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 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!

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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.

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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.

“Storm in a Teacup”?

Yeah, yeah, “don’t judge a book by its cover”—but in reality, that cover and that title are exactly what make us pick up and open said book!

So when confronted with the Irish tea blend “Storm in a Teacup,” well of course I had to pick it up and buy it.

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I expected a rather rousing brew, especially as the package promises “a stormy, spicy herbal blend with a breeze of anise taste.”

The tea itself, a Special House Blend by Cupán Tae in Galway, is a very pretty blend of blackberry leaves, fennel, mullein flowers, balm, aniseed, ribwort leaves, apple bits, rosehip peels, marigold petals, elder flowers, elderberries, peony petals, and peppermint.

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The brew is a dark brick color, with an herbal aroma of fennel and mint.

And the flavor? Mild, muted, definitely not what I’d consider “stormy spicy.” It’s pleasant, with a flavor less fennel-y than the aroma suggests. A bit floral but not like flowers. It’s herbal sweet.

This would be a great tea at bedtime, soothing and calming. But storm? Not so much.

However, storm in a teacup? Well, that’s a different thing.

So What Is a Storm in a Teacup?

This idiom—meaning something that has been exaggerated out of proportion—goes back centuries. Around 52 BC, Roman statesman Cicero wrote Excitabat fluctus in simpulo meaning “He was stirring up billows in a ladle” (The Phrase Finder) or Excitabat enim fluctus in simpulo ut dicitur Gratidius, translated as “For Gratidius raised a tempest in a ladle, as the saying is” (Wikipedia).

Various sources offer differing timelines of the sentiment as used in English. According to The Phrase Finder, the first English version is found in a 1678 letter from the Duke of Ormond to the Earl of Arlington:

“Our skirmish . . .  is but a storm in a cream bowl,”

and the first English “tempest in a teapot” in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, in 1825:

What is the ‘tempest raging o’er the realms of ice’? A tempest in a teapot!

followed a few years later by Catherine Sinclair writing:

“As for your father’s good-humoured jests being ever taken up as a serious affair, it really is like raising a storm in a teacup.” (Modern Accomplishments 1838)

Wikipedia, however, says that Lord Chancellor Thurlow of England used “tempest in a teapot” in the late 1700s, and that the Prime Minister

is credited for popularizing this phrase as characterizing the outbreak of American colonists against the tax on tea.

Irish landscapeAlthough Thurlow was quite wrong about those colonists, this phrase could actually fit the Irish tea blend—trumpeting “storm,” but actually brewing up into a soothing and understated balm.


Sources:
–Martin, G. “The meaning and origin of the expression: tempest in a teapot,” The Phrase Finder, 2018.
–Wikipedia. “Tempest in a teapot,” October 21, 2017.

Herbal Japanese Mulberry Leaves Tea, an Antidote to a Lousy Morning

The weather sucks with the lousy rain turning into heavy wet snow and I have a migraine and my car is making a loud scraping sound whenever I turn left.

Yeah.

I totally get that these are very minor complaints in light of, well, pretty much everything else that’s happening pretty much all around us pretty much every day these days.

Still. Sometimes you just need small pleasures to mitigate the irritations.

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Therefore, I pull out my Japanese Mulberry Leaves.

This herbal tea consists of small pieces of very dark green flat leaves that have lime-colored veins.

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The tisane’s aroma is slightly sweet, subtly grassy, and the infusion is a clear bright lemon color that has a touch of lime.

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The flavor matches the aroma, with unique earthy/grassy and herbal notes. It’s soft and smooth, reminding me of all that’s right with the world.

The Japanese Mulberry and Silk

Growing as a small tree or shrub, the Japanese Mulberry (Moraceae family) is native to Japan’s mountainous areas. For centuries it has been cultivated for its leaves, which are fed to silk worms.

Silk production originated in China, coming to Japan around BC 28. By the Heian period (794–1185 AD), the upper classes wore silk while the rest of the population was relegated to hemp and ramie (JRB Silk Fabrics).

