From B to TEA – the tea exchange

Bizarre by Clarice Cliff (Wedgwood)
Bizarre by Clarice Cliff (Wedgwood)

I introduced the TEA EXCHANGE a few blogs or so ago and swapped the letter D in words to make them begin with TEA; subsequently creating a definition. EXAMPLE: DELICIOUS would become TEALICIOUS, with the meaning ‘a good pot of tea’. So, here we go with B.

TEAHIVE – an industry of busy tea brewers

TEADEVIL – a little imp that keeps putting tea into bags

TEAWITCH – enchant someone over a pot of good tea

TEAMUSE – entertain over a pot of tea

TEAMOAN – grumble about lack of good tea

TEAGRUDGE – animosity between tea merchants

TEALONG – a sense of community among tea drinkers

TEACOMING – a tea that suits

TEATWEEN – mid one cup and another

TEAFRIEND – one with whom to share a pot of tea

TEAFUDDLE – unlikely home blends

Got any to add? Tweet me @TearoomGuide or add a comment on this blog 

Anagrammatea-cally speaking . . .

Caddies galore
Caddies galore

I love a good anagram and working out the answer to a wordy puzzle is a great partner to a pot of good tea (loose leaf, of course). With this in mind, I thought I’d set some tea-related anagrams; can you work them out? Tweet me @TearoomGuide and I’ll RT all the right answers; alternatively, you can add your answers in comments. The anagrams below are all tea blends, tea regions, or names of specific teas. Have fun.















Tea at the deli, the pub, the cafe …..

White fine bone china
White fine bone china
Striped teapot for one with cup beneath removed
Striped teapot for one with cup beneath removed

I have now been visiting, reviewing and recommending good tea rooms for over twenty years. In that time, the question of what a tea room is, is one that I have often been asked to comment upon. Today, more than ever, this is an interesting and multi-dimensional question. Let’s start, however, by going back in time as history can help us to understand where we are today and, perhaps, why.

According to tea shops originated at The Aerated Bread Company where, in 1864, the manager began to serve food and drinks to customers; she gave tea to those she favoured so the story goes. This began a craze and they quickly popped up all over Britain. In those times, of course, they provided a safe haven for women to meet with their friends unchaperoned without loss of reputation. Going back even further, however, coffee houses were responsible for the introduction of tea as early as the 1600s. Wikipedia ( cites Thomas Twining as opening the first known tea room in 1706, at 216 Strand, London. Already you see we have different names for places where tea and food may be served; tea shops, coffee houses, tea rooms. Herein lies the multi-faceted factor and may begin to address the dilemma of what a tea room is. Most dictionaries seem to define the term tea room as small cafe or restaurant serving tea and other light refreshments. Some also say these are also known as tea shops.

When I began my research into tea rooms of Britain (and sometimes further afield), I felt I needed to consider not only the above factors but, also, what potential readers would be looking for in a tea room. As well as having been asked the question, “so what IS a tea room?” myself, I have also asked the question of many other people to ascertain their views on the subject. The answers have been as interesting as they have been varied. Some consider a tea room a very traditional affair with lace tablecloths, fine bone china cups and saucers, classical or 40s music playing, table service, loose leaf tea and glorious cakes, whilst others may have a wider view that incorporates delis that serve good tea and good food; chic, modern and comfortable places where they can meet with friends. What I have found over recent years is, as new tea rooms emerge, the values remain traditional but the set up may vary. There has been great interest recently in all things vintage and shabby chic; this has provided popular for many establishments and makes a great style. Interestingly, thinking about the safe haven for women back in history, many offer a haven for parents with young children; a safe place to go with young children, meet up with other parents or simply feel comfortable on your own as a man or woman.

What I have found fascinating over, perhaps, the last 8-10 years is the emergence of deli tea rooms. At one time delis were largely places to buy quality food and drinks but not a place to consume them. Nowadays, the deli tea room, or cafe, seems to be ever growing in popularity and most that I have visited serve wonderful food and loose leaf teas. With a range of home baked cakes always on display also, it would be hard to argue that these were not, in fact, tea rooms in all but name. I have also visited a number of places such as converted pubs serving a range of food, including cakes, that serve loose leaf teas as standard. Though these may not be considered tea rooms, they certainly seem popular and are holding up the torch for good tea in food establishments, which I applaud. On Twitter, @brewteapub is taking tea drinking seriously by raising funds to open somewhere with the feel of a pub that serves loose leaf tea by the pot, alongside tea cocktails; now that’s innovation.

