in the tastes of water across the country.

    Of course, the only way to know for sure is to travel the country testing all sorts of regional teas in all sorts of regions – not such a bad way to spend time, I’d say! :)

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  18. As a Maritimer (east coast of Canada), I take my tea very strong. Four double-cup tea bags in a pot left on the stove all day. The rest of Canada refers to this strong brew as Lumberjack tea. Our household brand has always been King Cole (Morris). My Mum has been known to describe Red Rose as being the sweepings left over from when King Cole is made.

    I have mailed / couriered cartons of King Cole to family members living in the UK and those parts of Canada where it is not readily available, and I carrying my purse a zip-lock baggie with a couple teabags for emergency use.

    For me, the milk goes into the cup first as a matter of Physics. When hot tea is slowly poured into the smaller quantity of cold milk (via geometric dilution), a uniform solution is produced. If cold milk is added to the larger volume of hot tea, a colloid is formed. There is a definite difference in taste between the two, but preference for one over the other is generally a matter of what you were brought up with.

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  19. I do so wish that we had a tradition of tea drinking here in America. Tea here means a tea bag (filled with barely recognizable bits of leaf) on a string in a mug. I think I would love the repetition of it, the certainty of it, the sameness of it that others seem to enjoy. We do not get this great regional loyalty to a particular brand of tea, and you would really have to hunt up a specialty store here to find loose leaf tea. I don’t think we really even know how to make tea here with a pot and leaves. What a wonderful heritage to have. Thank you for your writing. I look forward to it and enjoy learning something new each time I visit!

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  20. My family agrees with you entirely about Yorkshire Tea–the red, not the gold box. As to the milk or tea first question, my grandmother, born in the reign of Queen Victoria, always insisted on milk first, but her reasoning was that if the milk curdled when a little tea was added (remember, she was brought up per-refrigeration), then only a little of the tea would be wasted. I’m with Orwell in this debate. I feel I can get the right balance between milk and tea when the milk is added at the end. We like 1% milk in our Canadian household. 2% seems to creamy while skim produces a result like dirty dishwater. Our ubiquitous Tim Horton’s chain actually sells a rather decent “steeped tea” which I survive on when on road trips.

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  21. In Finland we didn’t have much variety in our tea brands when I was growing up. My grandparents drank Twinings tea in the evenings but in most other places one could only get yellow Lipton Tea bags. Occasionally we also had some Russian loose leaf tea. At that time the foreign imports were altogether rather limited to the degree that magasines would exclaim things like “Foreign baby food now available! Now you can choose between two brands!” Finns are mostly coffee drinkers but tea has also been introduced by two distinct routes: by 18th century gentry through Swedish influence and from Russia among common people in the easternmost part of the country. This is also reflected in our language. Officially tea is called “tee” in Finnish (from Swedish te) but in the eastern Carelian dialect is called “tsaikka” or “tsaju” from Russian “chai”. I don’t really know where my grandparents had got their evening tea habit but they seemed pretty anglophile in other respects as well, eating toasts with orange marmalade or lemon curd for breakfast as well. Perhaps it was just some strange family thing, since my grandma’s cousin was also caught spying for Britain during the Second World War after being recruited at the British Embassy’s tennis club in Helsinki.
    We rarely use add milk to our tea but sometimes sugar. A specialty in my childhood was adding some newly made raspberry jam to our tea in August when we making jams. This is apparently also a Russian custom. I don’t normally sweeten my tea but at late summer I enjoy sitting in the garden in the darkening evening listening to the cicadas and drinking my raspberry jam tea.

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  22. Darvilles of Windsor having been supplying tea since 1860 and have held a royal warrant for 50 years. They had old fashioned grocery shops in small villages near Windsor until recently and it is still possible to buy their delicious blends – I can particularly recommend the Royalty blend.

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  23. Don’t forget to consider the environmental consequences of your shopping habits and working conditions in tea plantations – choose fair trade and/or organic tea.

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  24. What a lovely piece! Thank you for sharing.
    I’m in the US but my family always drank tea with milk – I didn’t realize that’s uncommon in the US. I grew up on the Canadian border so all our tv stations were Canadian and I fondly remember those Red Rose Tea commercials!
    I keep trying different teas and have no brand loyalty at the moment. But a few months ago I visited Hong Kong and bought several types of Chinese tea as well as a little tea set that I’ve been enjoying very much.

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  25. I get Yorkshire Tea from a local store that often carries my favorite British imports (in the cardboard box, but I lust after your tin and teapot). That and Tetley British Blend are our favorites around here.

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  26. I should clarify – different regions in the UK may have established trading ties with different tea-producing areas in India or Sri Lanka – so there may be that aspect to this idea of tea being bound up in a ‘sense of place’ as you put it –

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  27. I’ve been a tea-drinker all my life, but the strange thing is for most of my early tea-drinking years, till I moved from India to the US and then the UK, I was unaware of any taste differences between different teas, other than the clear distinction (for example) between a Darjeeling tea or a Ceylon tea etc. When I first read your post I wondered whether you were also thinking of the dual regionality, if I can call it that, of any tea – the absolute flavor influences that stem from soil, weather and plant type as well as the local flavor imparted by pride of place, water sources and – dare I say it – brand loyalty??? Whatever your take, I look forward to reading the next post – and as a scientist-knitter I also look forward to Tom updates!

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  28. I’m with you Kate with the Yorkshire tea. I live in country Victoria and our local Aldi store had some….loved it! Usually I drink Twinings. I am coming to England tomorrow so plan in indulge in tea……..and yet more tea…..

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  29. Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall actually grow their own tea. It is quite a delicate taste as I remember. Several cafes round here in Devon serve it. For everyday drinking its Clipper Organic (a “rich and full-bodied blend of teas from India, Africa and Sri Lanka)” in the morning and Clipper Organic Earl Grey @ 4pm. Can’t have too much or I get the jitters!

