Author Archives: el

Oolong tea-tasting

To cheer up an office Monday, we ran a little tea-tasting party with some of the oolongs that naivetea sent.

We tried five from their selection: Rose Violet, Yuzu, Mint, Lavendar and Osmanthus.

Our favourite was the Osmanthus, which everyone agreed was light and very refreshing.  The mint was very powerful.

The tasting was enlivened by the discovery of Fergus-Ray Murray‘s poetry.  Enchantingly, though perhaps somewhat sadly, he notes the song is based on a true story.

the oolong tea song

Oolong tea, Oolong tea
Won’t you please come back to me?
I lost your box six weeks ago,
And now I don’t know where to go
For Oooo-oolong tea

Oolong tea, no other tea
Does quite what you do for me.
I miss your subtle peachiness;
Green tea’s great but you’re the best,
My Oooo-oolong tea

Oolong tea, Oolong tea
Your little leaves I long to see
But I can’t find you anywhere
I keep trying shops and you’re not there
Oh-oooo Oolong
Tea ye, Oolong

Oolong tea.

(based on a true story)


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Filed under Tasting, Tea Reading


I found myself in Midtown New York last year.  It didn’t seem like a promising tea-town, until we stumbled into subtletea, who took the topic seriously.

They had a comprehensive tea-menu, divided into morning, afternoon and evening teas…

and their website lists a whole load more…

I have to admit being a little intimidated by choice, and consulted Tom for his advice.

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Midtown and after a cuppa, head over here.  There’s nice tea, and as well as wifi for the macbookers, they have a range of magazines.  When I was there I found this in one of them:


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More tea-tut for you to enjoy cluttering your home with!  Hurrah!

This time, it’s in the form of a tea towel.  Now, quite how the tea-towel relates to the contemporary cup of tea I can never quite be sure.  Perhaps for mopping spillages, for keeping the pot warm for people remiss enough to misplace the cosy, perhaps for drying those dainty tea cups?  I must admit, my tea-towels are not truly tea-specific.  That is, until yesterday.  This is because yesterday I was lucky enough to be given a Very Lovely new tea-towel.

As you can see, it is indeed Very Lovely.  As such it will only serve genteel tea-specific functions.  If you would like to buy your own, or another from their range of printed goods (their tea Christmas Card looks very handsome) then this link will be helpful.  If you would like to jot down further suggestions for tea-ing up your tea-towels, then I would be delighted to read them.

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Filed under Tea Design

How to judge a mug

A proper tea-set is beautiful, but as I am forgetful the porcelain is always too thin to keep the tea warm for long enough.  I made this nifty flow-chart to aid my mug decision-making.  If you wish you print it out and put it up in your office/home/local branch of whittards please take a snapshot for the blog.

How do you decide how to take your tea?


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el intro

Name: El

Favourite tea:  The first cup of the day.  English Breakfast, with milk, the radio and good company.

Favourite place to drink tea: Either outdoors, in my pyjamas or in the tiled cafe at the  V and A.

Favourite mug: My grandmother had a mug that looked perfectly innocuous but which had a small china frog inside, attached to its base.  You would be merrily sipping your tea and then about halfway down, the frog’s eyes would peek out at you.  If anyone knows where to get another one like this I would be very grateful to find one.  She only used it for special occasions, like when the police came round.


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The Unfortunate Earl Grey

Some tea art here, in this photograph by Bianca Stewart.

Quite suitable for any tea-room, don’t you think?



Filed under Tea Design, Tea Room

Why coffee shop tea is a sorry affair

Elaborate coffee shops have shaped city streets, yet it seems that it’s increasingly hard to find a decent cup of tea when you’re out and about.  Despite the larger chains’ elaborate, snarling coffee machines, they take precious little care over the tea they serve.  Often dispensed as what looks like a bowl of hot water accompanied by a papered tea-bag, a cup of coffee shop tea is a disappointing affair.  These coffee shops market both the mechanised machismo of the gargantuan gaggias and coffee’s conspicuous consumption.

The magic of these coffees is in the boastful bashing of granules, the swirling steam, the oozing milky froth and the visual effect of carrying around an enormous pseudo-personalised, sugared, syruped, synthetic concoction for all to see.  And so, in contrast, tea is constructed as something humble, something unassuming; something sometimes twee or nostalgic, something mundane and austere.  Yet for its simplicity there is an art to making a cup of tea.

A cup of tea is a cliché, a cup of tea is the stiff upper lip.  Chain coffees are milky, infantalising as they ape our first tastes.  Tea is grown-up comfort.  Making a cup of tea for someone is a personal act, not a mechanical one.  Tea cannot be made to another’s taste from an order over the counter.  A cup of tea doesn’t come from some regulated, branded, faux-authentic name and artificial flavours.  Milk and two sugars is about as complex a request as you’re likely to get, so you make tea the way you learned to, rather than how you were taught.  Making tea for someone can be very personal.  Sometimes a cup of tea is all you can do to help, be it a bad day in the office or something much worse.

In a documentary shown after his death, Roald Dahl said that one of the hardest things about his wife’s illness, was the knowledge that there was nobody at home to offer him a cup of tea at the day’s end.

Of course coffee shops can’t get it right.  Tea needs care and thought, not practice and explosive machines.



Filed under Tea Chatter, Tea Room