The Exotic Teapot Blog

Amazing Tea and Teaware to wow your senses.

The history of tea in England

tea in england
If you think about the English way of life, then chances are that one of the first things that comes to mind is a good old fashioned cup of tea.
Whilst tea has been claimed as an utterly English drink, it did not start in England. In fact, whilst the Chinese were enjoying tea as early as the 3rd Millennium BC, it didn’t make its way over to England until the mid 17th century. Tea drinking spread across Europe from China but it was a slow process. It eventually landed in Venice around 1560, and we have to thank both Portuguese and Dutch traders for first introducing and importing our precious tea into Europe.

London, the home of tea
It may be a surprise, but England was first introduced to tea via London coffee houses. One of the very first merchants who offered tea was Thomas Garway in around 1657. He sold not only dry tea, but also liquid tea to the public and he even created advertisements selling tea to help with keeping the body “lusty” and “active”. It comes as no surprise to those who love a nice cup of tea that it soon became a popular choice at those coffee houses. By 1700 over 500 coffee houses were known to offer it to their customers.  However, not everyone was a big fan of the introduction of tea, tavern owners in particular, were irritated and frustrated that their sales of gin and ale were reduced due to the availability of an alternative (and non-alcoholic) drink. By 1750 tea was the drink of choice for the lower classes, and the government noticed that their revenue from liquor sale taxes were significantly reduced.

Tea tax
After noticing the lack of sales for liquor, the government realised that they needed to get on board the trend for tea. Before this, however, they decided that they would try to halt the growth of tea sales, by first forbidding it to be sold in private houses. When this never took off, a 1676 act was put in place to tax tea and also make sure that anyone selling it would need to apply for a licence. As it rose in popularity, so did the tax that was charged. In fact, by the mid 18th century, when tea drinking was to become an increasingly common habit, the tax duty was a rather ridiculous 119%. This tax was not dropped until 1784, when it was realised that tea smuggling was a much larger problem than the loss of money from tax and the level was dropped from 119% to a much more manageable 12.5%.

No matter where tea came from, it has become a part of everyday English life. Relaxing after a busy day, catching up with friends, or simply waking up in the morning has all been made better thanks to the delicious cup of tea that we are all more than happy to have!

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Tea Bricks, a Chinese currency

tea brick
It is no secret that here at The Exotic Teapot we love drinking a variety of different teas. After all, when they taste this good what else would you do with them? The same can’t be said for the rest of the world. Whilst many countries do enjoy their own take on a cup of tea, there are those that have found alternative uses for tea. One example of this are Tea Bricks, they have been used as a form of payment since the 9th Century. Some of the places that used tea bricks include Siberia, Tibet, Russia, Mongolia and Turkmenistan. However, one of the most well known countries that used this alternative currency is China. In fact, the Chinese Emperor himself was known to be a driving force behind the production of tea bricks.

The quality of tea bricks
There are 5 different types of quality of tea brick. They vary in colour, proportion of wood to leaf and their fermentation too. Each one is represented with a particular stamp. The best quality tea brick are those that are dark brown, these bricks contain fermented tea leaves. The poorest quality is dark yellow, these will contain soot, wood shavings and twigs. The most common tea brick that was seen was the third level of quality.

How tea bricks were made
It takes a number of different stages to make tea bricks. The first stage is picking the tea leaves and leaving them in the sun to dry naturally. Once they have dried out, the leaf is removed from the stem and then they are sifted through to make sure that they are separate. These separated leaves are put into a bag, which is steamed over boiling water. These perfectly steamed leaves are then placed into a metal mould, where rice water will regularly be used to moisten them, and avoid any air bubbles from forming. During this stage, beef blood, flour or animal dung is added to bind the mixture and keep the brick in its form. The final stage is to place the brick through a fire, which ages it and gets it ready to be used.

How tea bricks were used
As a tea brick was split into sections, it could be used bit by bit, not all at once. It was also popular because it was easy to keep fresh and easy to carry around. They were perfect for trade across regions, and because they were edible, they were a popular and useful method of payment. Whilst they were more commonplace in the areas where they were produced, decreasing their value, as the production centres became further away, the value of tea bricks significantly increased. Tea bricks were often the standard which other trades were judged against, and were a huge part of trade across different countries and communities.

They may be a fascinating part of history, but here at The Exotic Teapot, we think that we may stick with simply indulging ourselves in a delicious cup of tea, rather than using it to buy our shopping!