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  30. My favorite tea in the US is Target’s house brand Market Pantry black tea. It has such flavor (at least it does with the water in my corner of New Jersey) that any other tea leaves me cold now. I like it black with a bit of local honey. My favorite purchase on a trip to London was a dozen of the lovely little spoons served with tea there — regular-size teaspoons are too big and detract from my tea-drinking experience.

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  31. Another lovely discussion. Reading your post and all the insightful comments reminds me of the research I am engaged in, ww1 and the life and experience of an Australian RMO first at Gallipoli and then on the Western Front. Tea was integral to the life of the soldier in the Army and for so many others. The soldiers diaries so often mention the luxury of a *hot, sweet cup of tea* whether as a comfort to the injured or as a blessed relief from the shelling. I say *hot* because by the time the carriers got it to the men in the frontline it was often tepid at best or stone cold, and more often than not still reeked of the petrol in the Jerry cans used for transport. I think that this is the period when a good cup of tea established itself in the minds of many as a comfort and a way to briefly forget about the horrors of modern, mechanised war.

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  32. I’m curious what you think about loose tea vs. bagged?

    I had never tried Yorkshire brand before reading your blog yesterday, but now I can see why you like it!

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  33. apparently the habit to put milk in first was to stop the brittle bone china cups cracking before the hot tea was added. another curious fact is that in the industrial revolution the cities in england grew to more than 20,000 people because they drank tea, which meant the water was boiled (and the bugs killed). At that time the only other place in the world with cities of over 20 000 people was in Japan – another great tea drinking nation. don’t know where I heard that bit of info. I like lapsang souchong meself – been addicted totally to the stuff all me life. Tea rules, except when I’m in France when i drink water or wine.

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    1. that’s great! Thanks….this reminds me of why and how our people (Chinese) started drinking tea…to kill off the germs….

      actually…I vaguely recall some poem that described this scene of leaves falling into a bone china cup…hmm….my older sis the one well versed in Chinese literature will remember :)

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  34. I do like a nice cup of tea!! I do think that loose leaf tastes better but bags are more convenient. We are thinking of getting a camper van, mainly so we can stop and have a cup of wherever we want!!

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  35. I’m with Mr Orwell about tea in first, as I don’t really like milk much, so want to be able to put as little in as I can, and I certainly don’t want it to taste “cooked”!
    I remember ads for Yorkshire Tea used to include a tagline about “brewed (or possibly blended, can’t remember!) in Yorkshire for Yorkshire water”. In other words, it was intended to be region-specific. Clearly as a marketing ploy this limited their proposed area of sale a bit, but it as still a surprise recently to find it so popular in the US as to be a plot point in Homeland!

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  36. I couldn’t live without my tea, having started at the age of 5. I now live in an area of Ontario with hard water, water softeners too, but the tea never tastes as good as the cup made with fresh spring water ‘back home’ on the East Coast (Nova Scotia.) Boiled potatoes and carrots never taste as good either!

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  37. I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t like tea, it makes me sad because I love all the cultural associations of tea and the paraphernalia (tea sets, caddies etc.) that surround it. My dad is the great tea drinker in our family, he says he got started from drinking from his mother’s cup when he was only a year old and has never stopped since. I do wonder how my grandmother managed because tea was still rationed at that point I think and I’m fairly sure babies didn’t get a tea allowance! He had his own little tea pot when he was young too.
    He’s no connoisseur though, will take it as it comes and has even been known to drink green tea with milk (ugh!).
    With the regional teas: I imagine when each grocer blended his own tea that there was great variety, effectively every high street or village with its own blend, developed over time to local taste and conditions. In a way it’s a shame we’ve lost that variety and connection with our locality.
    Have you seen the film from the BFI’s collection on the importance of making tea well, it’s a wartime film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnvYymrCn4g
    Agnes Jekyll has some fabulous observations on tea drinking in her book Kitchen Essays: http://www.persephonebooks.co.uk/pages/titles/index.asp?id=47
    Something I’ve been finding fascinating lately is attitudes towards tea drinking as the habit spread in the late 17th and 18th centuries – many people saw it as a real evil, particularly as it gave women an opportunity to get together.

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  38. Thanks for sharing your tea love, Kate! And I love Orwell’s tea catechism, by which I faithfully abide. Well, all right, except for a sweetener dispensation: must have a bit of sugar.

    TEA! Oh, how I adore thee…. I *love* tea and drink oceans of it daily. I also especially love the ritual of making tea: putting on the kettle, hearing the water boil, getting the tea ready, selecting the cup, pouring & steeping, gathering biccies, and, finally, sipping contentedly. Ahhhh….

    So interesting to read all the comments, too, and learn about regional & historical variations and formulations for different areas/water.

    Many Yorkshire fans here and I am one, as well. Gold is my daily cuppa(s) of choice, occasionally subbed with Red. I also enjoy Taylors’ other specialty teas once in a while (Scottish breakfast, afternoon Darjeeling)…as well as loose Assam and Assam blends I get from different teashops. And Typhoo is always good in a pinch. But let’s be honest: almost any tea, good and strong & prepared properly, is a delight.

    Also, while the first sip is sublime, I find there is inimitable joy in liberating the brown pot from beneath its cosy and enjoying a piping hot ::second:: cup of tea. Bliss!

    p.s. I am not too proud to admit that I covet your Yorkshire kitchen array :)

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  39. Being married to an Englishman, tea is drunk in hot weather (to cool you down), in cold weather (to warm you up), when you’re feeling down (to cheer you up) and when you’re just plain thirsty. You drink it first thing in the morning, mid afternoon and last thing at night. It is served, with chocolate covered digestives, to visitors, and is in the cup two minutes after coming home from adventures. HOWEVER, elevensies is milky coffee time!

    My current tea of choice (ha, ha) is from a company called Choice. Their organic English Breakfast is to die for. Have you had it?

