“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 dont think Buffy is alone, I find many tea drinkers who visit our Carriagehouse Tea Room at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens do not know what a tea cozy is, or they may have heard about them but never seen or used one!  They are a very simple yet amazing invention to keep your tea warm in the POT.

It would seem their popularity has waned since the invention of the tea bag which in turn meant less 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 history of the tea cozy is not too well documented, though It seems unlikely to me that they were used when teapots first originated as the pots were small and tea was very expensive.  When William Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister in 1783 at the tender age of 24, he passed the Commutation Act which lowered the tax on tea, making tea more affordable and no doubt, the teapots bigger!

Anna Duchess of Bedford, who is credited with inventing afternoon tea, would have needed a tea cozy to keep her tea warm while exchanging news and gossip of the day.  A cold pot of tea would have cut the party short.  There are many antique tea cozys from this era with elaborate brocade, silk fabrics and intricate embroidery skills.

The tea cozy was used in North America in the same period. The Philadelphia Inquirer noted in October of 1892 that the tea cozy enjoyed a ‘sudden and unexpected rise in public favor’ among women who hosted tea parties.

The cozy flourished during the late 19th century appearing in many households but became less elaborate in time. There is an old tea tale which tells of a farmer who inadvertanly threw his wollen hat over the teapot returning much later to find his tea was still warm. Thus creating the first knitted tea cozy!

During my childhood in Yorkshire, we always had a tea cozy on our pot (even though many times the teapot sat on the hearth in front of the fire). We had an assortment of different designs as my mum was good at needlework and knitting but the ones with bobbles were always the most memorable, especially when many colors of wool were incorporated as shown in this picture. 

At Local Coffee + Tea, we have our very own tea cozy maker.  Janie Childers is a ‘Local’ and makes a variety of tea cozy with beautiful insulated fabrics to keep your tea nice and warm. Jane’s tea cozy is also wipe-able in case of spills. We have lovely spring designs which coordinate with many different teapots and 2 sizes to fit most teapots.

I have one that Janie made and also a knitted one that my Aunty Dinah made and wouldn’t be without them, they are truly part and parcel of having a good pot of tea. If you haven’t yet discovered the tea cozy, waste no more time, you will wonder how on earth you managed without one!

Also, we are now on Pinterest and have created a board for Tea Cozies.  Please pin your favorite Tea Cozy pictures or ‘like’ or comment on the tea cozy pictures we have pinned on our board.

Cheers,

The TeaLady

November 5th is the perfect time to talk about our Pinhead Gunpowder.  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, but do you know what Guy Fawkes was notorious for besides drinking Yorkshire tea?

Guy Fawkes

“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, but 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 open air fires or 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 the intent of Mr. Fawkes.

Pinhead Gunpowder

And so to our pinhead gunpowder, a classic green tea from Zhejiang province in China, made from leaves rolled into small pellets which look like actual gunpowder.  It never ceases to amaze me how many people visiting the Carriagehouse Tea Room at Selby Gardens 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 the month of 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, then steamed, rolled and dried.  Although the individual leaves were formerly rolled by hand, today most gunpowder tea is rolled by machines, though 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 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 slight smokey finish.  I have enjoyed Pinhead staright up, infusing multiple times but it can be brewed very succesfully with both ginger or mint and used as an iced tea.

I hope you enjoyed the gunpowder plot and please do enjoy many infusions of this classic tea.

Cheers,

the TeaLady

Grahame and I have just come back from England and 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 go have another cuppa’.

Our first tea outing was planned ahead and it was actually a sunny afternoon when we arrived in the city of ELY.(SE 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 simply too much 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 had a debate about 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 never really thought about changing the habit of a lifetime of scone eating, but it totally changed the taste experience and I loved it.  Grahame really enjoyed too!  Let us know which way you like your scone.  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.

How do you like your scones? Jam or cream 1st?

This holiday was our second of the summer, we visited northern Michigan in the Spring and here is a link to my earlier post.

Cheers,

the TeaLady

 

A favourite book of mine offers an interesting quote or excerpt about tea, and I would like to 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!

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!”  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 a earlier post about Yorkshire.  Please share your comments and take time for tea.

Cheers,

the Tealady

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.  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 which 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.

Anyway, 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, which was the standard size for a tea container. 

We meet such nice people when talk tea.  Great stories and legends are exchanged, and memories evoked when we talk about this amazing drink called TEA.