Why the World Tea Expo Matters to You

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Las Vegas Convention Center

Surrounded by tea but, alas, not drinking any of it!

Such are the “travails” of being an exhibitor at the 2018 World Tea Expo in Las Vegas.

But the upside came in spades!

Besides the whole seeing-Vegas-for-the-first-time experience, there were:

  • innovative products
  • tea samples
  • many wonderful people

And why should you care about the World Tea Expo?

Because this tea industry expo helps steer trends that you will eventually see in your local tea shop, restaurant, or grocery store.

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tea samples from Tea Expo

New TEAS!

At the Expo, tea growers showcase new and experimental teas, which may be picked up by impressed buyers, or at least expose buyers to them.

Much research goes into determining how many times a person has to be exposed to something before they buy it, so even at the industry level it may take some time before a new product takes off.

The expo provides a venue for a tea grower or seller to demonstrate that their tea has consistent quality and purity, and to persuade buyers to take a chance on it.

New ways of presenting tea and everything tea related!

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Expo tote bag and sampling cup

Marketing is everything. Whether product or service, car or beverage, you’re pitching a lifestyle, a concept.

There are multiple tacks to upselling tea and its related accoutrements—teabags for convenience, loose leaf for flavor, trendy new equipment, herbals with health claims, better designs, prettier ware, the newest and easiest and best.

However, even though money obviously must be made, most people in the tea industry truly believe in their products. They are excited, passionate even, about what they have to offer to consumers.

They want you to fully experience the excitement of an incredible tea, and they want to bring you the products that will allow you to do so.

Exciting new tea-based products!

I was at the Expo with Lisa, owner of Eat More Tea, where we had a table in the new business section.

Eat More Tea display

Believing that any savory or baked item will be better if made with tea, Lisa incorporates tea into nearly everythingEat More Tea Shortbread Cookie MixWith Eat More Tea, she makes cooking and baking with tea accessible to the home cook.

And this doesn’t mean simply adding a cup of brewed tea into your soup—this means eating your tea, literally!

Loose leaf tea as a shortbread mix ingredient yields delicious cookies. Think Coconut Green Tea or Orange Blossom Oolong or Chili Chocolate Black Tea. Plus customer faves Lavender and Earl Grey.

Eat More Tea Spice Blend No. 1

Highly aromatic spice blends—made primarily with loose leaf tea—can be used in place of any cooking spice for spectacular results. In fact, judges at the Expo agreed:

World Tea Expo Best New Product award

So does the World Tea Expo make a difference in your life?

Maybe not that you are aware of, but the products that filter into your home may well have gotten their start at the Expo.

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Tea in Early Japan: A Poetic Beginning

I need only write the word and you will picture entire countries and cultures. Consider samovar or Earl Grey.

Or matcha.

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Bamboo matcha scoop and whisk; copper artwork by Kristin Bartlett

Although it’s not clear exactly when the first tea gardens were established in Japan, by the early 800s Japanese poets were extolling the merits of tea.

This “Song of Tea for the Governor of Izumo” by Koreuji was included in an AD 827 anthology of Japanese poems written in Chinese style, and portrays tea culture in the Heian era (AD 794–1185):

Early spring, the branches of the tea plants sprout buds.
We pluck them to make tea.
An old man near the temple loves it as a treasure.
Alone he faces the golden flames and roasts his gems.
Beneath a wood of bare branches limpid waters flow.
He strains it into his silvery vessel.
With finest charcoal the fire soon glows.
The kettle boils in flowery waves.
Like Pan of ancient Shang in China
Blending in the best salt to bring out the flavor,
In essence it is mysterious and pure,
Nothing could excel it.
After roasting the fragrance lingers.
To drink is to be in white clouds, cares vanished.
Like a Taoist mystic one is pure and brisk. (Sen 1998)

The details of tea-making demonstrate the poet’s knowledge, and the writer connects the tea drinker to the natural world and its beauty.

At this time period, only the privileged would have had the time to (1) learn about tea and (2) write about it, so even though the poet enjoys high status like those who would ultimately drink the tea (that is, royalty and priests), he or she serves as a bridge between the growers and workers of the tea gardens and the elite.

