Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company
Recently, we brought to your attention the Tea Cozy, and now we turn to the TEAPOT!
The teapot is a vessel for steeping loose tea leaves or herbal infusions. Although the pot does not have as long a history as the leaf, its humble beginnings were also in China.
At first, tea was boiled in open pans. Not until the Ming Dynasty did the idea of a covered pot became popular. Those pots were small, and the tea was taken directly from the spout. But they served their purpose well, keeping the flavor and allowing the steeping process to be repeated several times. More about this later!
Towards the end of the 16th century, the Dutch started shipping cargoes of tea to Europe, and the teapot came along. The designs were mostly blue and white stoneware. Dutch potters started re-creating these designs, and by 1710, Germany began production in the Meissen factory, followed shortly after by production in France and England.
At that time in Colonial America, Boston became a center of silver production, which included the making of elaborate teapots. Two Dutch potters who settled in England established the pottery industry in Staffordshire, and it was some hundred years before they discovered the secret of making fine translucent pottery called porcelain. The teapot journey had begun!
In the eighteenth century, Josiah Spode is credited for creating the distinctive look of English China and famous names as Wedgewood, Worcester, Minton, and Derby. All created such beautiful and elegant designs. Maybe you are lucky enough to have one in your collection!
Shapes and Sizes
Over the years, the size and shape of teapots have changed to suit tastes and fashions. Now, of course, we can get any size or shape or material imaginable. From the finest china to stoneware to glass, basically, anything goes! But which is the best style of the teapot?
I urge my customers to think carefully about their tea-drinking habits, as bigger is not necessarily better. The early Chinese method rings true for a reason. It seems that the majority of people, if they have a 6 cup pot, then they cannot resist making a full pot and maybe only take 1 serving! You can stash the leftovers in the fridge for some Iced Tea (or Ice Tea.)
Whilst drinking that 1 serving, the remaining tea is becoming quite undrinkable unless you like major astringency! My advice is to make 1 serving and reinfuse the leaves for a second helping when you are ready, continuing till you have no flavor in your leaves…Multi-Steeping, not to be confused with Infusion Confusion.
If you were to decant the 6 cups of tea into another vessel upon completion of brewing, that would also be acceptable. The key is to gauge how much you will be drinking and brew accordingly. Choose a pot to match your drinking habits; life is too short to waste good tea! Along with Life is too Short to Drink Bad Tea!
How to use a Teapot
How to make a nice pot of tea? In Yorkshire, they would say ‘take the pot to the kettle and not t’other way round.’ Warming the pot is so important! Place the leaves in this inviting environment and they start to release their aroma. Stick your nose in the pot and inhale deeply.
All teas vary slightly in weight. The general rule is one teaspoon per cup, and I add ‘one for the pot’ because my mum always did! Steep for the recommended time or your preference and TAKE TIME TO ENJOY YOUR TEA. Enjoy the first cup, and when you are ready, re-infuse your leaves, and don’t forget your tea cozy to keep the tea warm this time!
So, what’s your favorite teapot look like, or what would you like it to look like? I invite you to have some fun with us on Pinterest.
“And I want a tea cozy. I don’t know what a tea cozy is, but I want one!”
Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I don’t think Buffy is alone. Many Local Tea Company customers and tea drinkers, in general, do not know about tea cozies. Or, they may have heard about Tea cozies but have never seen or used one! They are a straightforward yet amazing invention to keep your tea warm in the POT.
It would seem their popularity has waned since the invention of the teabag, which in turn meant fewer people used a teapot. So, let’s try and get back on track, get the teapots back out, add some good loose tea, and bring back the popularity of tea cozy!
The tea cozy history is not too well documented, though It seems unlikely that they were used when teapots first originated as the pots were small and tea was costly. When William Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister in 1783 at the tender age of 24, he passed the Commutation Act, which lowered the tea tax, making tea more affordable and, no doubt, the teapots bigger!
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Earl Grey for Picard
“Tea, Earl Grey, Hot… and whoever this ‘Earl Grey’ fellow is, I’d like a word with him..”
-Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek The Next Generation
Pinhead Gunpowder and Guy Fawkes
November 5th is the perfect time to talk about our Pinhead Gunpowder green tea. For me, this tea conjures up images of Guy Fawkes, a very celebrated and notorious fellow in Great Britain. Born in Yorkshire, I am sure you have seen the mask below on Halloween or in the “V for Vendetta” movies or comic books. Do you know what Guy Fawkes was notorious for besides drinking Yorkshire tea?
“Remember, remember the Fifth of November, Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”
In 1605 a group of conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to destroy the House of Parliament by filling the cellar with explosives. Known as the “Gunpowder Plot,” the conspirators wanted a Catholic King rather than the protestant King James I. The plan did not work, and Guy Fawkes was captured, hung, drawn, and quartered for his part in the plot. However, his name lives on. Guy Fawkes Night is a festival in Britain remembering the Gunpowder Plot and the King’s survival.