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  40. I live in yorkshire and last week took yorkshire teabags to Madeira.- it didnt taste the same as the milk is very sweet because the cows are fed bananas!

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  41. I too enjoy a cup but am not a fan of any particular brand and I only really like Earl Gray. I can here scream’s out there. In Canada we have red rose tea “only in Canada”

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  42. What a superb essay! The man certainly knew his onions, particularly when it came to tea!!! Have you tried Rooibos? If not, please do cos it’s wonderful. Take it black, no milk or sugar but with a smidgeon of honey……bliss. lol xxx

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  43. I’m Welsh, born and bred, live on Anglesey, speak the language (of heaven) and so do my children. We’re heavy tea drinkers here, on the hour, every hour! (And it says a lot that a combination of knitting and tea is the only thing which makes me post a comment on a blog!!)

    There are regional Welsh teas – the aforementioned Glengettie, but also Welsh Brew; but both have always seemed a bit Southwalian to me! I can send you samples if you fancy giving the Welsh regional varieties a go!

    http://www.spinneykitchen.co.uk/articles/food/you-dont-have-to-be-welsh-to-enjoy-tea-from-wales.html

    What do we drink up here then? I and my entire extended family are Yorkshire tea drinkers. Weird. Although I’m having a flirtation with RAF tea at the moment.

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    1. “but both have always seemed a bit Southwalian to me!” Hey watch it! :-) Llanelli born and bred here!
      However, I recently bought some Welsh Brew and thought it was extremely weak in comparison to Yorkshire tea and even PG Tips. And I’ve never heard of Glengettie, sounds suspiciously Scots, not Welsh, to me (although I’ve been gone 40 years now and my memory might be failing)

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      1. Glengettie is Welsh (well, Glengettie are based on the Wirral, hrrumpf), and has been around for years; it just sounds Scottish. It’s available in local shops here in Snowdonia, along with the south Walian Welsh Brew, aka Paned Cymreig. However Yorkshire Tea seems to work the best round here, and is the most popular choice…. it has to be down to the water. It certainly goes best with ours, which comes from the lake above the village.

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  44. Lovely article, but I do think that this part (and I know the study referenced), ” the milk should definitely go in first so that it warms up slowly, and its proteins are not denatured”, is bo****ks. :)Personally, I do not care if the proteins in my tea are denatured, but I do care if it is too milky and that is how it tastes if the milk goes in first.
    It really is a matter of personal taste when the milk goes in. I would drink my tea without milk if necessary, rather than the quickly cooling, slightly sweet taste of milky tea. I think nowadays, rather than class, this is the decider on when the milk goes in – people who prefer it second like their tea HOT.
    My taste in tea formed drinking my granny’s tea which was made with three tea bags in a metal pot left on the stove all day. It would practically hold up the pot by itself when pouring out. Usually Typhoo or Tetley if you’re interested – Highland water, very soft.

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  45. I was born and brought up in Shropshire and the tea of choice was either PG Tips or Glegettie Tea. I moved to East Anglia 7 years ago and quickly came to appreciate the impact that water type has on the taste of tea. Yorkshire Tea believe the impact to be severe enough that they actually produce a blend specifically for hard water areas.
    When I moved ‘down South’ I was introduced to Butterworth’s (Bury St Edmunds based company) teas. Butterworth’s Special Suffolk Blend is again produced to ensure that the taste doesn’t fall victim to hard water.
    It was through Butterworth’s that a childhood memory was unearthed. Tea companies used to put ‘tea cards’ in boxes of tea (in the same way that tobacco companies put cigarette cards in cigarette boxes) and there was always a discussion in our house as to whether it was the turn of me or my sister to have them. I believe that these are now very collectable.
    I drink my tea strong and with a splash of milk, or ‘builders tea’ as my Mum would call it. Although a sweeping generalisation, I find that many people in the West have milk with their (black) tea although not with green teas, but I found on a recent trip to China that it is unheard of to put milk in tea, regardless of the colour of the tea.

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  46. Tea in its infinite variety is such a comforter, and yet a stimulant too: the ideal combination. Tea comes in many forms in our family. My mother’s clan were Pontic Greeks and drank their tea without milk. My mother preferred her tea strong and with milk once she came to live in the UK, and missed it every time she visited Greece.

    My father, the Aberdonian, on the other hand preferred his tea so pale and weak that we used to joke that we saved on tea bags by simply waving the same one over his cup of hot water. Lemon was preferred, but milk went in first otherwise (he was a physicist). I used to think of him when I worked in Jakarta and was brought my daily warm water in its tall glass and lid along with all my local colleages. How I longed for the cup of lemon tea which I made in the evening back in my hotel room having purified the water before boiling, and using Twinings Dargeeling tea bags.

    When I worked in London in the late 70s I loved to go to the Tea Council for a cuppa. It offered the range of teas that Starbucks was to become famous for in coffees. AT home we became devoted to and have since stuck with Whittard’s range of fruit teas for our night-time pot, and with Whittard’s English Breakfast for early morning and during the day: good and strong and reviving, and local as we live just East of Andover.

    While my mother was with us after her stroke she was amused to drink Red Bush tea, as recommended by Ma Romotswe – as I had done when working in Zimbabwe in the 80s. My mother’s cousin, who lives in Germany, was delighted to find Yorkshire Tea to take back as presents to her friends after visiting. I suspect that her sense of geography allowed her to feel that she was taking back something English from England, and therefore wholly appropriate.

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  47. Hi Kate,

    Like some of the other Canadians here, Red Rose tea was always the brand associated with the beverage for many many years. Two of my favourite commercials gave a *very* skewed take on British culture, but always with the understanding that there are few places on Earth where tea is more appreciated:

    I have to admit though, even though I’ve lived in the UK now for nearly 15 years, Red Rose tea is still some of the best I’ve tasted! :)

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  48. Here in Greece we can buy Liptons which has absolutely no flavour no matter how long it is left in the pot or cup. My query is whether they make special tasteless tea just for us? And, by the way, Greeks only drink ‘hot’ tea when they are sick, lukewarm and never with milk! There is plenty of sickly sweet, weak ready made iced tea in cartons and cans.