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Japanese tea garden; photo by Lisa McDonald

In these verses, we learn that salt was still being added to tea (having evolved from its earlier use in China as more of a soup). We also see that making tea was viewed as a valued ritual—and that drinking tea was seen as an escape from the world.

Although tea was also used as medicine and an alternative to alcohol, its emotional and spiritual and philosophical dimensions were just as, or more, important. It was a balm for sorrow, a release from daily life, a way of renewal.

Coming as it did from China, Chinese culture heavily influenced its perception in Japan. During China’s Tang Dynasty (Ap 618–ca. 906), Japanese students and monks had traveled to China to study. When they returned home, they brought tea—and its attendant philosophy—with them.

As Sen (1998) puts it:

Predominant in the Chinese intellectual tradition was not so much the attempt to create a real world in which one attained one’s desires through one’s own efforts, but the attempt to create within the real world a spiritual realm in which the actualization of one’s own personal desires mattered as little as possible.

And so, in the beginning, Japanese elite and priests drank tea, emulating the Chinese of the Tang Dynasty. The relationship between China and Japan eventually changed, however, and regard for tea seemed to lapse.

But not for long.

A scholar named Eisai (or Yōsai) changed history. After studying in China, he returned to Japan and accomplished a pretty formidable list, all before his death in AD 1215:

  • renewed cultural relations between the two countries
  • introduced Zen Buddhism to Japan (known as Chan in China) and founded the Rinzai sect of Zen
  • brought tea seeds and knowledge of tea production to Japan, and established a tea garden
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Site of an original tea garden in Japan; photo by Lisa McDonald

His book, Kissa Yōjōki, or Drinking Tea for Health, reignited interest in tea (Sen 1998). And although Eisai focused on the medicinal qualities—

with it [tea] one can cure all manner of diseases (Sen 1998)

—tea was now irrevocably entwined with Japanese culture, at least for the elite.

Those lower classes? They didn’t get tea until centuries later, and then, unsurprisingly, it was lower-quality tea.

In the 1600s, German doctor Engelbert Kaempfer wrote a history of Japan, asserting that European style tea “is now so well known to every body, that it is needless to add any thing about it” (Faulkner 2003).

He went on to describe matcha and the grinding of the tea leaves with a hand mill. Mixed with hot water, it was called “thick Tea” and was drunk by “all the rich people and great men in Japan daily”; the “Country people” drank tea that was made “by a perfect boiling, which goes further than a simple infusion” (Faulkner 2003).

Tea had reached everyone in Japan, and along the way, the Japanese had claimed it for their own, developing the tea ceremony (late 1400s–1500s) that

at its most profound, . . . is a quest for spiritual fulfillment through devotion to the making and serving of tea and, by extension, to the humble routine of daily life. (Faulkner 2003)

From its beginnings as a privilege for the elite, the preparation and drinking of tea evolved into a way of reframing one’s most ordinary existence.

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Sources:
–Faulkner, R., editor. Tea: East and West, V&A Publications, London, 2003.
–Sen, S. The Japanese Way of Tea, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, 1998.

Another Reason for the Small & Valuable Ritual of Making Tea

We’ve gotten the royal wedding out of the way, so what now? Summer remains a full month away, and today is a dull, dispiriting day.

It seems that we as a society want—or even need—to have something to look forward to, like Meghan and Harry’s wedding. Sure it’s also a marketing opportunity/ploy (however you want to view it), but there is more involved.

It’s like the weather—a topic that you can remark on to a stranger in the elevator or while standing in line and you have immediate common ground.

daffodils_webIn ethnographic studies, seasonal rounds loom large—because season dictates not only the food availability, the growing and harvesting periods, the hunting activities, and so on, but because season drives many of the traditions and norms of that culture.

And when you think about it, that seasonal round gives people something to anticipate, plan for, look forward to. It can give meaning to their days.

Which is something that we all need, especially if our daily lives have become monotonous or limited or difficult for whatever reason.

But it seems to me that those things we grab on to don’t need to be large or important; if they impart a feeling of anticipation and a sense of accomplishment, they are highly satisfying.

They can be small rituals, personal rituals, part of one’s daily rhythm, our personalized daily round if you would.

Like tea.