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Some tasty Matcha Smoothie recipes for you to try

matcha smoothie
One of the best things about matcha is that it is really versatile. Not only can it be used to make a warm or iced cup of green tea, but it can be used in a variety of different recipes. A great way to enjoy the benefits of matcha is in a smoothie. Stuck for smoothie ideas? Why not try out some of these amazing recipes and see if you can feel the benefit of matcha?

The still tasty basic smoothie
Want something quick and easy to make and delicious to enjoy? If you do, this basic green tea smoothie is great for you.
All you will need is 1 cup of milk (you can choose whatever variety you prefer), 1 banana, 5 ice cubes and 1 teaspoon of matcha.
Blend the banana with the ice cubes and then add the milk and matcha, blending it until it is smooth.

Fruity fresh blueberry and coconut smoothie
Blueberries are known to be a bit of a super fruit, packed full of antioxidants that are known to boost your health and immunity. They are also tasty little beasts! Want to enjoy matcha and blueberry together? A great smoothie idea is to blend 1 cup of frozen blueberries with 1 cup of coconut water, 1 banana, ½ cup of fresh spinach and ½ teaspoon of matcha.
You just need to blend all these ingredients together and you will have a fruity and flavour packed smoothie that you are sure to enjoy.

Immunity boosting green tea and ginger smoothie
There is a reason that ginger is used to treat a variety of different illnesses such as the common cold and arthritis, it is known to be a good boost to your immune system. When used in this smoothie recipe, not only is it great for your health, but it tastes pretty awesome too.
To create this smoothie you need to blend together 1 teaspoon of matcha, 2 tablespoons of ginger (fresh, grated or chopped will be fine), ½ juice from a lime, honey to taste.

The chocoholics matcha smoothie
Do you love a chocolatey treat? This smoothie is a great way to sate your sweet tooth, without worrying about over indulging.
Take 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, ½ cup of oats, 1 banana sliced, 1 cup of almond milk and 2 teaspoons of matcha powder. Blending them together you will create a sweet and delicious smoothie that you will love to enjoy. You can even add a pinch of vanilla or sea salt if you want to make a delicious alternative flavour.

Here are some ideas for you to create your very own amazing matcha smoothie. There are a variety of different recipes for you to try out there, in fact, you can use matcha as a base to create a wide range of smoothies and drinks that you can enjoy!

How much caffeine is in your tea?

How much Caffeine

A healthy adult should never consume more than 400mg of caffeine every day. But the chances are that you simply do not know how much caffeine you drink. Especially if you are a fan of a variety of different teas. Tea comes in a variety of different forms. Oolong, white, black or green. All of which are different in their flavours. This is thanks to their oxidation which is how the enzymes in the leaves react to the oxygen in the air. It is down to different production processes such as steaming, rolling or firing the leaves. The oxidation process doesn’t have an impact on the amount of caffeine that is in the tea.

So, how much caffeine is actually in your favourite tea? We have put together some of the most common beliefs on the caffeine in tea, and look at whether they are true or not, as well as which tea contains the most caffeine.

White tea is caffeine free

Many people believe that white tea doesn’t contain any caffeine at all. But this isn’t true. White tea contains caffeine in some form, although some varieties have a much lower level. White tea in general contains 15-39mg of caffeine per cup.

Steeping the tea removes the caffeine
This is in part true, however, it would take around 8 minutes to get rid of the caffeine in your favourite cup of tea. This means that you will be likely to have got rid of all of that beautiful flavour too! Not exactly what you will want to achieve when you settle down to enjoy a brew.

Which is the most caffeine rich tea
Want to know how much caffeine is in your favourite cup of tea? Then read on.
    •    Black tea contains around 16-58mg caffeine per cup
    •    White tea contains 15-39mg
    •    Oolong comes with 12-49mg
    •    Fruit and Rooibos are caffeine free

It is important to remember that caffeine isn’t always a bad thing. If you drink below the recommended amount for an adult, then it can help ensure that you stay focused and alert. It is when you reach the levels or go over that you can start to encounter some of the associated problems often seen with caffeine intake.
Here at The Exotic Teapot we are proud to offer a variety of different teas for you to sample. Most of our teas are perfect for everyday drinking, whilst others you will want to save up for a special occasion. No matter when you drink them, one thing is for sure, tea is a delicious treat and a great way to relax and unwind after a stressful day!

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How to make the very best cup of black tea in a teapot

Pouring tea
Making a cup of tea seems to be something that divides people around the UK. Whether you add milk first or last, how many sugars to have and of course the strength of your tea. All these are questions that are hotly debated.