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  49. Here in Newfoundland there are 2 main brands of tea – tetley and king cole. I am a devotee of tetley. Most people here drink tinned milk in their tea, carnation evaporated. I don’t , I prefer skimmed milk.
    I do love Yorkshire tea, introduced to me by a knitting friend who know teaches in york. My other fav is typhoo. Both Yorkshire and Typhoo can be found here,sometimes. So they are real treats.

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  50. Hi Kate – another great discussion going on here! When we lived in East Anglia we always used PG Tips; in Oban we used Scottish Tea (both were mains water) and now, in Perthshire, where we have water ‘from the hill’ we use Twinings Everyday. Usually we use bags, in a mug – china is always best – but sometimes, especially on high days and holidays, we use a teapot. Yes, tea is the best drink, and I usually have at least 8 cups a day, no sugar and milk first if from a pot and second if in the mug.
    Yummy!

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    1. Also, when I stayed in China for three weeks (TEFL) milk was scarce and I got into the habit of drinking their brew without it. I still will go without the milk if the tea is weak.

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  51. I live in NY and drink Barry’s when I can find it. I bring tea with me when I travel for tea emergencies unless I am going to India. Nothing else has the restorative powers of a good cup of tea. I consider myself a far more experienced tea drinker than most because my gran used to put tea in my bottle to warm the milk.

    I have three things to add. First, a favorite Tea tastes different in new locations (usually worse). Perhaps you could correlate the regional water properties with the local teas. My working hypothesis is that the local water plays a significant role in the taste. Second, IMHO adding the milk last helps keep the tea from cooling because it acts as a surfactant / insulator. Third, green tea should be excluded from the study – it should be renamed because calling it tea is misleading consumers.

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    1. Kate, you’re absolutely right, the taste of tea is very dependent on the local water! My husband swears that the best cup of tea he’s ever had was on a small island off the coast of Cork called Cape Clear (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Clear_Island).

      I’m Irish, living in New York too and would die without our constant supply of tea from visitors from home! I’m a Lyons girl – my mother’s and her mother’s influence. I will always remember my uncle refusing to drink tea made with tea bags (“bags of dust!” he would proclaim with disgust!).. though I think that recently he’s given in.

      One thing that drives me bananas about the US is that when you ask for tea you are often brought a teapot of hot water WITHOUT the teabag in it!! I’ve just given up on having tea anywhere except at home for that reason.

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      1. ps. Kate (Davies) – thanks so much for posting the Orwell piece – I love it! I’m a milk-second person… it cools the tea down so I can drink it immediately!

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  52. Hmm…I’m of the opinion that Yorkshire Tea is conducting a subtle campaign of colonial expansion, myself. As a Sussex woman, I only saw Yorkshire Tea for the first time 10 years ago in the hands of a Hull colleague, but now I find it in Sainsburys and even our [London] department kitchen, apparently specially blended into a sub-brand for hard water. I find it about as subtle…

    … as my personal ‘local’ preferences; bazaar-wali chai. Doing interviews in Delhi, my brain would cut out through lack of sugar and caffeine by mid afternoon if I haven’t had my fix, all powered by a curiously syncretic mix of Indian and British brands and ownership: Lipton Yellow Label (available from Nairobi to Nagpur, students tell me), Tata Tea (“Jago Re! – Wake up!”) who now own Tetley Tea in the UK, folks. Equal parts water, to milk, cheap loose tea, several teaspoons of sugar and slices of ginger or bashed cardamon pods in winter – all boiled the hell out of and strained into a glass with some gruesome slip of cloth, cheap chai became my mid-afternoon fieldwork fixation. Who needs Red Bull when you can have sugar and caffeine in such quantities?

    In working class homes, it’s entirely ok, if a bit old fashioned to pour your tea into a saucer and drink it from there… …In upwardly mobile/aspirational working class homes, and only ever when interviewing men I note, tea would sometimes being substituted by Nescaf… Nothing like as good.

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  53. In Canada, I think most of us grew up with, even if we didn’t prefer, Red Rose tea. There was a series of commercials in the 80s/90s in which various people ended up in silly situations that all ended with the catchphrase that Red Rose tea was only available in Canada (aimed at Americans), implying that people would resort to just about anything to smuggle it over the border once they’d tasted it for themselves. They used to have little ceramic figurines in special packets – my dad has the entire miniature teapot collection minus one (it was also a contest, so the one he is missing was the special piece that most everybody also failed to collect), and we found the old dog collection on the windowsill of our house right after we’d bought it.

    In any case, there’s a local battle/preference over Red Rose or King Cole (Morris) tea. The hoopla that occurred when the restaurant I worked at switched from Red Rose to King Cole was unbelievable. Strangely enough, it was younger folk (late teens to mid twenties) who threw the biggest stink. Most of the seniors just took it in stride.

    I don’t drink much black tea anymore – lactose intolerance, and while I’ve found some yummy cream substitutes for coffee, the best “fake” milk just doesn’t taste the way I remember tea from my childhood. It’s coffee and Bancha or Kukicha green tea for me, now.

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  54. The worst tea I’ve EVER tasted was in Italy….lived there for a while back in the mid 1990s…
    The water in Florence area was so harsh…one cannot taste anything!! I ended up boiling bottled spring water…even then…it was pretty bad….my family had to send me tea from the US!!!
    Luckily, the tea market in SF is not horrible…

    My in-laws (Italian) love tea, but fail to understand and believe that it’s the hard water that is killing the precious taste of my loose leaf tea….. :{ After they made their first trip to SF, they realized what they are supposed to be tasting…..

