Wednesday, 30 November 2011

tea therpy

by Lisa Cordaro•18th February 2011 
Recently I had an interesting conversation with fellow ‘tea moggies’ about this delightful national institution and how much we underestimate the role that it plays in people’s daily lives. The British are utterly obsessed with it, and those who observe this culture cannot help but find themselves enthused by a happy shared ritual of teapot to cup that extends not only from Lands End to John O’Groats, but all around the world. I have a friend living in North Carolina, for example, and despite her deeply traditional Southern roots – and the standard American obsession with coffee – she is mad for all things Anglophile, in particular a fine pot of tea. On her last visit to the UK I took her and her young son to Fortnum & Mason in London ( and, departing on an Assam high, full of finger sandwiches, scones and a positively indecent amount of cake, it was pretty safe to conclude that the afternoon had gone down extremely well.

Connoisseurs view the drink in much the same way they would sample fine wines, and rightly so. Indeed, this lovely little leaf has much to offer, by association as much as anything else. In my own experience, it has accompanied both joyful news and offerings of sympathy, a hard day’s work and relaxing evenings. It has brought much-needed refreshment in the morning and sheer, unadulterated indulgence, with a glass of pink champagne and exquisite patisserie, in the afternoon. In short, its presence has been constant, yet not assumed.

I’m a huge fan of African tea. You can keep your Lapsang Souchongs, Rose Pouchongs and those pretentious, overpriced beverages from trendy tea houses that open up like a flower when you pour hot water over them. This is not where it’s at for me.

My favourite black tea is Ntingwe Kwazulu, which is grown on a small estate in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa: it’s a golden brew that tastes soft yet robust and makes for a satisfying everyday tea. It’s a bit hard to get hold of, as ordinary tea and coffee stores tend not to stock it, but thankfully Taylors of Harrogate ( purveys it online. When I’m in the Cotswolds I get my supplies from Tisanes Teas in Broadway, Worcestershire ( It is a fabulous little gem of a shop with an excellent tea room next door, which in 2010 won the Tea Guild’s Award of Excellence for the third year running – and quite frankly what Barrie, the proprietor, doesn’t know about tea or coffee really isn’t worth knowing.

Tisanes also stocks a special Ceylon BOP that is large-leafed, clear on the palate and very refreshing: it’s the tea I always turn to when I desire a treat. My next favourite is Rwanda-Burundi, a beautiful, rich tea that packs a punch – definitely one to pick you up on a dull afternoon. However, being under orders to watch caffeine intake (as every healthy person should), my mainstay is a good organic rooibos by Tick Tock ( or Dragonfly (, especially Earl Grey or vanilla.

The wonderful thing about tea is that it gives an opportunity to learn about different cultures. The "Way of Tea" is an integral part of Japanese life, and its highly methodical preparation is a zen experience in itself. Tea has even helped me to learn more about eastern etiquette. A friend of Hong Kong Chinese heritage told me some years back that when dining out, if your pot of green tea is empty, you simply lift the lid and perch it on its side: this is a signal to the waiter that you require a refill. The reason for this is that to interrupt your conversation to speak to the waiter is considered disrespectful to your guests, so this little sign has not only practical purpose but behavioural significance.

To conclude, allow me to direct you to this charming short film from 1941.  

But before you settle down to watch it, put the kettle on, make a brew and enjoy the finest drink known to man. Pip pip!

A little tea therapy time.

from the foodie bugle reporters

The Canary Lunch and Tea Room
by The Foodie Bugle Reporters•14th November 2011

Catherine Stokes's vintage china fills the shelves at The Canary in Bath.

Leave the bustling centre of Milsom Street behind you and enter quiet, cobbled Queen Street of Bath. A more appropriate name could not be found for this quintessentially elegant and salubrious backwater of a city where really good, authentic tea rooms are in short supply. At numbers 2 and 3 there is a veritable institution: The Canary.

Presumed to have been owned by the same family between 1951 and 1998, an acrimonious divorce between the owners brought the “closed” sign down for the very last time on what was once Bath’s most popular and iconic tea room.

In the ensuing years two restaurants came and went, both languishing and, ultimately, failing in this locality. Then, in 2011, Peter Meacock and his sons Tom and Rowan bought the building as an investment opportunity.