History has shown us that tea rooms, cafes, tea shops, coffee houses have in common the serving of fine food and drinks. In the 21st Century we are continuing that trend, whether we call it a deli, tea room, cafe … And then, of course, there is the pop up tea room, which is another whole blog in itself . . .

A quick word about tea

Sri Lankan Teapot and caddy
Sri Lankan Teapot and caddy

Sometimes my blogs are for making a pot of tea, sitting down and relaxing over. Others, like this, are a quick read but please do still have a cup of tea because having a cup of tea whilst reading a blog about tea is, frankly, the only way to go.

So, a quick word (or two) about tea. The more I read about tea, the more tweets there are about tea, the more I try different teas, the more I learn about different tea customs and traditions, the more I fall in love all over again and am inspired to try even more, learn even more …

What inspires you about tea?

If I could share a pot of tea with ..

Pottery teapot with cups and saucers; just enough for two.
Pottery teapot with cups and saucers; just enough for two

I have asked the question, “If I could share a pot of tea with ..” to a number of different people via Twitter. I posed four questions:

Who would you want to share a pot of tea with?
Why this person?
Which tea would you choose?
One question you would put to them.

It was brilliant to read the varied answers and I felt I learnt a little of the contributors through their choices.

Starting with Northern Tea Merchants – @TeaMerchant
“It would have to be Stephen Hawking because of his amazing mind and, therefore, we would need the largest pot of tea. We would need to drink something quite heavenly so I’d choose a high grown Chinese Green Tea from the Wuyi mountains so that it would have a bit of character. I would have so much to ask him but would start by asking him about the trousers of time and whether they were flares : )

Rutland Tea Company – @RUTLAND-TEA-CO
Would share a pot of tea with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, as the greatest engineer. Sikim tea would be the choice of tea. And the question? What was his favourite engineering discipline – railway, ships, bridges, tunnels?

Anne Mulhern, owner of The Willow Tea Rooms – @willowtearooms
Anne would share a pot of tea with Charles Rennie Mackintosh because she loves his work and it would be just amazing to spend time with him, talk to him and hear his thoughts on why he did what he did. The tea would be Pekoe Tea – this was CRM and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s favourite tea and is one of the blends of Willow Tea Rooms.  Charles and Margaret enjoyed this tea with a meringue (Willow’s signature cake). The question Anne would ask is ‘What is the favourite building that you designed and why?’

Photographs courtesy Anne Mulhern – Willow Tea Rooms

Willow Tea Rooms - Owner Anne Mulhern and waitress Kendal Morgan.
Willow Tea Rooms – Owner Anne Mulhern and waitress Kendal Morgan.


Sarah Bailey – author of the CookerEbook @layingthetable
Sarah would like to share a pot of tea with Jenny Eclair and says this is “because she is someone I could sit down with over a pot of tea for a good old natter and a laugh. In her zany way Jenny talks a lot of sense.” Sarah would choose Iron Goddess of Mercy Tea and would ask Jenny; “Can you think of a better way to put the world to rights than over a shared pot of tea?”

Little Yellow Teapot – a little yellow teapot that tries new teas and reviews them @LittleYelloTpot
“I would share a pot of tea with me Mum, who was a British made fine bone china teapot and alas did not survive an ocean voyage to go visit the folks back in the old country “across the pond.” Why: She taught me everything I know about steeping a good cuppa for my humans, so I’d like to show her that I had learned well.
Tea: Lots of options here. For Mum, it was usually a good strong English Breakfast blend, but I think she’d like a nice roasty oolong or even a Second Flush Darjeeling.
Question: “Mum, why did you think you could go waterskiing behind that big ship?”

Barbara Howard – collector of and blogger about tea towels @myteatowels
“I’d share a pot of tea with Audrey Hepburn because I found her to be an enigma and delightfully charming. I can imagine her drinking out of fine bone china cups. We’d have Lady Grey tea and my question would be how did she keep so slim?”

Brenda Flannery – Independent Tea Consultant @flannery-brenda
Brenda would share a pot of tea with her husband on Valentine’s Day. The tea would be Cinnamon Hearts and she would ask him; “do I still make your heart flutter?”

Croft Tea Room – a catering social enterprise @crofttearoomcic
Croft would share a pot of Lapsang Souchong Tea with Muhammed Ali because he was an inspirational and principled fighter in and out of the ring. The question to him would be; “would you do anything differently?”