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  55. As an American with only one trip to Scotland and one trip to Ireland under my belt, I have drunk tea most of my life – all of my adult life. funny i was raised in the south! I discovered Yorkshire years ago but it is BARRYS that is my true love for a good strong cuppa. I also use loose tea from a fabulous indian tea shop in a nearby village – the owner’s family has a tea plantation in India and imports the tea… i love to mix Assam and Ceylon with a dash of Darjeeling for a fabulous breakfast blend (this is a copy of a recipe of Fauchon – my DREAM tea shoppe – from the days when i could afford to buy their tea!)

    i could go on and on about different kinds – but agree. milk last! and loose tea!

    am sure you will illuminate us further in future posts on more tea history!

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  56. I live in Somerset, UK and the whole family drink Yorkshire tea (the red packet). We have tried Yorkshire Gold and the Yorkshire for hard water but definitely prefer the standard blend. I recently bought a packet of West Country Tea by DJ Miles (blended and packed in Minehead) because it was on special in our local superstore and I appreciate locally sourced goods. It did not compare, I am afraid to say and we won’t be getting it again. Has anyone else tried it?

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  57. I agree, it must be the water!
    When I am in the UK, tea tastes lovely, but on the continent it is different…I tried it all, expensive tea from Fortnum and Mason, Yorkshire tea, Lipton, loose tea and tea in bags, generous and small portions, leaving it to stew or barely allowing the tea to colour the water, differnet pots, cleaned or tea-stained and just wahsed with water and wiped clean, pre-warmed or not…it does not taste right, whatever I do…I even did a “full Orwell”, but without the desired result….
    So if anybody has an idea, please tell me!

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  58. Hi love your post, and especially the short peice by George Orwaell, I am such a fan of his! I also love my tea, my grandmother was English (I’m from Australia) and when there was a crisis a sadness or joy, she just make another cup of tea! Four o’clock at her place everyday was a proper sit down cup of tea-in a pot- none of that tea bag stuff. My Pop would come in from the garage to sit with her and they would chat about the day. So civilized, and what a special memory for me. The cups were china and the teapot always held two cups for everyone around the table, how ever many there turned out to be.
    As for tea I drink Twinnings here in Australia, irish breakfast, australian afternoon and English breakfast. But sometimes overseas travellers have bought me back some brewley’s from Ireland I really love that.
    I have so enjoyed this article, you made me smile, and with my cuppa I really had fun reading it. Great way to start the day! Thank you!

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  59. Thank you for this paean to tea! :-)

    I love Yorkshire Gold, which was available in the Washington, DC area. I have not seen it in stores here, though, unfortunately. What beautiful red teapot you got, such classic beauty in a very upbeat colour. xxx

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  60. I also think that water in different regions has an effect on the taste of tea. I live in the south east of England and use Yorkshire tea bags but when we visit my daughter in Newcastle (north east England) the same Yorkshire tea tastes even better! However, my interest in Barry tea has been aroused so much that I have put in a request for my daughter-in-law’s step mum to bring some over on her next trip from Eire! Also do others have strict routines as to when they drink tea and coffee? Tea first thing in the morning and at breakfast, then coffee until lunch time, then tea until after supper when I end the day with “proper” coffee – it would be unthinkable to do anything else!

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  61. Kate – in the northeastern U.S., Red Rose tea had some classic advertisements featuring chimps. The best of all was this:

    It made a Red Rose tea fan out of me.

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  62. I’ve now got that jingle or song that goes, “I like a nice cup of tea in the morning, I like a nice cup of tea with my tea, and round about eleven, it’s my idea of heaven…” from reading this post.

    When my daughter moved into her room at the University of York three years ago as a fresher, on her bed among a whole pile of official info and leaflets, was a pack of Yorkshire Tea. I can’t think of anything more welcoming!

    I’m not massively fussy about tea really, as long as it’s made strong, not milky, and has a good taste (Yorkshire Tea is a sure-fire thing but I’m just as likely to buy supermarket red label tea).

    I always take teabags on holiday with me when I go abroad for more than three or four days, and it’s taken me years to work out that, if I have to drink Earl Grey, then I like it with lemon, not milk.

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  63. As I think someone mentioned above, we have Glengettie here in Wales – it’s very nice but I’ve never been able to shake my brand loyalty to Yorkshire.

    I agree with Orwell on most points but, on the matter of sugar, he’s dead wrong! I think of it as seasoning, sort of analogous to salt in food; you shouldn’t add so much that it tastes ‘sugary’, only need just enough to bring out the flavours.

    He’s also wrong about the milk but that goes without saying.

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  64. My mum used to say that milk in first was “u” and milk in last was “”non-u” which I believe was upper and lower clas respectively. We, being Welsh, were definitely “non-u” and to this day tea with milk in last tastes wrong!.

    I was always taught “pot to the kettle not kettle to the pot” and one teaspoon of tea for each person drinking and one for the pot, (and a jug of hot water to top it up and weaken it if there were a lot of people drinking!. Wait 2-3 minutes, stir, wait for it to settle, and pour. If made properly there’s no need for a strainer, only if the water wasn’t boiling would the tea leaves float. Cream curdles the tea because of the tannin and makes it taste icky! However, I’ve never been able to drop the habit of sugar in my tea even though I drink coffee black, no sugar. Childhood habits die hard!

    Yorkshire Gold tea is wonderful, I drink it every morning. I can get it at my grocery store here in the Bay Area. But at home (Wales) we always drank Brooke Bond PG Tips probably because they were the least expensive, and when I’m homesick that’s what I head for.

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      1. That’s neat, Liz. We learned as kids (in the colonies) to put milk in last….don’t know why….then of course, our U.K. “uncles” close friends of my dad showed us to make tea the proper way…. :) it’s all tasty….in the end, I suppose if it’s made with love :)

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      2. In the movie Gosford Park there’s a scene in which the police inspector is called to the manor house and puts the milk in first in front of the lady of the house and then is embarrassed when he realizes his faux pas. Till I’d seen that, I never knew there was this class difference, but then I’m an American AND raised in a noncaffeinated home, so the finer points are probably beyond me. Loved the essay and am quite enjoying this foray into tea.