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First there’s the selection of the tea itself. Which involves many decisions:

  • hot or iced (which, for me, means entirely different teas and is both weather and season dependent)
  • caffeine or no; the latter will send me to the herbal, fruit, and rooibos teas
  • classic or aroma blend
  • black or oolong or green or white
  • full-bodied or delicate
  • having tea alone or with food
  • having tea alone (such an imprecise language we have) or with friends

teapots-lter-webThe above decisions inform my next choice. Do I want:

  • a heat-resistant glass into which I can pour hot tea over ice cubes
  • a small teapot for multiple brewing of the same leaves
  • a larger teapot
  • porcelain, clay, glass, iron?

The tea dictates the measuring of the tea and the water temperature and the brewing time. All precise things that must be attended to.

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And how do I want to drink the tea? Formal or informal or travel mug? Not to mention where to sip that tea: at the table, on the deck, with a book?

brew_0689Finally, that perfect cup of tea.

It’s a small ritual.

But it’s filled with decisions that you must make, and you find that you can make them, and you feel that you have accomplished something, and in the end, you have made something valuable.

It’s a small ritual.

But just enough to add a bit of meaning and pleasure to my day.

A Royal Tea: Victorian Earl Grey

Having identified suitably royal teapots and teacups, it’s time to pick a tea to enjoy during this weekend’s royal wedding—because I imagine that you, like me, are viewing this wedding from your couch!

Earl Grey, of course, is one of the most “English” of blends, although its namesake and history are a bit murky (see my earlier posts: the origin of the tea’s name and  all about bergamot oil).

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clockwise from top left: Earl Grey Imperior, Earl Grey No. 69, Royal Grey

Still, let’s go with an Earl Grey—but I’m looking at Victorian Earl Grey, because the Victorian period is, of course, the era of an earlier monarch, Queen Victoria.

queen-victoria-webVictoria ruled from 1837 to 1901, the years during which England worked to break China’s monopoly on tea by developing the tea industry in Assam, India. Early harvests were met with enthusiasm, probably due more to political causes than to tea quality.

Nevertheless, in 1838 the queen

prophesied that ‘this Experiment’ would ‘exercise an important influence over the prosperity of the British Empire in the East’ (Rappaport 2017)

Yes indeed.

Fifty years later, the success of Assam had sparked the development of tea gardens in other areas of India, Ceylon, even the United States. In India alone, tea exports grew from around 183 tons in 1853 to well over 35,000 tons by 1885 (IBEF)!

A bit of this success stemmed from new concern about food safety and consumer protection. Tea leaves were sometimes colored during production in China. Robert Fortune (1853) noted that this made the leaves “uniform and pretty,” commanding more money, but he calculated that “in every hundred pounds of coloured green tea consumed in England or America, the consumer actually drinks more than half a pound of Prussian blue and gypsum!” And even after tea reached England, additives (such as other plant material) might make their way into tea, and sometimes already-used tea leaves were dried and sold as new.

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Victorian Earl Grey, by TeaHaus

However, slick advertising coupled with imperialism made a robust case for English-controlled Indian tea, and by the time Edward VII inherited the throne, Indian tea predominated in England’s teacups.

Today, both monarchy and black tea remain woven into English identity. So, in celebration of the coming wedding, I’m brewing Victorian Earl Grey.

This TeaHaus Blend sprinkles rosemary and rose blossoms into the traditional black tea and bergamot oil Earl Grey base.

The pretty petals add a floral note to the heavy bergamot aroma of the tea leaves. I found the brewed tea to have a light citrus aroma, and a liquor that leads with bergamot and then lingers with a slight floral note.

Best served in your most English of teacups!

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Victorian Earl Grey is available at TeaHaus.com.


Sources:
–Fortune, R. Tea Countries of China and the British Tea Plantations in the Himalaya, John Murray, London, 1853.
–India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), “Origin of tea,” https://www.teacoffeespiceofindia.com/tea/tea-origin.
–Rappaport, E., A Thirst for Empire, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2017.

From Drainpipes to Teacups, and the Making of “Royal” Companies

flowers-webWith a royal wedding just around the corner, time to break out the royal tea ware—as in Royal Chelsea, Royal Chintz, and Royal Doulton!