“We saw the street and we really liked it. We live in the apartment above the tea room, and when we moved in we started hearing stories from all the local families about what a very special place this Canary tea room used to be. So we decided that we would renovate the building and re-open it, under the same name, in August this year,” Peter told me.

The three men wanted to keep the relaxed café feel, an homage to the 1950’s and 1960’s eras that are so popular with today’s interior designers and trend setters. The wooden tables are covered with PVC coated royal blue tablecloths, the chairs are covered with bright cobalt and yellow Sanderson’s velvet and the Menu is very much focussed on the sort of old-fashioned food that was eaten way back then.

Chef Alex Barjstatt, whom Peter used to know from the days when he owned the Severn Shed restaurant and Alex used to work at Harvey’s in Bristol, is busy in the kitchen in the basement. I am offered tastings of really delicious lamb shank shepherd’s pie, confit of duck leg, a soft scotch egg and a classic Caesar salad. “We really wanted to choose comforting, warming, seasonal dishes that people could relate to easily. We also do a very good value Sunday lunch with all the trimmings: it’s an old café style menu for families,” Tom explained.

But it is also the cakes for which The Canary is earning its share of fame since its doors re-opened. Tom is an avid baker, and although a builder by trade, he would much rather be in the kitchen baking and creating new recipes. Pear and Nutella; lemon, lime and mixed berr; pineapple, coconut and cherry and chocolate honeycomb and fudge ganache are just some of today’s offerings. Cakes are presented right in front of the counter, so that as soon as you enter through the door you are welcomed by an array of sweet, tantalising treats. As a sales strategy it works, and I fall right into the trap. A big slice of berry cake is in front of me with my pot of tea.

All the loose teas have been specially chosen from Gillards of Bath from the Guildhall Market. There is also a bespoke Canary “Breakfast Blend” (Assam and Darjeeling teas) and “Afternoon Blend” (Indian and Ceylon teas). The Canary also serves Prohibition Teas, otherwise known as gin and tonic or wine, in the evenings. There is also a choice of Champagnes, Prosecco, Gem amber ale, Wild Hare pale ale or Bounders traditional cider. The Canary is open from 9am till 9 pm, and vicinity to Charlotte Street Car Park must surely also be key to their success, in a city where finding a parking space for more than half an hour is harder than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Peter sourced most of the china for the tea room from vintage expert Catherine Stokes, whose business Mrs. Stokes Vintage China is also based in Bath. She organises an online china shop, a china hire service, a stall in Bath’s Union Street, vintage and artisan fairs and The Secret Tea Party events. Her brief for The Canary was to source bright, graphic, geometric blue and yellow pieces of china that would reflect the theme and the colour scheme of the tea room. There are very few floral themes on any of the china because during the 50’s and 60’s there was a turning away from Victoriana and chintz.

The success of The Canary is evident: tables are full, staff are busy, the clatter of cups and plates fills the air and Peter and Tom are delighted with the life-changing decision they made.

“So many people have come in to tell us how glad they are that the tea room is back and busy. There are so many families in Bath that have lived here for generations, and to have somewhere informal, friendly and tucked away in a quiet, familiar corner is really important and special. Many of the businesses around us have been here a very long time indeed. This is that sort of town,” Peter explains.

In the old Canary young men proposed to their sweethearts, mothers came with their children after school, families met for lunch and office workers came for their morning pot of tea. And so it is now: a new generation can enjoy this quirky and unique eaterie. Take time to savour all the design details, the art work and presentation. A great deal of thought has gone into its creation and below the stairs is a very talented and hard working chef.

Contact Details

The Canary website:

Follow the team on Twitter: @thecanary

Catherine Stokes:

Follow Catherine on Twitter: @mrsstokeschina

The front counter.

Art on the walls.

One of the tea rooms.

Catherine Stokes (centre) and Tom Meacock (right).

Tea is served.

more from the foodie bugle

Canton Tea Co. by Steven Pierce•15th September 2011

Jennifer Wood is on a mission. Her company, Canton Tea Co, imports fine, whole leaf Chinese teas into the UK, and Jennifer wants to significantly improve the quality of the daily cuppas that keep millions of Britons going every day. “The tea bag industry is a horrific, mass produced, low paid operation,” she states with both conviction and disdain. “Think of how much you’re paying for your tea bags, then imagine how much the picker is getting paid.”