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  65. My husband puts a tablespoon of sugar in one (8oz) cup of tea. I am always terrified that I will accidentally get his cup.

    Maybe one of you guys know the answer to this: say you are making a whole pot of tea, and you put the leaves in loose (as all the experts and George Orwell say one should). How can you stand to drink the last cup or two? I always go back to my trusty tea-ball, because that way all the cups of tea taste the same.

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      1. I think what Jessica means is that the last cup has been steeping so long that it’s very strong and bitter. Add more hot water. It’s still not quite as good as the first cup, though. But putting the leaves in loose does make a difference to the taste of the tea, for the better.

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  66. I’m not an expert on tea, but I am an expert on kettles, having been so desperate for a proper cuppa that I have bought kettles in the USA, Beirut and more recently, France. A bit of forward planning and a travel kettle might have negated this requirement but nevermind. Tea in the USA is a pitiful affair (sorry American readers, but hot water, ew) and the folks in the hardware store looked at me like I was mental when I spent USD 70 on the only kettle I could find. The Yorkshire Tea ad campaign (taking real tea to America) really strikes a chord with me!

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  67. We grew up in the colonies….my folks and their girls…so tea is something we drink everyday….
    The scones, Devonshire cream, cucumber sandwiches and all….we adore…
    We love Fortnum & Mason (their Royal Blend) and Taylors of Harrogate (their China Rose petal leaf tea)…of course their Yorkshire Tea too….well, really to tell the truth, at dire times, PG is just fine :) It’s tough to get some of these teas here in the US…but thanks to the internet…we can even get tea from Harrods if we really want to spend that amount of our hard earned cash on tea ;)

    Thank you, Kate….. for always sharing…hope you are well.

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  68. As a new zealander living in the northern U.S. I have learned to always carry my own tea bags whilst away from home. In the past, trips across the border into Canada from my home always involved stocking up. Now living further south in montana I found Yorkshire tea & Barry’s available at Cost Plus/World market, but I usually reach for the Typhoo.

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  69. I’m Irish and a big Barry’s tea fan (especially the red box). I’ve always wondered what tea British Airways use because outside of Ireland it’s probably the loveliest tea I’ve had. My big bugbear is Lipton tea in continental Europe and no matter how long you keep the tea bag in the cup it just never tastes of anything!! However those Europeans know a thing or two about coffee…

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  70. I love George Orwell’s essays and this one is new to me. It reminds me that our tea-drinking rituals are just as complicated as the Japanese ceremony. I drink my tea in a porcelain mug. I find that the temperature of the tea seems to remain constant throughout, unlike china or earthenware.

    I live in British Columbia, Canada and we have a local purveyor of fine tea that commands the loyalty and respect of local tea drinkers and tourists alike: Murchie’s Tea. It started in Vancouver but has branched out to other cities. Only in BC? What a pity. No trip to Victoria would be complete without a visit to their tea room. They have one blend they named after the Victorian grand dame of hotels, The Empress

    Murchie’s was the first place in Vancouver where you could buy loose tea and make your own blend or purchase one of their own proprietory blends or traditional favourites.

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    1. Yay for Murchies! My “regional tea” is their #22, a blend of black and green teas with a dash of jasmine. Yum. I grew up in a Canadian Red Rose household but hated tea (especially with milk and sugar, bleh) until I tasted the green jasmine at a local Chinese restaurant. Consequently contrary to others here, I drink my #22 very weak but plain. And have a large thermal stainless steel cup of it near me
      all day long. To each her own!

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  71. Ah, tea. What a lovely brew. As an US born child raised in the UK (British mum), tea has been a staple of my life since my earliest days. As a very young child I was provided the milky, sweet variety; as I grew older the ratio of tea increased while the amount of milk declined. Many of Orwell’s rules of tea were followed in my house, except for the part about sugar. The most difficult part about living in the US is trying to find a decent cuppa when away from home. I rarely order it in restaurants because if I ask if they actually boil the water, the answer is usually no. Ugh…lukewarm tea. I have to go to specialty food stores even to buy PG Tips or Yorkshire (will be on the lookout for Barry’s). My morning ritual is to make tea (with milk) in a 16 oz stainless steel thermos cup to drink on my 50 mile drive to work (4:30 am–must have tea). During the remainder of the work day I usually have four refills of that container but drink those black due to lack of milk at work. I keep my own electric kettle under my desk to make sure I have boiling water for my tea (office police haven’t found it yet). As my mother used to say, coffee was for foreigners while tea cures broken bones and broken hearts. It is definitely my beverage of choice. Look forward to hearing about regional teas.

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  72. Thanks for reprinting this. I don’t agree with all these points, but it does make me realize that the whole ritual of making my tea is almost as important as that wonderful first morning sip. I am surprised that China tea is considered of lesser cost and quality as I spend considerable amounts on Yunnan Gold for my special afternoon cup. For a long time I was addicted to PG Tips, which I guess is considered the McDonald’s of tea, but I did love it’s tannic zip.

    As for American tea, the standard of my childhood was Lipton’s which, from the taste, seems to be made from well aged and toasted cardboard boxes. But with some lemon and sugar, it makes fantastic sweet iced tea. So interesting that there is nothing as warming or cooling as tea.

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  73. I’m an American who loves a good cup of tea, and developed a tea & milk habit during 4 years in Australia. There is at least one tea fanatic in Perth (Australia). I stopped by his shop for a resupply, and ended up in a 30 minute discussion of the evils of counterfeit Darjeeling.

    I ran across this excellent 1941 tea-making instructional video some months back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnvYymrCn4g&feature=related — quite consistent with Orwell’s recommendations.
    Not sure where I first saw it — apologies if you were the source!