So how royal are these?

Well, although my Royal Doulton teacup and saucer are a fairly recent 1973 according to the makers mark, the Doulton name goes back two hundred years, with the English company’s founding in 1815 by Martha Jones, John Watts, and John Doulton.

Under the name Doulton & Watts, they made inexpensive and decidedly un-royal ceramics, jars, bottles, and the like.

royal-doulton-cup-webTwenty years later, they added partner Henry Doulton and the company

flourished due to Henry’s role in the ‘sanitary revolution’ – pioneering the general use of stoneware drain pipes and water filters to improve living conditions. . . . [and making the company] world-class experts in the field. (Royal Doulton website)

They might have remained specialists primarily in plumbing had it not been for Henry’s friend John Sparkes, who suggested that Henry collaborate with the Lambeth School of Art.

royal-doulton-mark-web.jpgA new product line—decorative stoneware, or Doulton Ware—debuted, receiving many accolades at International Exhibitions in the 1860s–1880s.

And the name “Royal Doulton”?

It actually does refer to the monarchy:

  • first, in 1887, Queen Victoria knighted Henry for advancing the ceramic arts,
  • and then, in 1901, Edward VII granted the company a Royal Warrant, which meant they could use “Royal” as part of their name.

The maker’s mark on my bone china set includes both crown and lion, royal symbols.

Today the Royal Doulton company has multiple product lines, including, fittingly, commemorative figurines of the Royal Family.

So what about Royal Chelsea? 

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royal-chelsea-mark-web.jpgOriginally founded around 1900 by two brothers, R. H. and S. L. Plant, the company took the name New Chelsea Porcelain Co. Ltd in 1912. Specializing in bone china tea and coffee ware, they skillfully used on-glaze enameling in the 1920s.

Around 1943, the name Royal Chelsea showed up on a lot of their products—particularly for the teaware sent to North America (Perry 2010).

Royal? Unlikely.

Marketing ploy? But why add “royal” to teaware destined for the USA during World War II? Was it a way to bolster England’s heritage, their spirit, during a beleaguered time?

And Royal Chintz?

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Chintz may be best known as a multicolored fabric used for curtains and upholstery, and chintz ware was indeed named after the late-17th-century cotton material from India. royal-chintz-mark-web

Chintz china was covered in flowers, as in this gold-trimmed mini pitcher and basin. This set is marked Royal Chintz Arnart 5th Ave and includes a crown image, lending credence to the royal aspect.

But Arnart was a New York import company, not a manufacturer. Founded in 1953, they imported products from Japan, Germany, England, and Taiwan (Marshall).

Royal? Not in the least.

Of my examples, Royal Doulton is the only one with a monarch-sanctioned “royal”!


Sources:
–Perry, M. “New Chelsea Porcelain Co. Ltd,” Pottery Histories, 2010. http://www.potteryhistories.com/newchelsea.html.
–Perry, M. “Royal Doulton,” Pottery Histories, 2011, http://www.potteryhistories.com/doultonhistory.html.
–Marshall, C. S., “Arnot creations/Arnot imports,” Porcelain Marks and More, http://www.porcelainmarksandmore.com/related/usa/newyork-04/index.php.
–Royal Doulton, “The Royal Doulton story,” https://www.royaldoulton.co.uk.
–Wiggins, P., “Collectible English chintz china,” Spruce Crafts, 4/4/17, https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/collectible-english-chintz-china-147948.

A Rare, and Royal, Teapot

With the upcoming nuptials in England, there’s been much speculation about wedding attire and appropriate gifts. Since my invitation was clearly lost in the mail, it seems that the closest I will ever be to the Queen of England is, well, an ocean away.

But I did see the twin of a teapot that she owns!

The Royal Teapot

This fetching teapot and its matching underplate is on this side of that ocean—one of only two known extant such teapots. And yes, the other is in the Queen’s collection.

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So how is it that this is such a rare teapot?

In the early 1700s, Western demand for Chinese porcelain was escalating, with the Dutch East India Company only too happy to comply. Heavy porcelain served as a ship’s ballast— a valuable quality because tea was comparatively light in weight. Plus, the china ware didn’t adversely affect the tea in any way.