We’re sitting in the rain-pelted conservatory cafe at Petersham Nurseries, in Richmond. Jennifer supplies the cafe with its tea and runs regular tea tasting workshops there. At Teaviews, an influential tea website, Canton Tea Co is ranked as the second best tea company in the world. As we sip her beautifully delicate Silver Needle tea, Jennifer continues her enthusiastic critique of the humble tea bag.

“The tea itself is low grade,” says Jennifer. “It doesn’t rely on two seasons, as does Chinese tea. Lower grade tea from India flushes all year round so it doesn’t have the same sort of flavour, which is why it’s fully oxidised and made black. It’s completely crumpled and crushed and then chopped to hell, mashed to pieces and stuffed as dust into tea bags. This is the stuff that used to be dug back into the soil and used as fertiliser.

“You also have the environmental impact of producing all those tea bags,” she continues. “They’re just not necessary. As soon as you have a teapot that separates the tea from the leaves, there’s no need to have a tea bag. All of the chemicals that go into producing them, and the waste involved, are absurd. If people didn’t have tea bags and had to drink what was inside them, they wouldn’t stand for it for a second. The only reason they drink that stuff is because it’s quick and easy.”

Jennifer is softly spoken but her voice brims with passion when she talks about tea; it’s difficult to resist being captivated by her arguments for drinking a better quality product. So how did she come to start Canton Tea Co, and thus her challenge to bring better tea to the people? “I first got into tea about 20 years ago,” she recalls. “Barney, my partner, travelled a lot to the Far East and brought back an extraordinary green tea, which I loved. I was a writer for The Body Shop and had no intention of starting my own business.

“Then I went freelance and was involved in the branding of various companies, and it struck me that most of them were about the brand and very little about the fundamental quality of the product. If it’s all about the product then the rest will follow. Having worked with Anita Roddick (human rights activist, environmental campaigner and founder of The Body Shop) for ten years, the idea of the story behind the product rubbed off on me. When I was at The Body Shop, I was writing about women’s cooperatives in Africa. The more copywriting I did with design groups, the more “empty” the product became. It seemed like the best way to start a business was to start with the very best product.”

Jennifer started the company in 2007. Canton Tea Co buys all its teas directly from the growers, so there are no wholesalers involved. As such, Jennifer required the expertise of a buyer who knew everything there is to know about buying tea in China. That person was Sebastien Leseine. “Sebastien has got a fantastic reputation in the tea world”, explains Jennifer. “He didn’t want to be associated with us until we’d proved that we weren’t going to screw his reputation by getting inferior tea. He’s a shareholder in the company now. He’s our exclusive ace in the hole.

“All the very serious tea bloggers in America know about Sebastien, and they know that when they buy from Canton Tea Co, the tea is going to be what we say it is. Sebastien is a completely passionate and dedicated Frenchman in the way that only Frenchmen can be. The intrinsic flavour of every tea is so important to him.”

Over the last few years, many new artisan tea companies have appeared in the UK. I asked Jennifer what makes Canton Tea Co different to its competitors. “Sebastien goes to the artisan tea farms and buys the tea for us. That’s really our point of difference,” says Jennifer. “Absolutely key to the business is that we have this spectacular access to the really, really good tea farms. Very few companies have a buyer with the experience of Sebastien, who lives in China permanently. If there’s any inclement weather that means that the bushes aren’t flushing at the right time, he can go around the mountain to where the quality and flavour are better. People who really appreciate tea understand the difference.

“There are other tea companies, but it would be very hard for them to maintain the quality of every single tea in the way that we do. The authenticity and provenance of our teas is absolutely crucial and is what sets us apart. There are a lot of unscrupulous farmers who use chemicals to increase their yields as much as possible, so it’s crucial to know who you can trust. In China, that’s everything. They can fake any tea. You need to know exactly how they’re produced.”

