Good morning and welcome English Breakfast Tea. Grab your cuppa and settle in…
Some take this tea for granted. Writing it off as plain or even boring. Others revere its simplicity and classic black tea taste and will not entertain the idea of drinking anything else. Some enjoy this elixir straight, while others prefer to embellish with cream and sugar. In either scenario, English Breakfast drinkers are loyal to their brew.
What appears to be just a simple black tea, is anything but. Many are unaware that unless it’s a Single Origin black tea, it’s actually a black tea blend – which in general means that different lots of black teas are combined to make what has typically become known as English Breakfast. (Or Irish or Scottish.)
Black tea is purchased at auctions and then blended to fit a specific desired flavor profile. An example of this would be Twinings which tastes the way it does because different teas are blended together to match their brand taste/profile. There is no Twinings tea bush growing somewhere that they pluck from and process. It takes a highly seasoned and experienced tea master to blend and make it taste the exact same way year after year. Tea is a crop after all and subject to environmental changes which affect its flavor.
So what exactly is English Breakfast tea and where did it come from?
Evidently, it all started with Catherine of Braganza – the Portuguese wife of Charles II. (The English have a foreigner to thank for introducing tea and helping it become a staple in the English lifestyle.) Catherine had grown up drinking tea and brought it with her when she made her way to England in 1662. Because of her, it became fashionable for the upper class and royal court to drink tea. Over time tea gradually made its way through class structure “turning it into the class-boundary-busting drink it is today.”
Though it’s not entirely known how tea became the preferred morning drink at breakfast, there are some theories that King Charles successor, Queen Anne (1665-1714), chose to drink tea over ale (aka: beer) with her breakfast. Others soon followed and it became well established as the morning drink of choice by the 18th Century.
What many might find surprising is that English Breakfast Tea wasn’t even “invented” in England. It was first developed by the Scottish Tea Master Drysdale in Edinburg. The original blend was a combination of fine black teas from India and China and included some Keemun which is a full bodied black Chinese tea that is often toasty. He simply called it “Breakfast Tea” – and because Queen Victoria loved “all things Scottish” it immediately became popular. Tea merchants in London used the power of branding and marketing and changed the name to what is now known as ENGLISH Breakfast Tea which is how its most commonly known today.
Most tea companies have a version of English Breakfast which can greatly vary in aroma and taste. Some use heavy China black teas, others a combination of Indian black teas. Ours is a blend of Indian black teas. It’s smooth, classic and is missing the heaviness and “smoke” in the aftertaste common in other blends. We drink it in its natural state without cream and sugar, but it does stand up well to both.
This week we delight in offering our Breakfast Blend for the 3rd week of our Random Acts of (Tea) Kindness Holiday Sale, enter code: RATKBB at Checkout on our website to enjoy 25% OFF our Breakfast Blend.Discount ends on Thursday Dec 21th at 11:59pm.
For our second week of our Random Acts of (Tea) Kindness, we’re featuring Black Vanilla Bean. That old cliche about vanilla being boring is simply, not true.
• Did you know that Vanilla is actually a member of the orchid family? • That it’s origins are native to the Caribbean, and South and Central America? • And that it’s only second to saffron as most expensive spice in the world?
Check out this fabulous and fascinating article written by Nat Geo about the History of Vanilla.
For those of you who lean towards the vanilla/dessert on the tea spectrum, this is your cup of tea. The base is a black tea from Vietnam that is balance, smooth and without smoke. The vanilla bean flavor is rich, real, and righteous. The aroma reminds me of a homemade vanilla cake without the sugary sweetness. Brewed correctly it requires no sugar. Should you desire sugar, a literal dot is the right amount.
Flavored black tea blends can be tricky to balance. Not this one. You won’t find a nicer Vanilla Bean Black Tea anywhere.
To take advantage of our Random Acts of (Tea) Kindness Holiday Sale, enter code: RATKVAN at Checkout on our website to enjoy 20% OFF Black Vanilla Bean Tea!