Of course, this was mostly about profit—the Dutch needed something for ballast that would also bring in money, and porcelain filled that need admirably.

Still, porcelain was fragile, so the Dutch focused on pieces that were mostly likely to

  1. survive the long sea voyage and
  2. sell!

Therefore, the Dutch requested specific designs that would meet all their needs. Before around 1735, however, their requests weren’t always met, and when the ships reached China, “they simply took what they could” (Maldini 2012).

By the 1740s, the Dutch and Chinese were refining the whole export/import process, and orders from the West were finally commonplace. The Dutch East India Co. wanted durability and stackability while European consumers wanted western motifs and functional modifications. Designers such as Cornelius Pronk (1691–1759) stepped in, making drawings that were sent to China for implementation.

Which brings us back to this teapot:

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Some of its elements are typical of export ware of that time—which was becoming more uniform as Western demand for tea and teapots grew—with its C-shaped handle, fairly straight spout, and teardrop-shaped finial (Mueller 2012).

Its spectacular palmette design, however, is attributed to Pronk, the Dutchman who created designs from 1734 to 1738. He, of course, created what he (or his employer) wanted, undoubtedly without direct input from those who would actually make the item.

It turned out that Pronk’s enamel colors—a lavender plum and subdued yellow—were difficult to make (Mueller 2012), and the design required meticulous freehand work. If errors were made in the rendering, the piece was immediately destroyed.

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Add to those difficulties the fact that this design never really caught on (Mueller, pers. comm.), and the result is that this is an extremely rare teapot.

Fit for a queen.


Sources:
–Mueller, S. M. and R. C. Miller, “The luxury of tea and coffee: Chinese export porcelain from the Shirley M. Mueller collection
,” The Oriental Ceramic Society Newsletter, No. 20, May 2012.
–Maldini, I. “Design history of European tea cups and saucers,” VU University Amsterdam, 2012.

Swayed by the Tea Tin? Yes, It Says Volumes!

Whether modern or antique, tea tins spin a story, evoke a place or an experience, persuade you to buy.

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clipper-tin-webTake this vintage tin, spotted in an old-style general store display.

The clipper ship may not mean a lot to us today, but in the mid-1800s, this American invention was big news!

At the time, several things were going on globally.

First off, the Taiping Rebellion was destabilizing southern China—the region that grew and produced tea. This made tea merchants quite nervous.

Further, shipping at the time was a lengthy affair, with the voyage from the Chinese ports to London taking many months.

Finally, England’s Navigation Acts (enacted in 1651 to restrict trade by the colonies) were repealed in 1849, which opened up more markets to the U.S., spurring competition between the U.S. and England, and ushering in the American-built clipper.

In its ultimate form it [the clipper ship] was a long, slim, graceful vessel with projecting bow and radically streamlined hull, carrying an exceptionally large spread of sail on three tall masts. The emphasis on speed came partly from the desire to bring the first tea of the season back from China, partly from the competition with the overland route across North America to the California goldfields. (Encyclopaedia Britannica) [emphasis added]

The quicker the voyage, the fresher the tea!

Hence the tin promoting “Clipper Ship” tea and all that it implies—from the quality of the tea to state-of-the-art American innovation. Even its colors evoke freshness and movement, with the picturesque clipper cruising along under blue skies and a waving banner.

Contrast that to this Castle Blend Ceylon Tea tin with its ornate, soft, and appealing artwork. castle-blend-tin-web

This vintage tin suggests tradition, royalty, beauty, style. It says absolutely nothing about the tea itself—but says plenty about what this tea might mean to the consumer.

ken-more-gundwd-tin-webFinally, for those who just want tea, this Ken-More Gunpowder retail counter tin is quite no-nonsense.

Yet even here its sleek style, along with gold lettering and accents, suggests quality, elegance even, good taste.

In the end. there is not a product made that does not come freighted with plenty of thought as to just how the customer will perceive it.

And what will induce them to buy it.


Sources:
Encyclopaedia
 Britannica, “Clipper ship,” https://www.britannica.com/technology/clipper-ship, accessed 5/2/18.
–Rappaport, E. A Thirst for Empire, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2017.