I would be happy to add to the blog and look forward to hearing from more contributors. In the meantime … from me
Margaret Thornby – tea room researcher and loose leaf tea only kind of woman @TearoomGuide
I would share a pot of tea with Anne, Duchess of Bedford, because she is recognised as the creator of the British tradition of Afternoon Tea. We would share a delicate Margaret’s Hope, my namesake, (Darjeeling Tea) and I would ask her if her lifelong friendship with Queen Victoria was nurtured over tea.

Today (30 July 2015), I have received a new “If I could share a pot of tea with …” from Bruu Tea – “great tea delivered every month” @BruuTea

Bruu Tea would share a pot of tea with Richard Branson because he is a real inspiration and remains smiley and happy. The tea would be BRUU Mango loves Yoghurt. And the question would be what are his top 5 goals this year?

From D to TEA – the tea exchange

I like having fun with words, especially if they are words associated with tea. With this in mind I am creating my own tea dictionary. “From D to TEA – the tea exchange” is about swapping the first letter of a word to make it TEA, for example DELICIOUS would become TEALICIOUS, with the meaning ‘a good pot of tea’. So, here goes with my list for today. If you would like to tweet or comment with your own, please do so. Have fun.


TEACON – a minister of tea

TEALERSHIP – a tea franchise

TEATOX – drinking tea to flush away the trials of the day

TEABATED – talked heatedly about tea (over a pot of tea, obviously)

TEACANT – the art of pouring tea from pot to cup

TEAFLATED – travelling miles to a recommended tea room only to find it is now a burger bar

TEAFUSE – the art of calming a situation down (over a pot of tea, obviously)

TEAGENERATE – leaves left in caddy with metal spoon (go back to tea lessons)

TEAHYDRATED  – not had a cup of tea for at least two hours

TEALAYED – tea order hasn’t arrived

TEALECTABLE – good quality tea

TEACOY – lure someone away with the promise of a cup of tea

TEACREE – order that someone must drink at least 4 cups of tea a day

TEADUCE – work out the tea you are sampling by smell and taste alone

TEADED – left all tea and tea paraphernalia to friend in will

TEAFEND – sticking up for your local tea room

TEAFIANT – sticking to loose leaf tea because its what you love and believe in

TEACATHLON – trying 10 different teas in a 2 days (no problem)

TEACEIVE – telling customers you sell loose leaf tea when you don’t (grr)

TEACENT – keeping to the standards of behaviour expected for Afternoon Tea

TEACLARE – admitting you love tea (go on, you know you do)

TEACIDE – agree on where to go for tea

TEACLINE – turn down the offer of a cup of tea (highly unlikely unless it was just plain bad tea)

TEACOMPOSE – the art of composting your tea leaves

I do hope you enjoyed this light hearted tea dictionary? Watch out for more exchanges – maybe F will be next, or B, or R . . .

Not for all the tea in China . . .

I was sitting in a tea room today when I heard one young woman say to another:

Oh no, I wouldn’t go out with him; not for all the tea in China. No way.

I had to smile to myself though the thought that she was 18 going on 40 only made me feel rather ancient so I just smiled instead and deleted those thoughts from my mind. Anyway, to the point, it got me thinking about how many different sayings there are like that related to tea and what they all mean/ their origin.

NOT FOR ALL THE TEA IN CHINA (according to originated in the late 19th/ early 20th Century, coming from the fact that China was known for the large amount of tea it produced and, thus, basically, the phrase means, as my young woman pointed out at the end of her sentence, no way, a determination not to do something. Hard luck to the lad of whom she spoke!

She might have said he’s NOT MY CUP OF TEA – the positive of this (it’s my cup of tea) has been in use since the late 1800s when British people used the term to describe things they liked. By the 1920s ‘not’ had been added to describe the opposite. (

Then there is a STORM (OR TEMPEST) IN A TEACUP – making a situation seem worse than it really is. This particular saying’s storm has had a number of locations, from storms in cream bowls to glasses of water, to a hand-wash basin no less. The  TEMPEST IN A TEACUP is more commonly used in the USA, the British version becoming a storm.

Know any more? Tweet me or comment and we will keep adding to the blog together . . .

The ABC of tea …

A IS FOR ASSAM, a tea-producing state in the North Eastern region of India. Assam tea, which is a black tea, with a malty flavour is often used in strong blends such as Irish Breakfast Tea.