Welcome to December and the first Friday of the last month of the year. We’re only 8 days out from Thanksgiving and it seemed appropriate to kick things off with Blueberry Rooibos Tisane – given how important blueberries were to settlers from England. Why no one associates blueberries with that American holiday is a mystery to me. Here’s a little blueberry history:
During the 17th century, (when ships landed in the New World) settlers started to colonize and clear land for farming so that they could grow food to survive. Since the New World had a very different terrain (and climate) successful farming was difficult. It wasn’t until 1620, when Wampanoag Indians stepped in and taught the Pilgrims new skills to help them survive. This included planting corn, foraging, gathering native plants and how to find, dry and store blueberries for winter. That mighty berry actually became a critical food source; and a beverage made of blueberries became a major staple during the Civil War.
But blueberries go father back then just the 17th Century. Botanists estimate them to be the oldest living thing on earth: around 13,000 years old. In comparison, according to Chinese legend, the history of tea began in 2737 B.C.E.
If you are a blueberry fan, as I am, you will love this Tisane. (Remember a Tisane is what you call herbs, spices and rooibos – which isn’t actually Tea.) The green and red rooibos base blended with dried blueberries is fantastic hot and also over ice. Its a great tea for children to enjoy or anyone that is sensitive to caffeine. It’s got a desert-like quality to it and a natural sweetness without any added sugar.
Rooibos has so many health benefits which I discussed in past posts, but here is a top 10 List:
Naturally caffeine free–recommended for people suffering from irritability, headaches, insomnia, hypertension, nervous tension and mild depression.
Rich in antioxidants that boost the body’s immune system.
May help slow the ageing process.
Anti-spasmodic, thus relieving stomach cramps
Low in tannins–won’t impair the absorption of iron and protein in the body.
Helpful for the relief of stomach/digestive problems like nausea, heartburn, stomach ulcers and constipation.
Anti-allergic–has a soothing effect on irritated skin when directly applied to the affected area.
Free of oxalic acid; safe for people suffering from kidney stones.
Beneficial in the management of allergies like hay fever, asthma & eczema.
High in minerals, complementing our daily intake of iron, calcium, magnesium & zinc; needed for maintaining a healthy immune system.
If you are new to Rooibos, this blend is a nice introduction. From today, Dec 1 through Dec 7th, please enjoy an added discount on our Blueberry Rooibos by using code: RATK20 at checkout!
A cute cartoon came through my news feed on Facebook from RandomActsofKindness.org. If you aren’t familiar with them, it’s worth checking out. I’ve seen posts from them before, but this one? I loved best. Probably because it shows a cute mini-monk sipping tea with his beloved cat friend–also sipping tea. So happy. So peaceful. So comforting. In one little cartoon.
I’m a huge fan of small things and Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) overall. I’ve seen and experienced first hand what it does for the person on the receiving end – as well as the person initiating the kindness. Always a win-win. I also believe in the Number 1. And that 1 person, 1 thought, 1 step, 1 action can make a big difference. Even just sitting with someone over a simple cup of tea can have tremendous impact.
2017 was a milestone for Pearl Fine Teas. It marked a decade in the world of tea. We just kept going 1 step at a time…. 1 sip at a time… and woke up in July celebrating our 10 year Anniversary. This business has brought a lot of joy from so many people… even strangers (some who have become friends.) There have been many kindnesses bestowed along the way and I hope I’ve been paying it forward under my little 100 sq ft TeaTent each week.
Last year I blogged 25 Days of Tea leading up to Christmas Day. This year starting Friday December 1st and every Friday until Dec 29th, we’ll feature a tea, a holiday discount and offer a weekly Random Act of (Tea) Kindness. We’ll choose someone from our Twitter,Facebook, Instagram or from our E-mail sign up list to receive a free 25gram bag of one of our most popular loose leaf teas.
If you haven’t signed up on our website for specials and news, you can click here. Be sure to follow us on social media – especially on Fridays! And… if you feel inspired to participate in a Random Act of (Tea) Kindness, use the hashtag #PFTeaKindness and tag us so we can see how you are changing lives one small, random act at a time!
Samhain (pronounced: sow-in) We have the Celts to thank for the ancient festival of Samhain – which dates back 2,000 years in the region of the world currently known as the UK (Ireland and Scotland) and northern part of France. Nov 1 officially marked the beginning of their new year, the end of summer and the beginning of winter, which was associated with (human) death. On the night before (Oct 31), they believed that the veil between the living and spirit world was blurred, and that ghosts and the dead returned to earth. They also believed that the presence of spirits helped enhance predictions for the future by Druids and Celtic priests. They built sacred bonfires, wore animal heads and skins as costumes to ward off ghosts and told fortunes.