The kimono was the most important Japanese garment. It was worn by fashionable ladies, sometimes as many as twenty kimonos at a time, all made of the thinnest, finest, most transparent silk, giving a rainbow appearance as the coloring of each layer melted into those above and below. (JRB Silk Fabrics)

The hardy mulberry tree handily supported the silk industry, even with repeated harvesting of its leaves.

The Japanese Mulberry and Possible Health Benefits

Further, the mulberry tree’s bark, fruit, leaves, and roots proved useful for more than silk worm food—so much so that “ancient Japanese society held the tree sacred” (Dr. Schar). Its medicinal applications included drinking the tisane made from the leaves.

A famous Japanese medical text oddly entitled, “How to take care of yourself by drinking tea” written by the Japanese Buddist monk Eisai, in 1211 AD, . . . states that mulberry is excellent for the people suffering from thirst. In the contemporary world we know he was referring to the thirst associated with diabetes. (Dr. Schar)

A lot of research on diabetes is currently being conducted with mulberry leaves. For example, one recent study  indicated that 1-Deoxynojirimycin from mulberry leaves lowered blood glucose, triglyceride, and total cholesterol levels of diabetic mice (Diabetes Week 2017).

My Cup of Japanese Mulberry Tea

Regardless whether this tisane has an effect on diabetes, it does have an effect on my mood.

Yes, the weather still is dreary and my car still makes that disconcerting noise, but my migraine is clearing and the tea is delicious.


Sources:
–”The history of silk,” JRB Silk Fabrics, accessed March 1, 2018. http://www.jrbsilks.com/history-of-silk
–”Japanese mulberry,” Dr. Schar, accessed March 1, 2018. http://doctorschar.com/japanese-mulberry-morus-bomcycis
–”Researchers from Hefei University of Technology report new studies and findings in the area of type 2 diabetes (metabolic effect of 1-deoxynojirimycin from mulberry leaves on db/db diabetic mice using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry . . . ),” Diabetes Week, July 17, 2017, p. 84.

Japanese Mulberry Leaves available at TeaHaus.com.

Love-ly Teas for Valentine’s Day

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Chili Chocolate tea, a TeaHaus blend
Poem Launches a New Holiday

Cupids, roses, and chocolate—surprisingly, they have long been associated with Valentine’s Day. Chaucer evidently first linked romance and St. Valentine’s Day—in, fittingly, a poem—back in 1382.

every bird cometh to choose his mate. . . . on seynt Voantynes day

Centuries of romantic words followed, with the Victorians sending gifts and cards adorned with cupids.

chili-brew_1_0366-webChocolate Arrives on the Scene!

Chocolate as a luxury item reached Spain in the 1500s. The Industrial Revolution heralded the way for mass production, finally making chocolate affordable—and encouraging innovators such as Lindt, Nestlé, and Cadbury.

Along with Hearts and Kisses

Cadbury not only came up with “eating chocolates,” but in 1861, inspiration struck and he adorned heart-shaped boxes with cupids and rosebud motifs.

Valentine’s Day as we know it had begun!

Here in the States, Hershey started mass producing his immensely popular chocolate kisses in 1907, and soon afterward the Stovers began marketing chocolates in heart-shaped boxes.

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And Dessert Teas!
o'connor-brew_0382-webToday is the day to indulge in rich chocolate and sweet strawberries—so savor a decadent dessert tea.

After all, what can be better than chocolate and strawberries and tea? (Maybe more chocolate?)

A perfect ending to a meal or for sipping on a chilly winter’s evening, lovely with a friend
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Teas pictured, available at TeaHaus:
top, Chili Chocolate, a TeaHaus blend of black tea, cocoa beans and powder, and chili pepper pieces
middle,
Smooth Strawberry Dream, a blend of honeybush, caramel pieces, and strawberry pieces and leaves
bottom,
O’Connor’s Cream, a blend of black tea and cocoa pieces