Posts filed under About tea

Afternoon tea during the Downton Abbey times

I watched the last episode of the acclaimed Downton Abbey show feeling nostalgic. I wished we could have had more and more! The six series were such a pleasure to watch! My favorite moments were, of course, afternoon teas, and the many receptions centered on tea.

afternoon-tea

An institution created by the British elite

Tea etiquette at the times had already been established well into the 1860s, in fact, afternoon tea is a veritable institution created by the ruling elites of the United Kingdom. An institution which has since lost its gravitas. The charm and lavishness of this tradition was, and still is, at the center of social events such as anniversaries, wedding receptions, and family receptions.

A way of displaying wealth, refinement, and social status

During the period of Downton Abbey, custom for occasions involving only few guests was to serve tea in the drawing room or boudoir. For larger events however, the ball room, great hall, or garden was preferred. Banquet tables were dressed in immaculate white, perfectly ironed cloths.

During afternoon tea, everything would stop; it was an important pause in the day, the time was not for business discussions, politics, and money matters, but rather for lighthearted chatter, friendly conversation, and perhaps the odd pieces of gossip.

Worthy ladies and gentlemen took it upon themselves to have a household properly furnished and equipped with all the necessary dishes, cutlery, serving wares and accessories required for tea. The more becoming dish sets were made of delicate porcelain, often adorned with intricate gold-leaf patterns, and the serving wares usually made of sterling silver, along with the delicate spoons, and sugar tongs. Much importance was placed on the make, and quality of the dishes and serving cloths, especially for those seeking recognition from the higher classes. It was a way of demonstrating one’s wealth and refinement, as well as social hierarchy. 
Special attention was given to table settings and ornaments, often chosen to please guests, or to create a theme of ambience for the occasion. The choice of accessories, decorations, and often of furniture, as wells as food had to reflect the style and refinement of the hosts and create an unforgettable event and project the grandeur of the estate. Servants were rigorously trained in preparing and serving tea, having to follow rigorous etiquette and rituals, the reputation of their employers being dependent on it.

Tango tea dances

Early in the 1900, dance and entertainment such as music and poetry recitals were often included in events. The arrival of Tango to London in 1910 revolutionised afternoon tea, creating the “Thés Dansant”. Rapidly adopted by the more eccentric, tea dances multiplied through to the chic residences and hotels. Professional tango dancers were hired to entertain the un-accompanied, all were expected to master the dance. Tango became an important influence, to the point purpose made dancing clothes became a symbol of status and elegance.

A bygone era

This era is long over, but has afternoon tea become in modern times? A simpler occasion.

The faster pace of modern life has led to the downfall of this ritual. Taking time for tea has become a privileged moment rather than a formal luxury. I like to believe we have brought tea back to its original virtue, without the needless show and opulence. Tea is a gift from Mother Nature, a product of hard labour from humble and courageous people. It doesn’t have to be accompanied by luxury and formality, to appreciate it requires only the simplicity of the moment, the quality of the leaves, the purity of the water, and some time to enjoy the taste!
 

Posted on April 24, 2017 and filed under About tea.

Tea flight: a new trend

A tea flight, a sort of sampling plate as shown above, is a nice way to compare and appreciate the subtlety of fine teas of same type.  They can be from different gardens, country, or sometimes the same crop, but plucked at a different season.  The idea is to compare teas with similar characteristics to expand your palate.  Usually you will be offered three teas, but there is no absolute rule on this.  

This art of tasting tea is an opportunity to learn about the teas you taste.  The tea expert or Tea Sommelier who guides you through the tasting will introduce you to the history and origin of the specific flight you have chosen.  He will also teach you the proper method of preparation for these teas, and valuable tips on food pairing.  He may also share some information about health benefits linked to these teas!

The teas are generally served in small white porcelain cup of one or two ounces, or in a professional tea cupping set.  When done in the state of the art, the teas are brewed in front of you, and the infusion (steeped leaves) is introduced first.  Like in wine tastings, assess each tea on the nose first, and then on the palate.  Sometimes, you will receive a card to record your notes and findings.

This type of tasting is not only for connoisseurs, tea lovers of all levels can enjoy it!  It is a great opportunity to discover and enjoy a selection of different teas.