As well as Sebastien, Jennifer relies on the expertise of Master Chen. “He’s an old Chinese tea master,” says Jennifer. “He’s the fifth generation tea master in his family; his family has been working in the tea trade since the mid-1800s. He still spends every Friday in the tea house with Sebastian. They taste hundreds of different teas, they talk about them and then they decide which ones they’re going to buy. Master Chen claims to be able to tell from taste alone whether it rained on the day that a tea was picked.”

As well as the quality of the tea itself, Jennifer prides herself on the relationship between Canton Tea Co and its suppliers. “With the best teas, we have no bargaining chip, because it’s all sold immediately on the domestic market,” she explains. “We’re privileged and lucky to get our hands on it. It doesn’t come cheap. Every single one of the buds is picked by hand. It shouldn’t be cheap. It’s a very skilled job and we’re not using prisoners or children. It’s not a big, industrialised farm soaked in chemicals. They’re small, mostly hill top farms run by generations of the same family, and processed in the most beautiful, quiet environments.”

I asked Jennifer why she focuses on Chinese tea. “The Chinese have been drinking tea for 4,000 years so they know what they’re doing,” she points out. “The Japanese have been drinking it for much less than that, and the Indians for only 200 years since the British set up plantations there and in Sri Lanka. All of the expertise is in China and it has the very best tea. There’s so much tea in China that we don’t need to go anywhere else. You couldn’t possibly explore every Chinese tea in a lifetime.

“The Chinese are so proud of tea, and tea is a cultural entity in China. It’s spiritual and full of myth and legend. They take time over tea, not just the processing but the drinking, too. Young people in China still spend more on tea than they do on alcohol.”

It should come as no surprise that Jennifer is something of an expert on Chinese tea. “I’m often asked the difference between a white tea and a green tea,” she says. “It’s mostly about how it’s processed after it’s picked, and the skill of the tea farmer. There is an element to do with whether it’s from the leaf or the bud. White tea is slightly oxidised. The cell walls in the tea leaves are broken down, which releases an enzyme that causes slight decomposition. The buds are unpicked before they open. They will undergo some oxidisation before they’re dried. Green tea is completely unoxidised.

“Tea is similar to wine; there is so much that you can know about the processing, growing, the terroir and how they affect the flavour. There are four to five thousand varieties of tea bush, which all originate from one Chinese species. But within that, there are thousands of varietals that give slightly different teas.”

I’ve never been much of a tea drinker, so Jennifer gives me a crash course in how to make and taste tea. “White tea should be made pretty cool, at about 80 degrees,” she points out. “That way, the leaves aren’t shocked and all the mellow flavours come through. Let it sit for two to three minutes. You don’t want to leave it over-steeping; if the water’s too hot, it can over-steep very quickly.

“The temperature of the water is a crucial point about the brewing. It needs to be well off the boil for white and green teas. It can get slightly hotter going towards the Oolongs and the blacks. When you get to the Puerh, which is a compressed tea, you can use boiling water. It should be poured equally among the teacups, rather than pouring one teacup then another, so that everyone gets the same level of infusion. My colleague, Edgar, uses the same lump of Puerh for the whole day and he has 30-50 infusions. It just gets better and better with each infusion.

“Some people, at the beginning, need a prescriptive dialogue, which is why we have to give guidelines on how much tea to use, how long to steep it, what temperature the water should be and how many times you can infuse the leaves. Frankly, you just use those as guidelines.”

I now have a basic understanding of how to brew tea, and am surprised to learn that good Chinese tea can be infused more than once. In China, the first infusion is often discarded, along with much of the caffeine. The second and third infusions are considered the best, and the lengths of the infusions determine the flavour and the feel in the mouth of each.

Jennifer now teaches me how to taste tea. Unlike wine tasters, she doesn’t spit out her tea, but she shows me how to draw air into my mouth at the same time as the tea, then allow the air to ripple over the surface of the tea as I swallow it. Such a method might sound pretentious, but I’m surprised by how much it enhances and clarifies the flavours of the tea.

I ask Jennifer about her plans for the rest of the year. She says she hopes to improve her distribution in America; Canton Tea Co products are already available in the US, and Jennifer points out that Americans are more open-minded to the prospect of fine tea when compared with people in England. This won’t be the case for long if Jennifer’s mission is successful. “This is a revolution in tea drinking,” she declares.