B IS FOR BERGAMOT, a natural flavouring used in Earl Grey tea.

C IS FOR CAMELLIA SINENSIS the species of evergreen shrub from which leaves and buds are picked to produce tea.

D IS FOR DARJEELING in the West Bengal state of India and famous for its tea production. Often referred to as the ‘champagne of teas’, the Tea Board of India lists some 87 tea estates in the region.

E IS FOR EARL GREY the tea named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey who was Prime Minister of the UK November 1830-July 1834.

F IS FOR FORMOSA, an oolong tea from Taiwan. The name formosa means beautiful in Portuguese.

G IS FOR GREEN tea to which many health benefits have been attributed due to the belief that the leaves are richer in antioxidants. Even the NHS ( wrote an article on the topic: “Green tea: the elixir of life or just hype?”

H IS FOR HIGH TEA about which there has been much debate as to the differences between this and Afternoon Tea. High tea is believed to have evolved among the working classes in industrial areas of Northern England and Southern Scotland. It included tea, bread, vegetables, cheese, meat, including pies and was eaten at the ‘high’ or dining table rather than the lower tables associated with afternoon tea.

I IS FOR INDIA, home to the famous tea-producing regions such as Nilgiri, Darjeeling, Sikkim, Assam …

J IS FOR JASMINE, a tea produced generally from green or black tea with jasmine blossoms, creating a light flavour that is subtly sweet and highly fragrant.

K IS FOR KENYA tea from the African continent, often used in blending and known for its bright, coppery colour.

L IS FOR LOOSE LEAF tea of which there are a vast range from single estate, rare, blends and flavoured teas from around the world.

M IS FOR MINT TEA, traditionally made with green tea to which fresh mint leaves are added. A favoured all day tea in hot countries such as Morocco, hence Moroccan Mint Tea.

N IS FOR NILGIRI, the literal meaning for which is blue mountain referring to the range of mountains forming part of the Western Ghats of India. Nilgiri tea is the tea produced in this region.

O IS FOR OOLONG, a traditional Chinese tea produced through an unique process with different processes used for different oolong varieties. It is sometimes referred to as Black Dragon from its Chinese meaning.

P IS FOR PLANTATION – the Cambridge English Dictionary (online) describes a tea plantation as a “large area of land where tea plants are grown”.

Q IS FOR QUALITY, an important word in the tea trade where it is short for ‘quality cup’ referring to the quality of the liqour.

R IS FOR ROOIBOS, whose meaning is ‘red bush’ and refers to the broom like plant of the legume family. Although described as a tea, Rooibos, Red Bush, Red Tea does not come from the tea plant Camellia Sinensis.

S IS FOR SUGAR about which there is continued debate as to the addition of this in our tea though many people still add a spoonful (or more).

T IS FOR TEA, which according to Wikipedia is the most widely consumed drink in the world after water.

U IS FOR UVA, a province of the tea producing country Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon until its independence in 1948.

V IS FOR VERBENA, a herb sometimes blended with black tea and other herbs to create a flavoured tea. It is also produced as a herbal tea or tisane – a drink made from herbs, spices, etc.

W IS FOR WITHERING, which is the first stage for most tea production and is the process whereby fresh leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant are withered to reduce the moisture content.

X IS FOR XIAMEN, which will host its 6th International Tea Fair in October this year (2015).

Y IS FOR YUNNAN, the tea producing province of South Western China. There are different varieties of Yunnan tea including Yunnan Pure Gold, Yunnan Gold and Pu-erh.

Z IS FOR ZIMBABWE, one of Africa’s tea producing countries. Most of the tea from Zimbabwe is sold to the UK for tea bags.

Getting your tea message across

Those people who have followed my quest to write about and share recommendations for good tea rooms and good tea will know there are many reasons why I love, and promote, good tea rooms and loose leaf tea. Going back to when Whitehill Publishing ‘took on’ my Guide to Tea Rooms of Britain and, from here, we developed Margaret Thornby’s tea and tea room talk magazine, I have enjoyed celebrating the best of tea rooms and tea.

Our original website housed all sorts of facts and information about tea, tea rooms, tea paraphernalia, as well as having a shop in which we sold the Guide, Magazine, tea and merchandise. I was delighted when Whitehill Publishing decided that one of those items of merchandise would be a tea towel and was asked to lead the design of this. After much deliberation, we came up with a simple design that put across the message about loose leaf tea.