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  74. My parents in Yorkshire have always, so far as I can remember, bought Ringtons tea from the ‘Tea Man’ out of his van, (along with caramel wafers and ginger biscuits, which as a child were much more interesting than the tea). SInce leaving home I’ve worked my way through a few brands, initially as a student drinking whatever was on special offer but since then taste is more of an issue! I’ve settled on Yorkshire tea, partly through misguided regional pride but mostly for flavour, and after a two year stint working in a cafe offering 32 varieties of tea I’m yet to find anything to change my mind!

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  75. This post is a very valuable lesson for me , about making tea ! You’d laugh at how I make tea from loose leaf ; in a pint or quart canning jar, and after it steeps, I pour through a strainer into a pint glass (not that I don’t own a teapot, I have a stainless steel job) ~just that I’m Californian I guess, and we’re several degrees removed from finery of things here, out in the dusty wild west.(up in the mountains away from society ..lol) Lately though, somewhat disenchanted with drinking the expensive loose tea blend I love (and learned from a Derbyshire lad: 4parts English, 2parts Irish, and 1partScottish, and that’s 8tsp per pot), though very tastey, does not inspire me as much in the end as my tea bag habit. I’ve been game to put *two* tea bags (English Breakfast) into a pint glass and pour the boiling water over it. To my tea, I add to it raw whole milk these days, no sugar. I tried adding a little cream once, and I’ll have to agree with Orwell, it doesn’t do anything for the tea. I will try to pay better attention to which ones of my ever-growing tea stash in my cupboard are making me ‘wiser, braver, or more optimistic ‘ , and toss the rest, they only take up room (such as the decaffeinated ones) You see , I’m a coffee drinker, always have been, but in the last couple of years have become equally a tea drinker, if not more so, having learned the health properties of it, but also Kate, your writing about it so much has somewhere along the way, lured me and taken me. I’ve learned quite a bit from Orwell’s 11 golden tea rules, as well as your steadfast observations and thank you ! Oh ! And I wanted to mention to you that of all your very interesting tea posts, this one in my opinion ranks up there with the Shetland Knitters getting paid with tea. I hope you fashion a TextIsles after tea, that would be most welcome, and I’m certain very popular !

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    1. Kate , I just conducted an interview with my neighbor, good friend, and band mate, John Kelly, who is from Newport, South Wales. He says #1 choice was “Typhoo” (a black oolong) (but I notice he gets it here too, because it’s always on his tea shelf along with a local chain Earl Grey . His #2 favorite from back home is “Brookbond PG Tips” (he says the tea that was advertized with chimpanzees drinking it?) . Outside of that he mentioned good ol’ Twinings and Lipton were popular in his area. So there’s what John Kelly drank in his youth growing up in South Wales from 1946 through the 70’s. Cheers.

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      1. Oh hey ! I thought it a good time to mention the fact that since I have had an Argentine penpal (also a published scientist of a top journal) , I have become somewhat of a matte (Alejandro says the English spell it ‘matte’ whereas the Argentines spell it ‘mate’ ) I have in my hoard 4 kinds of yerbe matte, ranging from mild to very strong and bitter, and Alejandro fully intends to broaden my stash as soon as I’m up for it. I have the proper matte gourd (very fancy, here’s a picure of it on one of my walks http://walkingwithemma.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/matte-over-devils-canyon1.jpg . It’s a real trip how the tea is made packed into the gourd, powdery and twiggy in nearly equal parts (for it is from a tree, not camelia sinensis shrub) then barely hot water poured over, and drunk through a bombilla (pronounced ‘bombiszcha’ . I realize that Portenos’ tea drinking culture is off the map from what you’re discussing, but I thought I’d throw it out there. Oh, and I think I prefer my Irish Breakfast tea in a pint glass though. ;)

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  76. Kate, I am a newcomer to your blog and am enjoying it immensely! You really sealed the deal with your posts on tea. A longtime tea drinker, my fave is Yorkshire Gold, which I discovered in a little (now defunct) English style tearoom in the hills along the Wind River in Washington state in the US. I come from a long line of coffee-drinkin’ Texans and this is only one of the ways I rebelled at my early training! I continue to experiment occasionally, but my real loyalty lies with the Yorkshire, which I find in some of our Portland supermarkets and is always available on Amazon. I have heard that our NW Oregon weather is similar to Scotland, but have never had an opportunity to check it out for myself, but a good cuppa really perks me up on some of our gloomy days.
    Best wishes to you on your journey. I am grateful for your honest sharing in your recovery. It is refreshing and adds a real sense of who you are to your wonderful knitting content.

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  77. For everyday tea, my family has always been a Twinnings Earl Grey sort. We never bought Red Rose, though according to Red Rose, Canada is famous for it and it’s what Her Royal Majesty drinks when she is here. I don’t believe that for a second. It’s interesting, too, that none of the brands you mentioned seem to pop up in the ex-pat shops I’ve visited. They are loaded with Hello magazines, Walker’s Crisps, Airwaves gum, and Marmite but very few daily teas.

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  78. I developed a taste for Yorkshire Tea (Gold) while I was living in Dronfield – which is technically in Derbyshire, but very close to the Yorkshire border. Back in Scotland now, I was delighted to find this tea again in my local supermarket. I drink mine black – sometimes with a slice of lemon – I don’t think George Orwell mentioned that – and I definitely like it to be brewed in the teapot. In the 1970s there used to be a restaurant in Buchanan Street, Glasgow, called The Ceylon Tea Centre. You had to queue up to get in there at lunch times. The food was surprisingly healthy for the times. You chose your lunch from a delicious array of salads and then they brought the “Tea of the Day” to your table in little china tea pots. It was a great way of sampling different teas. It was a very popular restaurant – I wish it was still there! Orange Pekoe was my favourite then. Tea is such a comforting drink – I couldn’t be without it. It was always the first item on my mother’s shopping list.