Fast forward to modern times (The eighth century), when Pope Gregory III declared November 1 All Saints Day (and incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain) known then as All Hallows Eve, and now as Halloween. Over time, it evolved into activities like pumpkin carving and eating mounds of candy collected from tick-or-treating (which probably thrills the makers of Metformin.)
Tasseography / Tasseology Means divination, or reading tea leaves which is derived from the French word tasse (cup), which in turn comes from the Arabic word tassa; And the Greek suffix (graph/ology) which means writing/study of.
Fortune telling is as old as the hills and reading tea leaves can be traced to seventeenth century Western medieval Europe after Dutch merchants returned from China and introduced tea to Europe.
Botanomancy (+ Witches)
Means herb divination. And, according to the Pagan Library, a Witch (derived from the Old English word wicca) “…was a seer, a knower, an averter of evil. The word only took on a negative meaning with the coming of Christianity, which taught that all the gods of the heathen were devils. So anyone who clung to the old ways and the Old Religion was a devil worshipper.”
Witches were/are particularly skilled at both Tasseography and Botanomancy (herb divination). Most will tell you they have and cultivate herb gardens (which inspires them to make magic), and certainly to practice the ancient art of tea leaf reading.
Here are some simple steps to take should you want to try tea leaf reading:
The right teapot is important. Choose one that calls to you and designate that your magical pot. Intention is everything.
Turn the teapot once to the right and then twice to the left.
Steep to the appropriate time, then pour the tea into a teacup. Sip and enjoy.
Once finished, swirl the cup clockwise, then turn the teacup upside down on the saucer.
Examine the leaves and the shapes it has created.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reading tea leaves there are many books, and really cool images on Pinterest about Tasseography, but here is a quick glance at some of the meanings:
• Heart shape: romance
• Two hearts: marriage
• Sword or dagger shape: take care of your health
• Moon shape: change is coming • Snake shape: deception/a strong warning to be careful of someone around you • Bird: a journey is on the horizon
• Cat: someone who is not being honest with you
• Dog: spending time with close friend
• Dot shapes: money is coming
• Star (or horseshoe): great luck
• Triangle: extremely fortuitous/expect great success
• Spilled tea is good luck
• Very strong tea suggests that a new friend is on the horizon
• Top is left off the teapot accidentally it suggests a stranger around you
• It’s Bad luck for more than one person to pour from a pot of tea
• Bubbles on top of teacup – financial luck
• Bubbles near the side of teacup – expect romance
• Sprinkle tea leaves around the house for luck and protection! • Never throw tea leaves away, always share them with your garden: especially roses!
How does one celebrate 10 years in the tea industry, peddling leaves every weekend through rain, sleet, snow, hail, hurricanes, blizzards, heat waves, humidity, wind storms, earthquakes, flying locusts, vampires and alien invasion? Well maybe not the last 3…
First: Let’s get this out of the way: I actually like selling tea at farmers markets on weekends. I love the sense of community, my fellow warriors/small business vendors, my tea obsessed customers, and the fact that I can now carry and open a 70 pound EZ UP tent all by myself and throw it in the TeaMobile with ease. Tea built muscles. Tea brought friends.
Second: The cliche is true when people say things like: “How did 10 years go by so fast?” Or “It feels just like yesterday when…” Both are true for me, especially with regard to making the decision to step into the tea industry. As Frank Sinatra says: I did it my way and chose a different path than most tea businesses. Right or wrong, July 18, 2017 marks the 10 Year Anniversary of Pearl Fine Teas!
Third: I’m often asked this question: “What made you want to start a tea business?” It’s taken me 10 years to truncate the story into a few sentences:
“It’s something that was always nagging at me and I decided that I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and think: I wish I’d tried to do something in tea. So I did it. I figured the worst thing that could happen was nothing, but at least I gave it a shot.”
The long version: It was sometime in late April early May 2007. A late night Google search for “TEA” brought me to a link for a Tea Expo happening in Atlanta. I saw there were classes offered in tea education and on that particular weekend there was Tea 101 and 102. You had to pass Day 1 in order to participate in Day 2. I booked my flight to Atlanta that night and a few weeks later there I was standing in line for Tea 101. As I stood there I actively easvesdropped on a woman I heard telling someone she had just bought an online tea company. My interest peaked, I butted in and asked her about it and then proceeded to sit next to her and grill for her 2 days about how and what she did. Those 2 days turned into over 4 years of tea training with my good friend Barb Tuscon the former own of SBS Teas. She and I took every class together from that day forward. I’m honored to call her my first official tea friend. Barb has since retired and travels the world with her husband Chuck, but I know shes still drinking really good tea!