Imagine my delight to see that Barbara @myteatowels has featured this tea towel in one of her latest tea towel blogs (she has a lot of tea towels!) She shows how tea towels can be used to get your message across and waxes lyrical about the one we created. Please do go and read her blog; I may be biased because of my tea towel being mentioned, but I do think this is a fascinating blog and a great read.

Mine’s a Loose Leaf Tea Towel With thanks to Barbara for the image

Now that we are using this blog as the main contact point for all things tea and tea rooms, the ‘old’ website will, at some point, become obsolete (ahh) but I do still have 6 of the tea towels. Would you like one? I am offering one free of charge to the first 6 people who sign up to  Sorry, but you will need to be in the UK to qualify as the postage costs preclude me sending them further afield. I look forward to hearing from you.

Signing off and remember; “Mine’s a loose leaf” every time  . . .

What’s in a teapot?

Moroccan Teapot
Moroccan Teapot
White fine bone china
White fine bone china

I recall some years ago, when we (Whitehall Publishing) were publishing Margaret Thornby’s tea and tea room talk magazine, Doug Hawkes telling one of my colleagues that he had been ‘marked down’ by the Tea Council for using metal teapots at Bird on the Rocke Tea Room (Clungunford). The Tea Council visited tea rooms every year to select what they considered the best tea rooms in the UK. Is a metal teapot of less value than a china one; should they be bone china rather than ceramic; are some teapots intrinsically better than others? (I should point out that the metal teapots where Doug and Annabel Hawkes then ran their tea room were not of the cheap, badly pouring type but rather stylish, art deco style that poured perfectly and had little ball shaped legs). I had visited their tea room myself (incognito of course) and thought they were wonderful; they also fitted the theme and style of the tea room.

As with many things associated with tea, I find, personally, that I have a liking for different teapots at different times of day and for different types of tea. I have gathered quite a collection of teapots over the years (my friends always know what to buy me!) Included in the range I proudly own, I have fine bone china, ceramics, metal, cute, quirky, small, large; even a Brown Betty. I do have some teapots with internal strainers; not those little internal ones that don’t allow the tea leaves the freedom to breathe and move but ones that give the tea the space to brew properly.

I do use my different teapots and I very much enjoy seeing the different ones in the many tea rooms I visit. In the past I have visited Eastern Europe and loved the amazing tea sets I saw. There were teapots, cups and saucers in different shapes, including triangular. There were cups and saucers but also teacups without handles or saucers – more like a small bowl. In Prague, I remember seeing a teapot that was square; somewhat reminiscent of the cube teapots designed for the cruise ships (keeps them from breaking in the cupboards, apparently).

Anyway, I digress. I will talk you through today’s teapots. I was at home today – a day off – so was using all my own teapots. This morning, I had a nice pot of my own Margaret’s Morning Blend of tea at breakfast time. Generally, in the morning, I use one of my Chatsford® teapots. This has an internal strainer and is a great design. I guess I use these in the morning because I am coming to terms with the day; easing into it without too much ceremony (though just enough, of course – there is always a ceremony with tea). Later, around 10.30am, I had a Kenya tea and opted for my little Brown Betty, using a tea strainer that I bought in Sri Lanka (it is shaped like a teapot). A strong little teapot to hold a lovely, bright Kenya tea. At lunchtime, I decided on a lighter tea and felt like spoiling myself so I used a Wedgwood fine bone china teapot. It is small and pale yellow in colour. I thought a silver tea strainer was in order for such a posh event!

I was out for a while in the afternoon and, on my return, had a pot of Lover’s Leap Ceylon tea; a real treat. The leaves can become quite large in the pot and get trapped in the spout on emptying, so I used a small bone china teapot with internal strainer (again a large enough strainer to let the leaves wander at will). A short while ago, I made myself a pot of English Breakfast tea (yes, I know, it’s not breakfast time but English Breakfast is good any time of day). I was inspired to make this in a ceramic teapot I bought from a pottery in Cumbria. I love to use this; it reminds me of a lovely holiday with friends and always brings a smile because it is such a lovely teapot.

How does she cope with all the washing up, I hear you say. Having a system helps, such as not leaving them all to pile up. I don’t own a dishwasher so it’s hand washing for me; I would dread the thought of losing the vibrancy of colour on some of my favourite teapots. In some ways, the washing up and putting away of the teapots is part of the ritual; I love my teapots and they deserve my care. And the teacups used? Well, that’s a blog for another day …