Every year on 5 November, Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated with bonfires in towns across England. Dummies, or “guys” are burnt atop the fires. A great tradition we children anticipated with excitement was making the “guy” dummies a few days before the 5th. We carried the dummies around the village, shouting “penny for the guy.” The quality of our ‘guy’ was determined by the number of pennies we collected.
Today, the Guy Fawkes mask is worn by protesters to demonstrate their commitment to a shared cause against the establishment, as was Mr. Fawkes’s intent.
Gunpowder Green Tea
And so to our pinhead gunpowder, a classic green tea from Zhejiang province in China is made from leaves rolled into small pellets that look like actual gunpowder. It never ceases to amaze me how many people comment on this fascinating tea. The tiny pellets transform, unfurling into graceful, dancing leaves. If you have a glass teapot, enjoy the performance.
Gunpowder green tea is harvested in April, as this is the absolute best time of year for quality leaves. The leaves are withered to reduce moisture content making them more pliable, steamed, rolled, and dried. Although the individual leaves were formerly rolled by hand, most gunpowder tea is rolled by machines today.
After that, the highest grades are still rolled by hand. This rolling process also renders the leaves less susceptible to any breakage and allows them to retain more of their flavor and aroma. You can determine the freshness of gunpowder green tea by the sheen of the pellets. And the smaller, the better, as the size is associated with quality, hence the name pinhead.
Our Pinhead Gunpowder green tea brews darker than most green teas with a rich flavor and a slightly smokey finish. I have enjoyed Pinhead straight up, infusing multiple times, but it can be brewed very successfully with ginger or peppermint and used as an iced tea.
I hope you enjoyed the gunpowder plot, and please do enjoy many infusions of this classic tea.
Teetotalers to Tea Parties
In 18th century England, tea was an expensive commodity, heavily taxed, and a luxury for the rich. Coffeehouses were popular meeting places for social interaction, where news and views were exchanged. However, women were banned!
Because of the working classes’ escalating drunkenness, tea was served to ‘persons of inferior rank.’ Many new cafes and coffeehouses opened as alternatives to pubs and inns, leading to the Temperance movement.
The Preston Temperance Society of 1823 started in the north of England by Joseph Livesey. He promoted abstinence from alcoholic beverages. The movement quickly spread throughout England and to the States.
It is not clear where the term ‘Teetotaler” originated or why someone who never drinks alcohol is referred to as such. However, it has nothing to do with tea. However, the movement laid the foundation for something that would change the world.
In 1864 the Aerated Bread Company opened what would become known as the ABC Teashop. The manageress of this London-based company served tea and snacks gratis to customers of all classes. She opened a commercial tea room on the premises. This is a place women of the Victorian era to take a meal ‘unescorted’ without sullying her reputation!
Soon other companies followed, and from the 1880s onwards, fine hotels began to offer tea service. Going out to tea was a fashion reaching its heyday in the Edwardian era (1901-1914). By 1913, tea was an elaborate and stylish affair. Served in palm courts with string quartets playing, and leading to the even more fashionable tea dances. How I would have loved to have been part of the era!
Fashions change, and so do social patterns and lifestyles. Cocktails once again are popular, though tea continues as a drink at home and in the workplace.
Thankfully there is a new surge of interest in tea drinking and going out for tea. I love going to tea houses, as you can see in previous posts. Tea dances are enjoying a revival, and tea parties are becoming popular to celebrate weddings, family events, and gatherings.
In conclusion, whether you are a Teetotaler or totally into tea, please join Local Tea Company in this fascinating journey of TEA through the centuries. Maybe the best is yet to come!
Scones Jam or cream 1st
Grahame and I have just come back from England. Drinking lots of TEA was certainly on the agenda, in part due to the inclement weather we had for the whole 2 weeks! So it was ‘Oh well, let’s have another cuppa.’
Peacocks Tea Room
Our first tea outing was planned, and it was actually a sunny afternoon when we arrived in the city of Ely in Southeast England. Laura had reserved a table at Peacocks Tea Room, and it was just delightful.
The afternoon tea was excellent, consisting of 3 different sandwiches, scones with your choice of jam, followed by a cake of your choice. I managed to eat the sandwiches and scone but had to take my cake home. There was too much food to finish. This was all washed down with copious amounts of tea (we all chose different ones!) served in individual teapots.
During afternoon tea (an earlier post explains the difference between high tea), we debated the best way to eat scones. If you were following correct etiquette, then you would place your clotted cream and jam on the side of your plate. Select your scone, slice in half, and break into a bite-sized piece. One would then apply cream and jam (or lemon curd from a blog post from the Spring) as each piece was eaten, taking sips of tea in between.
However, I am not talking correct etiquette here. In Yorkshire (a post bit about my hometown Harrogate), we don’t mess about with bite-sized pieces! Our debate was, ‘Do you put jam on first before cream or cream on first before jam?’