One thing is for sure though, the majority of people will agree that the best way to make and enjoy tea is to make it in a teapot. But even then, we may not be entirely sure on the best way to go about making your brew. Never fear, here at The Exotic Teapot we are here to help. So, to guide you on the way we have put together the beginners guide to making a cup of tea in a teapot.

1. Get the water right
You may wonder how hard it can be to run the tap into your kettle and get a pot of tea ready. But what you may not realise is that a great cup all starts with the water. Ideally you would use spring or filtered water in your kettle. If you must use tap water, run the tap before you put the water in the kettle, just to make sure that it is perfectly aerated with oxygen to enhance the flavour. You should also aim to only boil the water once, as this will keep the oxygen levels up.

2. Make sure it is warm
Tea and hot water are best friends, which means that it will become slightly disgruntled if your teapot is cold when the water is added. Make sure that you add a touch of the freshly boiled water to the empty pot and swirl it around before you make your tea. This means that your pot will be beautifully warm and ready to welcome your tea!

3. Add your ingredients
A regular teapot will need 2 teabags to make the perfect strength tea. However, if you are using loose tea you should allow for around one teaspoon per person that will be enjoying a cup. Once you have added the tea, it is time to pour in the hot water and give it a bit of stir.

4. Wait it out
The best tea takes time to brew. So, you need to be patient. It takes around 4-5 minutes to make sure that all that amazing flavour is properly infused and ready to be enjoyed. Why not dig out a few biscuits whilst you wait? Or load up the washing machine?

5. Make it your own
Now the time has come to make that tea taste like you want it to. Add milk, a lot or just a splash, or just have it as it is. You can also choose your sweetener, sugar, honey or even a dash of lemon. The best thing about tea is that you can make it anything that you want it to be.

For this guide, we have used a more standard teabag form of tea, however, if you look at our website you will find that we have a variety of different teas on offer. So, why not take a look at the different teas that you can buy from us and discover a whole new world of tea?

The Art of Tasseomancy or how to read your brew

Tasseomancy
One of the best things to do with tea, is of course drink it. Whether you take it with milk, no milk, sugar or as it comes, we all love nothing more than settling down with a warm cup of tea. 

But, that isn’t the only thing that you can do with your brew. The art of Tasseomancy has been around for centuries. the Romans, the Greeks and even the Chinese have been known to take a look at the loose leaves in the bottom of the cup in order to ask for guidance, or simply to peek into the future.

Fancy having a go at it yourself? Well we have put together our guide to Tasseomancy, how to prepare for a reading and what kind of things that you should look out for.

What you need for a reading
The best news about reading tea leaves is that you will need to make yourself an amazing brew first. You will need the loose-leaf tea, not a tea bag. You want to keep the leaves nice and free in the cup, which means that you can work with them once you have enjoyed your tea.

Whilst you are drinking your tea you should relax and think about the things that you want to “ask the leaves”. You should aim to drink the majority of the liquid, leaving just enough at the bottom to give those lovely leaves a good slosh around.  It is probably a good idea to use a lighter coloured mug or cup, one that has a wide opening. This will mean that you can easily see all of the patterns.

Thinking about what you want to know, you should gently swirl the cup around 3 times so that the leaves stick to the sides. Some people say that it is best to move the cup in a clockwise motion as this represents moving towards the future, but really it is up to you.

After that, you need to turn the cup upside down on the saucer and tap it three times, so that most of the leaves drop out of the cup.
Now it is time to look in the cup and see what you find.



What to look out for
There are a variety of websites out there that can help you to decipher what you have found in your tea. Rather than delve into all this information now, we suggest you check out: the AuntyFlo Dictionary for great hints on reading tea leaves. Or there is also a great book called Little Giant Encyclopaedia: Tea Leaf Reading.

Both of which can help you to make sense of the patterns and shapes that you have found.

If you are not feeling the idea of looking into the future via your brew, why not just sample some of the amazing teas that we have in our store? You might not be able to ask for guidance about where your life is going, but with our help you can relax and unwind, if only for 10 minutes.

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Our Top Three Health Teas for 2017

Try these three healthy tea's, guaranteed to help you start your New Year the right way!