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  79. :) thank you for sharing your though abaut tea and the George Orwell’s “a nice cup of tea”. xoxo, Giusy
    so I imagine you decline my offer of the Dammann tea bags gift :)

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  80. Interesting. The US is more of a coffee culture. My fondest London memories include tea at Fortnum & Mason. American hotel and department store attempts at teas never get it right. No regional tea preferences seem to exist in the U.S.

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  81. Regarding ballsofwool’s comment:
    We lived in London a few years in the beginning of the 70’s. My mom has told me that she on several occasions when buying tea, was asked where she lived. The purpose being to give her tea suitable for the water where we lived.

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  82. As an American, this is so crazy to me! I mean, I think of myself as a tea-drinker (generally in the afternoon, though- coffee is for the morning), but I don’t really have much of a brand-loyalty. And as a Southerner, most of the time I come across tea in stores it’s iced with about a pound of sugar in it!

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  83. Just came in soaking from a rainy lunch in Boston, desperately clutching my cuppa, and found this gem waiting for me in my inbox. What can be more perfect on a wet, grey New England afternoon than my favorite writer discussing my second favorite beverage (the first being that bitter beer)? Thanks so much for posting this. :)

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  84. I think Ballsofwool above may be right; the origin of the water should have a lot to do with the taste. I know that the difference here in the US between my house and work is huge. Same river, same limestone aquifer, locations barely 15 miles apart. Almost any tea tastes fine at home, but so far all tea at work has been horrible except one white tea from Trader Joe’s. And they filter the water at work, so you’d think it would taste better! I can only imagine the difference between city water from Edinburgh or London, and a small country cottage in Wales.

    (And now I’m really wishing I could be home in time for afternoon tea every day.)

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  85. Thank you for this article Kate. I had no idea, and I’m fair chuffed, to be on the same side as George Orwell in the milk in first or second debate: It just doesn’t taste right put in afterwards. He’s also dead right about sugar too: Milky, sugary tea is for little children.
    His comments on tea made in an urn remind me of my Dad complaining about the tea in his works canteen as, “Hot water knocked stupit”

    P.S. I’d never tried Yorkshire tea before seeing it on your blog. Tetley used to be my favoured brew, along with the Clipper organic, but the Yorkshire is now right up there. It must work well with the Scottish water.

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  86. I grew up with Red Rose, but later became a Tetley lover. Now, I must admit, any old Orange Pekoe will do, even store brands. A tea-pot was always on the burner on low as I grew up, and it was stewed and strong. Now the timer goes on for 4 minutes, and tea is mostly made in a mug except on weekends when I take down the teapot. I think I saw Yorkshire tea at Walmart a while back! I might pick some up to try.

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  87. now i feel like to finding a really good tea. the lipton tea we usually have just doesn’t do it for me. i do really like the kenyan tea that was given to me as a gift but we portion that out carefully to savor. can’t really get more once it’s gone!

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  88. Perhaps the regional variations in UK teas might have something to do with the variations in the local water? Imagine a blind taste test of a glass of tap water from London and one from Edinburgh. The differences are due to the dissolved salts, minerals and gases in the water. I remember being told that the water boiled for tea had to be freshly drawn from the tap so that the water didn’t “lose its air”. Surely different waters taste better with different leaves….? We might need to requisition Dr Tom’s laboratory for some original research.

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  89. For many years there was a television commercial here in Canada that boasted about Red Rose tea and how the Queen preferred it to all others. I will admit that it does taste better than a number of other teas I’ve tried, until one starts into the high quality loose teas. I do tend to be more of a coffee drinker, but that often doesn’t cut it when the late afternoon rolls around and only tea will do.

    A note to Kathy in Michigan… I liked your comment and it made me think that perhaps my affinity for milk in my tea and gravy with my fries is not so much a personal preference than a cultural thing.

    I am sorry you ever had to experience the mix of coffee and tea!

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  90. I miss tea!
    I was a real Tea Jenny (two ((sugars) and coo)), but I had to cut milk out of my diet. To me, tea has to have milk and even though I have tried different diary free alternatives it just doesn’t taste right! So, I am now a black coffee girl (two, nae coo), which is fine, but you just can’t beat a cup of tea, can you?

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  91. Americans do not normally take milk in their tea, but I came to this habit after several trips to Canada, much like having brown gravy on my French fries (chips). However, there is always the trouble of guarding your creamy tea against topping off with coffee by the passing waitress in a restaurant. That is not a combination that I ever want to repeat. Thanks, Kate, for a very informative post. I’ll look forward to reading what your expanded research brings up. Now I’m off for a glass of iced tea (sorry Mr. Orwell!) & some knitting on Sheep’s Heid.

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  92. I think of this essay often in the morning while adding ‘just a bit more tea’ to my breakfast brown betty. Not quite an old age pensioner, but I do like it strong.

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  93. That was a trip back in time – well exactly one year before I was born – but also how I was brought up with tea and the ongoing “discussion” between family members on the “how to”. I thoroughly enjoyed that essay in the old and proper style. One thing I was told was that the milk was poured in first to cool down the china cup when receiving the tea/hot water…this stopped heat cracking in the “good” cups.( or something like that). Off for a well deserved cuppa- and I don’t have any of those wonderful regional teas.

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  94. I am a strong devotee of the Yorkshire Tea brand, ever since you got me started on it.

    However my very dear, late Godmother – Aunty Hilary (who lived in or around Gravesend for most of her life) – was of the opinion that there is no finer brand of tea than Glegettie Tea, which is a Welsh variety. Certainly all of the cups which she served to me throughout my life (usually accompanied with piles of scones and fresh cream) were absolutely excellent, and I have looked for it in the shops near to me whenever I think of Hilary.

    I am not sure where her affiliation with this brand comes from… but she loved it.

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  95. I live in America, Kate, but I have been able to buy Yorkshire Gold in some stores. How is the Yorkshire “red” that you drink different from the Yorkshire Gold? It is my favorite–I couldn’t have written my one book without it!
    Cathy

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