I left that 2 day Expo, got home, fired up my computer and started Googling Online Tea Businesses for sale. There were two I had active interest in, with the first being well out of my price range with no financials to support the fee. The second one popped up out of nowhere one day. I had to do a double take, reload the page and make sure what I was seeing was correct: Pearl Fine Teas was for sale and it had the cutest logo ever. I contacted the owner and found it out it was located in Canada and the price happened to be just right. A few weeks later, I was the proud owner of Pearl Fine Teas, USA. Boxes of tea were held up at the border control and I remember getting a call from an agent who asked me if what was coming across was illegal. I told him he was welcome to open the boxes and try to smoke anything in there but that the better option was to just steep it. He laughed and the boxes were on there way. Of course they showed up on a weekend when I was out of town and my next door neighbor Bill dragged everyone of them into his own house until I got back. There were many, many, many boxes.
Time frame: From initial thought to actually owning an online tea business took exactly: 2 months. I made sure to sign papers and transfer funds on July 18, 2007 which according to all my calculations was a very good birthday for Pearl Fine Teas.
What came next: Nothing. I had no idea what the heck to do. Friends and family supported me by going to the site and making purchases at Christmas time. I was thrilled! I had made my first $600! The site just sat there, the boxes of tea were piled up in my house and I was still continuing my tea training. By Spring of 2008, my bookkeeper had said that I should consider selling tea at the farmers market where he volunteered in Del Ray, VA. I didn’t think that would be my cup of tea, but he insisted I should try. I brought a small table, a regular umbrella, about 8 teas and started going to market on Saturdays. This was the early days before the DC Metro Farmers Market boom and I believe I was one of the only people selling tea at markets aside from another girl who sold at Eastern Market. (Del Ray Market will always hold a special place in my heart since that was the official kick off of selling teas at markets.) From that point on I just kept moving forward.
Here are some highlights over the past years:
• Speaker on Tea at the Metro Cooking year for 3 years.
• Traveled to Taiwan twice, Japan, and Sri Lanka to make and purchase tea.
• Got to meet Venerable Geshe Tenzin Dhargye at the 2011 Kalachakra in DC who took my gift of tea (Hawaiian Zen) to the Dalai Lama. It was a great honor.
Tea changed my life. In ways I could have never expected. It helped me be a better Creative Director to my existing clients, it helped me understand products, product marketing, consumers, buying trends, and what people see/don’t see while shopping. It expanded my circle and brought people into my life I would have otherwise never met. It has helped me connect with humanity, increased my compassion and it’s brought me fulfillment knowing that I have helped change peoples lives. That’s a legacy I can live with.
So, here I am – 10 years in. Still. Selling. Tea. And still loving tea.
Whats next? We’re celebrating making it 10 years in the tea industry, (in Washington DC) by introducing a new line of teas called: DISTRICT BLENDS!6 tea blends that focus on 6 diverse neighborhoods in the Nations Capital. A new blend will release each month leading up to Christmas. Here is the first:
Who doesn’t love Georgetown? Old historic buildings, small shops, waterfront, jazz clubs, cobblestone streets, the canal and always so many flowers. When I need to feel like I’m in a Europe-like setting, I find my way to Georgetown. To honor its classic charm and loveliness our first blend combines a gorgeous Indian Darjeeling black tea with Italian Oil of Bergamot and is blended together with delicate flowers of pink rose petals, blue cornflowers and yellow calendula. If this neighborhood were a cup of tea it would be Georgetown Grey. You can purchase here.
You’ll have to check back next month to find out what neighborhood blend debuts for August!
A big thank you to everyone who was supportive, helpful, kind, encouraging, and loyal these last 10 years – especially my customers. I’ve gotten to live out one of my dreams: To travel the world for tea. Without all of you, I’d just be drinking tea at home and annoying my friends and family with talk of one day owning a tea company.
I’m excited to see what unfolds over the years to come as Pearl Fine Teas continues to spread TeaLove around the world.