If you had a chance to experience a tea flight, we would love to hear about your experience!

 

Posted on March 15, 2017 and filed under About tea.

Tea hits five favorite beverage trends in North America

According to Technomic (a trustworthy survey consultant in the Food Industry) tea has ranked fourth of the five beverage trends in North America in 2015.   In 2017, tea is still on the rise worldwide.  In its first annual Tea Report, British tea company Tetley examines the out-of-home tea market.  Most notably, the report highlights a significant uplift in out-of-home tea consumption with a 2% growth over the 12-month period, when out-of-home coffee consumption dropped from 6.7% to 1.2%, according to the report.  

According to Packaged Facts (another leading source of market research on the consumer goods and services industries) the U.S. packaged tea market is a freight train that remains on the rails, climbing 5% in 2016.  Consumers are also turning to premium specialty tea brands, which are growing at a faster rate than mass market brands, according to the report.  It also shows a declines in commodity tea which do not signal the market is cooling. It is apparent that consumers are simply buying less tea in grocery stores and more tea online and at specialty retail outlets. 

An Agriculture Canada food-trends study is projecting that tea consumption will grow by 40 per cent by 2020. That trend is also confirmed by U.S. Tea Association seeing a dramatic rise in tea imports since 2010. 

Another very interesting 2017 Food and Drink Trends report by Mintel Group Ltd., describes consumer preferences for products that are “recognizable rather than revolutionary.”   The report shows consumers seeking comfort from modernized updates of age-old formulations, flavors, and formats. The tendency is to natural, simple, and flexible diets such as vegetarian, vegan, and other plant-focused formulations.  There are many interest in functional food and drink formulations. The increasingly hectic pace of modern life leads people to food and drink that helps them calm down before bedtime, sleep better, and restore the body while they rest.

Tea aligns perfectly with consumers' expectations.  It is associated with great history and ceremony. Its origins date back to Chinese Emperor Shen Nung, 2737 B.C., where it is reported that a leaf from a nearby tree blew into a pot of water he was boiling.  Tea is associated with comfort, slowing down the pace, and with tradition and ritual.  It is becoming a staple of the health-conscious as well with its antioxidants providing a healthy boost to the cardiovascular system and cancer prevention.   It is an ideal complement to today’s well-being movement.  Tea generally has a long and rich healing history in most cultures.  Tisanes (herbal blends) address a wide range of health concerns such as sleep problems, weight loss, and stress relief, to name only a few.

Branding consultant Bruce Philp stated that everyone can find a way to engage and introduce tea into their lives. “Tea is intimately social, it’s contemplative and the experience you have is enlightening. That’s rarefied air — I don’t think there are many other beverages that can compete.”

I strongly agree with him, and apparently I am not alone; just think about celebrities like Opra, Angelina Jolie and Simon Baker who endorse tea as their favorite hot beverage.   And what about you?  Are you in the 2017 tea trends?

Posted on February 1, 2017 and filed under About tea.

Highlight on Japanese green tea

Japanese-green-tea

To link with my earlier post, I’d like to highlight Japanese teas. In Japan tea consuming is more than just an everyday thing, it is a life style and a spiritual ideal known as ‘’Cha Do’’ (The Way of Tea). Through their challenging and sophisticated culture, they created a ceremony ritual that considers tea as a unique product and its consumption is an Art in itself.


Brief historic of Japanese tea industry:
For a long time the Japanese tea industry was focusing on exportation and the international demand. Japan has export black tea until the 70s. Since then, the tea market has changed, and today most of Japanese rare black tea production remains for national consumption and less than 1% of the total production is to exportation.  Japan is now 7th world wide green tea producer, and its industry is still growing. A large part of its success is due to many tea base by-products such as toothpaste, pharmaceutical products, pasta, ice tea, polyphenol extract and more…


It is hard to find English information on Japan economical data. The following statistics are from 2007 and are from Tea Board of Japan.


Total area cultivated: 48,000 hectares
Total annual production: 92,000 ton (green tea only)
Annual exportation: 1,600 ton
Main purchasing country: United States


Tea Monde offers high-grade Japanese green teas, hand-crafted in small or micro batches from small family tea Estates. You can shop our Japanese teas here.

Posted on August 30, 2015 and filed under About tea.