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).

all 3 dry_low res
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.

Victorian Early 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!


Victorian Earl Grey is available at TeaHaus.com.

–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? 


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?


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”!

–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.


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:


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.


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.

–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.


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.

 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.

Does Your Teacup Matter?

In matters of your teacup, COLOR matters.

If color didn’t matter, marketers wouldn’t be investing research dollars to optimize the color of that kid’s cereal box or the upscale restaurant menu.

Mug by Delores Fortuna (photo used with the artist’s permission)

We are easily swayed by our own perceptions, with a 2014 study showing that a cup’s color influences how people rate the flavor of coffee and hot chocolate.

This is nothing new, however!

Already in the 8th century, Chinese scholar and tea expert Lu Yu had definite opinions about the color of his teacup.

A white vessel? It made green tea appear an undesirable red. Yellow or brown? Made the tea look purple, even worse.

green-gunpwd-webGreen, however, was considered by Yu to be the best option, with its hue “enhanc[ing] the color of the tea in just the way required” (Faulkner 2003).

Color of the vessel is not the only parameter, however. Lighting obviously plays a role, as does the size of the cup.

Using Temple of Heaven China Gunpowder (a green tea), a few different cups, and identical lighting (on my counter next to a window on a cloudy day), the difference is easy to see.

I brewed in a glass beaker, in which the tea color changes slightly depending on if you view the beaker from the side or the top:


Tea hue changed according to the size and depth, as well as color, of the teacup:


So just what color IS my tea?

And more importantly, what expectations do I bring to the cup—before I even taste it—based on what I perceive?

–Faulkner, R. Tea: East and West, V&A Publications, London, 2003.
–Van Doorn, G. H., D. Wuillemin, and C. Spence. “Does the colour of the mug influence the taste of the coffee?” Flavour 3:10, 2014.

Temple of Heaven China Gunpowder is available at TeaHaus.com.

A Teapot to Counteract Gray Skies

When you wake up to this:

it’s like, seriously?-I’m-so-done-with-winter! I mean really, it’s mid-April.

Even the snowdrops—which are supposed to be blooming in the snow—seem to have given up all hope.


Perhaps a cheery cup of tea to brighten the gray, gray, endlessly and persistently gray skies. . . .


Dreaming of sunny tulips and blue skies perhaps?

This vintage Dutch Girl teapot was from Lefton, a porcelain import company that was founded in the U.S. by George Zoltan Lefton in 1941, three years after fleeing Nazi Hungary. The company eventually employed over 400 people and had eighteen showrooms. According to his obituary, George was

known as “The China King” for his work in porcelain imports. . . . [and] developed current practices in the porcelain giftware industry.

A few years after George’s death in 1996, the company was sold.

How my grandmother came to have this teapot I have no clue. She was neither Dutch nor, to my knowledge, a tea drinker.

However, she—like Lefton, an immigrant to the U.S.—may have found this kitschy teapot beguiling with the girl’s slightly wistful, slightly sad, faraway expression.

And perhaps dreaming of something more profound, more significant. That which remains hidden. . . .


Source: Chicago Tribune, “George Zoltan Lefton,” June 2, 1996.

Make Your Own Sparkling Teas

ceylon_crop-webSparkling Teas . . .

are coming soon to your local grocery store, if they haven’t already shown up.

But you can make sparkling tea today—

  • by yourself,
  • with your favorite tea, and
  • with total control of just how much, if any, sugar they contain.

To compare, the new Sanpellegrino + Tea (by Nestlé Waters) contains organic tea extract, real fruit juice, and cane sugar; there are 50 calories per serving (Dobos 2018).

Another sparkling tea called SoMATCHAAH! by Matchaah is also pending. According to its website, the new beverage will contain matcha tea, carbonated water, cane sugar, citric acid, and natural flavors. Although it touts the antioxidant benefits of matcha, again, there’s the cane sugar.

While these teas are undeniably convenient, it’s too bad they contain sugar.

Back in 2015 a study found that:

Consumption of SSB [sugar-sweetened beverages] such as soft drinks . . . was associated with higher type 2 diabetes risk independently of socio-demographic, lifestyle and dietary factors. . . . Our findings suggest that reducing consumption of sweet beverages, in particular soft drinks and sweetened-milk beverages, and promoting drinking water and unsweetened tea or coffee as alternatives may help curb the escalating diabetes epidemic. (O’Connor et al. 2015) [emphasis added]

Further, the study suggests that if water or unsweetened tea or coffee is substituted for just one sugar-sweetened beverage on a daily basis, the diabetes risk evidently decreases by 14–25%, which seems decently significant!


So why not enjoy tea’s health benefits without the added sugar?

TeaHaus suggests a couple of ways to make amazingly refreshing sparkling tea. And depending on the tea used (fruit teas really shine here), you can come up with something similar to lightly flavored sparkling water or a concoction more like a soft drink.

Note: You can add carbonation to any tea. Simply start with concentrated tea and add carbonated water and ice, adjusting the ratios to your personal preference.

Method One

Measure out three times the amount of tea you would normally use. For example, if you are making a 20-ounce glass of iced carbonated tea, use triple the amount of tea and add 6 oz of hot water (use temperature and brew time specified for that particular tea).

Fill a 20-ounce glass about half full with ice.

Pour in the brewed tea and add carbonated water to fill the glass (you can either make your own carbonated water with a carbonation machine or use bottled sparkling water).

Top off with ice.

Note:  If you prefer, add agave or honey while the tea is brewing.

lade_final-webMethod Two

Make a tea-infused syrup and add to any sparkling water (or sparkling wine!—though I suppose that may negate some of the health benefits you are going for, depending on which side of the “wine is good/bad for you” debate you support).

Syrup:  Add 12 grams (about ½ ounce) of tea to 16 ounces of boiling water; allow to infuse for 15 minutes to overnight. Strain and cool completely.

And Enjoy . . .

–Dobos, E. “Budding products: new carbonated teas,” World Tea News, April 9, 2018.
–Matchaah. http://www.matchaah.com/so-matchaah.
–O’Connor, L. et al. “Prospective associations and population impact of sweet beverage intake and type 2 diabetes, and effects of substitutions,” Diabetologia, March 6, 2015.