I have always put jam on first. And I have never really thought about changing the habit of a lifetime of scone eating. However, this new routine totally changed the taste experience, and I loved it. Grahame really enjoyed it too! Let us know which way you like your scone: scones Jam or cream 1st. Please post on our Facebook page.
Thanks to Laura for finding this gem of a tearoom and thanks to Peacocks for the delicious afternoon tea.
This holiday was our second of the summer. We visited northern Michigan in the Spring, and here is a link to my earlier post.
A favourite book of mine offers an interesting quote or excerpt about tea. I will share it with you. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome was first published in 1889 and was intended as a serious travel guide about a boating holiday on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford. However, it turned out to be a very humorous account detailing the adventures of the three friends Jerome, George Wingrave, and Carl Hentschel, along with a fictional dog called Montmorency!
Three Men in a Book Excerpt
When I read this excerpt today, it seemed so clever and witty, evoking powerful thoughts about the beverage I so love…. tea. Enjoy.
‘It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon, it says “Work!” After beefsteak and porter , it says “Sleep!” Then, after a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup and don’t let it stand for more than three minutes), it says to the brain, “Now rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature, and into life: spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming starts to the gates of eternity!”
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat.
What type of tea does it take for you to rise and show your strength, be eloquent and deep or indeed spread your white wings of quivering thought? It would have to be a good strong cup of Yorkshire Harrogate for me! Here is an earlier post about Yorkshire. Please share your comments and take time for tea.
Kombucha Yorkshire Tea
Thank you to those following my Kombucha side trip on my Tea Journey. And for enduring me when I get carried away with Kombucha enthusiasm! Since my earlier Kombucha posts, #1 and #2, I have been busy brewing. I continue to learn about the variations, the good, bad, and the ugly about this fascinating beverage.
Kombucha Yorkshire Tea
I am not very disciplined about drinking my kombucha when at home. However, during my working days at the Carriagehouse Tea Room at Selby Gardens, I sip during lunch and the afternoon hours. During the ‘dog days of summer, ’ kombucha gives me a boost of energy.
Michael and Tray continue to make excuses for why they no longer brew kombucha. Tray drinks as much of my supply as available. I must be doing something right. So, what’s new?
I have found that black tea seems to work best, especially our Harrogate Yorkshire tea. This is not really surprising; this tea has such strength and character as the people of Yorkshire!! Brewing the tea for 14 days was too astringent for my taste, so I reduced to 7 days. Less fermentation time results in a slightly sweeter taste and more fizz. I also started adding new tea on top of the same SCOBY instead of washing out containers each time. I no longer split the mother and baby as often. The SCOBY has grown really fast, improving my results.
After reading that more fizz is achieved if you leave bottles out for 4 days before refrigeration, I tried this routine. I found the bottles started to grow ‘mini’ SCOBYs (ew!), so I now refrigerate immediately.
I am very much enjoying where this journey is taking me. New converts or fellow ‘Kombuchans’ are found in all sorts of spots. You may have heard of retailers removing the commercially bottled Kombucha from their shelves, so there has been growing interest in home brewing. I have been giving away SCOBYs to anyone who wants to try making their own and hope to have more success stories to share. Stop by Local Tea Company to talk about tea. .Kombucha Yorkshire Tea
The past month in the tasting room at Selby Gardens, we have had many European visitors, especially British. When they hear me speak, we inevitably talk about where we are from and the type of tea we drink. Talking Tea, as I say.
The choices being PG Tips, Typhoo, Yorkshire, Twinning’s, etc., basically all the well-known tea bags available. There was also a gentleman who mentioned Brooke Bond, who was a real blast from the past! He was married to an American and lives in Sarasota. His wife sourced the tea for him, and he was very pleased.
The name Brooke Bond took me on a journey back to the small village in the Yorkshire Dales where I was born and raised. Our little grocery shop, run by Mrs. Gosney, had a large metal sign displayed outside in black and red advertising Brooke Bond! Mum sent me to buy tea, and I remember Mrs. Gosney using an old fashioned scale with real weights and putting the weighed tea in a brown bag.
When I got home, mum would transfer the tea to our caddy (which I think was a tin that had once stored candy, probably Liquorices’ Allsorts). I can remember inhaling the most wonderful smell of fresh tea in the caddy. I was touched thinking about how we continue such practices, as I use such a caddy even now!
So, where did the name caddy come from? During the early British trading days in Asia, a language called “pidgin English” was created to facilitate commerce. Composed of English, Portuguese and Indian words pronounced in Chinese, “Pidgin” is actually the word which was used for “do business.” The term “caddy” is from the Chinese word for one pound, the standard size for a tea container.
We meet such nice people when we start talking about tea. Great stories and legends are exchanged, and memories are evoked when we talk about this amazing drink called TEA.