Contact Details


Follow Canton Tea Co. on Twitter: @cantontea

Puerh tea taster pack. All photography Copyright Canton tea Company (

Tin tea caddy.

White tea taster pack.

Green tea taster pack.

Flowering tea gift box.

Flowering tea infusion.

tea in foodie bugle

The Tea Appreciation Society
by Rachel Wilson Couch•14th November 2011
My first encounter with Shayne House involved retro wooden surf boards on Crantock beach near Newquay. My second, a series of Twitter messages involving croissants, cakes and a smattering of French and the third, luncheon at Relish, Wadebridge, owned by the UK’s 2008 Barista champion, Hugo Hercod. I say luncheon, but it was actually more a caffeine sandwich: tea and food followed by coffee.

Shayne has been hot on the brew of one of the world’s most ancient beverages since he co-founded the Tea Appreciation Society in 2007 with designer Stephen Nelson. The raisons d’être of the cause are noble and brave indeed: they draw on the 1909 manifesto of The Futurists: flip it on its head and in doing so, destroy it.

Where The Futurists “hurl defiance to the stars” in the poetry of aggression, machines and danger, the Tea Appreciation Society calmly advocates that “beauty exists only in considered brewing” and that “the splendour of the world has been enriched by an old beauty: the beauty of tea.” Where there was speed, there is serenity, where there was feverish insomnia only slumber and where there was darkness, only loose leaf tea.

The philosophy is simple and ancient. We all do it. In a moment of crisis, indecision, togetherness, tea is a distraction, a comfort and a prop. For Shayne, there is “a correlation between drinking tea and being creative.” Have you got work to do? Make yourself a nice cup of tea. This is a statement that is testament indeed to his own prolific, creative output, ranging from film making to photography, writing to surfing, illustrating to music. But he goes still deeper into the leaves and into spirituality. “It’s all about taking time out. Years ago, while I was reading the Tao Te Ching (the Chinese text on the philosophy of Taoism), I realised that the tea in my hand was more than just quenching my thirst. Tea drinking is actually one of humanity’s most noble practices. It transcends borders and nationalities.”

Talk turns to our own local tea estate, Tregothnan, known as the “miracle tea” by the estate’s Japanese distributor. Less than a decade ago, witnessing the success of plants native to Darjeeling growing in the grounds, such as magnolia campbellii, garden director Jonathon Jones planted tea bushes. The estate now sells its single-estate tea for an impressive £1,500 a kilogram and generates just over a million pounds worth of tea every year, exporting to Japan and China, as well as supplying Claridge’s and Fortnum and Mason.

“Tea is like fine wine, “Shayne explains, “there are so many flavours that people aren’t aware of.” And with the growing interest in high-end tea, it seems the market for tea leaves is going the same way as that of gourmet coffee. According to the supermarket Waitrose, specialist teas such as Earl Grey and Darjeeling have seen a surge in popularity year on year, indicating increased consumer concern with flavour and quality.

As further proof of the positive relationship between tea and creativity, Shayne is in the middle of writing a book all about tea. This charming and informative book not only reflects the growth in premium teas, but details the pleasure and preparation of the nation’s favourite drink and showcases 50 of the world’s ‘drink-before-you-die’ teas.

Shayne explains that the original Book Of Tea was written by Kakuzo Okakura in 1901, to which his own pays homage. The opening chapter of the original, A Cup Of Humanity, delightfully describes how tea entered China in the eighth century “as one of the polite amusements.” The Japanese then elevated it into “a religion of aestheticism” out of which came teaism: “a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence.”

And that is exactly what Shayne and Stephen aim to do – draw on the heady mix of the spiritual, the historical and the cultural properties of tea over history, analysing the ordinary, the extraordinary and the exceptional in the sector. These elements are all distilled in a website, which brings to readers all things tea-related. There is also a cult tea-shirt ‘I Heart Tea’ whose logo was donated to the eco-clothing company Howies for a limited print run, on the basis that 20% of all sales were donated to David and Claire Hieatt, co-founders of the motivational ‘Do Lectures’ in Wales (

Shayne does confess to one unforgiveable sin in tea circles. When I ask him what his first cup of the morning is he replies: “My first cup is coffee, I need it to kick start me. It’s my dirty secret I’m afraid.” The disciples of caffeine are fickle it would seem. He goes on however, “After that it’s cups of tea all the way. I like a cup of Yorkshire tea, probably the only tea worth drinking in a teabag, the rest of the time it has to be loose leaf tea. I’ve a particular penchant for Oolong and Darjeeling teas. I don’t do milk though, not ever.” Only a purist would advocate no milk. All is forgiven.