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1. Get Healthy Go Green

Our delicious Green Tea is packed with antioxidants. Made from unoxidised leaves, that are heated shortly after picking to destroy the enzymes that cause oxidation and fermentation. Green tea has been used as a medicine for generations, its low caffeine levels and beneficial antioxidants have led to it being viewed as a health drink and the second most consumed beverage in the world next to water. Explore our range

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2. Can't go wrong with Oolong

Oolong tea is a semi-oxidised tea from China or Taiwan. Oolong tea contains high levels of polyphenols & antioxidants which reputably help promote health, weight loss and beauty. It is also believed to help with high cholesterol and skin allergies such as eczema. Explore our range

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3. Way to go with White Tea

White tea is the least processed of all teas and therefore offers the most health related benefits.  They are high in antioxidants, contain very little caffeine but most importantly of all, they're simply delicious. White tea contains antioxidants, fluoride and flavonoids. These properties are said to help the repair and recovery of damaged skin, be excellent for anti-aging, help decrease blood pressure and may reduce the risk of various cardiovascular disorders. Explore our range

 

Find the perfect balance this New Year with our delicious Ayurvedic Tea

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The Christmas feasting is almost over, and the New Year is about to begin. We now turn our minds to everything that we want to achieve and create lists of what we resolve to do better. The one thing that most of us resolve to do is to find balance in our crazy modern lives. 

An easy way to bring that balance is by drinking Ayurvedic Tea. It’s a blend of carefully sourced herbs and spices that make an enjoyable, refreshing and fragrant tea.

It comes in three combinations Harmony, Anti-Stress and Energy which together help to create a perfect balance of body, mind and spirit. 

Ayurvedic Teas are completely caffeine free which means that they can be enjoyed throughout the day and do not have the side effects that other tea’s might.

Find out more about the practice of Ayurveda and the amazing benefits of Ayurvedic Tea in our Knowledge Centre.

Seasons Greetings from The Exotic Teapot

merry christmas

We would like to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

All orders received over the Christmas holidays will be sent on Thursday, 29th December via Next Day Delivery when our office reopens.

Last Minute Black Tea Christmas Cake

This might be the year that all your planning has gone out the window. Your head is still trying to come to terms with the fact that it is no longer October and actually there we are only a couple of shopping days away from Christmas! Not to worry, it happens to the best of us. That is why we have you covered. Not only can you still order Christmas presents until the 23rd, we have also found a delicious Black Tea Christmas cake recipe that needs only one night of soaking. So if you get started with that right away, you will have something tasty to serve your guests come Christmas Day. Oh, and did we mention that  you can make it without sugar and butter making it a guilt free Christmas treat!

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Last Minute Black Tea Christmas Cake:

Based on a Barm Brack Irish Tea Bread recipe.

RECIPE:

You will need:

TO SOAK:

1 ½ kg mixed cake fruit

1 litre apricot fruit

1 cup of black tea or whisky

1/2 cup brown sugar (for the diet version you can leave out the sugar)

FOR THE CAKE:

3 lightly beaten eggs

½ cup melted butter  (for the diet version you can leave out the butter)

500 ml flour

3 tps. Baking powder

3 – 4 tps mixed spice

Overnight soak:

Soak 1 ½ kg mixed cake fruit (add all your favourite fruit raisins sultanas etc. cherries and nuts such as pecans, candied peel, even chopped dates make a delicious cake!)  in 1 litre apricot fruit  juice and 1 cup of black tea or whisky and add 1/2 cup brown sugar. If it isn’t covered add a bit of water (or more whisky!)

Next day:

  • Heat the oven to 160˚ Grease a large square baking tin and line it with greaseproof paper. Set aside.

  • Stir in 3 lightly beaten eggs

  • And ½ cup melted butter

  • To 500 ml flour add 3 tps. Baking powder

  • 3 – 4 tps mixed spice

  • Add the dry ingredients slowly to the fruit and egg mixture.

  • It mustn’t be runny, if it is, add more flour bit by bit; it should be a soft sticky batter. Beware of making it too stiff!

  • Spoon the mixture into the baking tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1 ½ – 1 ¾ hours then test with a skewer for doneness.

  • While it is still hot, drizzle honey over the top.

  • Cool it slightly and remove it from the tin to cool properly on a wire rack

This is a wonderfully adaptable cake. You can bake it in 3 greased loaf tins if you wish, and give them away as presents.

Leave out the sugar and butter and it becomes a ‘diet’ cake. The fruit and fruit juice give it enough sweetness for most palates. It will dry out very quickly however but it is very tasty and you’ll find yourself making more before Christmas. If you have any left it freezes well so you can just defrost some when you have guests for tea.

Recipe created by Elaine Young

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