• Did you know that iced tea was first “officially discovered” in 1904 at the World’s Fair, St. Louis? • Or that prohibition and home refrigeration in the 1920s and 1930s helped increase the popularity of tea? • And that approximately 84% of the tea consumed in America is iced?
Welcome to National Iced Tea Month!
The most popular story goes something like this: In 1904 at the World’s Fair, Richard Blechynden, a tea plantation owner was planning to give away free samples of hot tea to visitors. It was so hot in St. Louis that year and no one was interested in hot tea – so he dumped cubes of ice into the drink. The rest is tea history. That said, there is also some information and a story about a Mrs. Tyree and her recipe for iced tea that was published in 1877 (well before the World’s Fair) in Housekeeping in Old Virginia – which is pretty darn cool. (Pun intended.)
In fact, many Americans were already familiar with and drinking iced tea in alcohol based punches as far back as the Colonial days. There is reference to the Philadelphia Fish House Punch from the early 1700s which was diluted with tea. David Wondrich, a liquor historian wrote that the recipe for Regent’s Punch (1815) “…also packed quite the potent wallop: Not only did it call for green tea and arrack, a rum-like liquor from South Asia, it also threw in citrus juice, sugar, champagne, brandy and rum.” That’s a significant difference from how we drink iced tea today.
When Prohibition rolled around and took effect in 1920, nonalcoholic iced teas took off. In 1921, The Spice Mill (a book on coffee and tea industry) wrote: “Since Prohibition has gone into effect, tea has been drunk in places not heretofore thought of.” In order for social clubs, hotels and bars to survive, they looked for substitutes for (hard) liquor sales. Enter the birth of virgin fruit punches and strongly brewed iced teas – both packed with flavor and perfectly legal. The real tipping point arrived with the availability of home refrigeration and freezers which meant that people didn’t have to leave their homes to attend a social club for an iced cold drink.
This brings us to America and its 84%. We stand almost entirely alone (American, Canada, Thailand) in terms of tea culture worldwide in that we are prefer our tea over ice – while the rest of the tea drinking world drinks its tea hot. In countries like China, India, Sri Lanka and Japan, tea is almost always served hot regardless of the season.
Is it because of our early access to ice? Or that Americans were “forced” to drink a strong nonalcoholic beverages during Prohibition? Perhaps! Regardless of the answer, iced tea isn’t going anywhere.
One of the best ways to enjoy real iced tea is to brew it yourself using loose-leaf tea. The quality and taste are far superior than anything you will make from packaged teabags. What I find most interesting and also surprising is how many people ask me HOW to make iced tea. I get this question almost weekly at markets. It’s really quite easy and takes little effort.
There are 2 ways to make iced tea: traditional hot brew method and cold brew. I’ve made both. My personal preference is to hot brew black teas and cold brew green teas.
For Hot Brew: The proportion I use is roughly 1 oz of loose-leaf tea to 1 gallon of water. I use boiling water for black teas, herbal and rooibos. With any herbal infusion or rooibos you can brew the leaves as long as you like without risking bitterness because there is no Camellia Sinensis (tea) in herbal infusions. You could walk away from rooibos (or herbals) for hours and return to perfectly brewed tea. It’s not the same for black teas. Time matters or you end up with a very strong, sometimes bitter brew. Most iced teas in restaurants are often brewed too long, and I believe it’s why so many people resort to sugar in their tea. Quality tea made correctly requires no sugar!
For Cold Brew: As mentioned I like greens (and oolongs) brewed cold. The ratio is slightly different in that you need more leaf to water. My preference is 1.5 oz of tea leaves to 1 gallon of ice/water placed in the fridge over night. When you wake up: Iced Tea! Depending on the tea, I might even use 2 oz of tea leaves to 1 gallon of water. What’s great about this method particularly for green tea, is that there is little to no astringency or bitterness. Some research even suggests that the caffeine level is lower and the anti-oxidants are higher with this method.
Our summer iced tea menu at our local farmer’s markets rotates between these 6 flavors:
For those of you that follow Pearl Fine Teas around the DC Metro area, or are one of our online customers, I’m offering 15% OFF these 6 teas for the rest of June during National Iced Tea Month.Enter code: ICE15at checkout to receive your discount!
Only blog readers will have access to this code which expires at midnight on June 30th! Grab some leaves and brew over ice!