Contact Details

Shayne House's website:

Shayne’s copywriting, photography and film services:

Follow Shayne on Twitter: @TeaAppreciation

Shayne House, co-founder of the Tea Appreciation Society.

Push Button For Tea

Carlton Jefferis spotted this tea crossing in Bristol and tweeted a picture asking: “Is this Banksy at work again? Genius!”

We hope so!

drink of champions

100% Organic Cotton Tea-Shirt. Whether stepping down to the sand of your local beach, cruising a sidewalk in New York, running the boulevard in Paris, strutting the night away on the dance floor or hot footing it through the airport in Sydney (Yeah I'm late!! But look how great I look!!). This Drink of Champions Tea-Shirt is MUST for any conscientious fashionista. (It'd even be lovely to wear whilst curled up on the sofa with a nice cup of tea to be honest!!!)

W & G tea


Legendary cookery writer and baker, Mary Berry, baked up a treat this week when she was joined by Aardman’s popular characters Wallace & Gromit for a cup of tea and slice of cake.

The ‘Great British Bake Off’ television series judge welcomed the famous duo into her home for a celebratory tea party to launch annual fundraiser ‘Wallace & Gromit’s Great British Tea Party’, which takes place from 1 – 10 December.

In support of the award-winning fundraiser, Mary Berry is encouraging people to get baking for charity and host their own Great British Tea Party: “This is a wonderful way for family, friends and work colleagues to get together for a traditional teatime celebration that raises money for a really important cause. It’s so easy to join in the fun, simply bake your favourite cakes, put the kettle on and enjoy. You could even rise to the occasion and organise your own Bake Off!” she said.

Nick Park, creator of Wallace & Gromit and trustee of the Children’s Foundation, added: “A quintessentially British tea party is just my cup of tea and a great way to help sick and terminally ill children in the UK.”

Organised by national charity, Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation, this year’s Great British Tea Party aims to raise over £150,000 for sick children in hospitals and hospices across the UK.

The fundraising event is kindly supported by Yorkshire Tea. Kevin Sinfield, Brand Manager at Yorkshire Tea, said: “Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation do fantastic work to help raise funds for children in hospitals and hospices across the UK. The Great British Tea Party is at the heart of the fundraising activity and we are proud to sponsor the event for a fourth consecutive year. We have lots of exciting plans for this year so we encourage everyone to register and join in the fun!”

In the UK we get through a staggering 16.5 million cups of tea a day, an average of three cups each.

Since 2003 over 400,000 people have taken part in the Great British Tea party, helping children in over 25 children’s hospitals and hospices across the UK.

To find out more and register to take part, call 0845 600 1924 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 0845 600 1924 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit

Saturday, 19 November 2011

museum tomro

Unity Tea bowl
Enlarge Picture

Location : Swansea,Wales
Alt Location : 
Creator / Holder : Cambrian Pottery
Museum No. : SWASM: SM1939.14.1
Composition : Earthenware
Height (cm) : 6.2
Width (cm) : 9.3 (diam.)

Unity Tea bowl
Theme : Industry
The pattern on this earthenware tea bowl (which is paired with a tea dish or saucer) is an early example of 'Chinoiserie' or 'Chinese taste' produced by the Cambrian Pottery, and similar in style to the Swansea Willow pattern it produced in later years. The bowl was manufactured specifically for an old Newquay pilchard fishing company by the name of The Newquay Unity Company, hence the oval reserve in the pattern which incorporates both an illustration of a pilchard and the word 'Unity'. The Cambrian produced such wares for the Newquay Unity Company and other local firms, and used a variety of oriental patterns in their designs. The tea bowl, along with other similar wares produced, is decorated with a transfer printed underglaze in blue.
This Item is located at Swansea Museum in the China Gallery 

Best function on my teas maid

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Been in the forge a bit last week, this is my first spoon

Wednesday, 2 November 2011