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Archive for May, 2010

The Jane Austen Centre, at 40 Gay Street in Bath, aims to be not only informative but exciting and illuminating; it has a lovely period atmosphere, exclusive film, costume, contemporary exhibits, maps and books. It is the perfect starting point to an exploration of Jane Austen’s Bath since Jane Austen actually lived in Gay Street (higher up the hill on the same side, at No.25) for some months in 1805.

Recently I have been so lucky as to ask few question to Donna Lodge from this reknown centre about the Regency Tea Room: a perfect tea room in perfect georgian style!

– How did the idea of the Regency Tea Room come out?

The Tea Room was opened when another floor became available in the building. (Originally, the Centre only occupied the two lower floors) The idea was that it would provide a service to our visitors to have a cafe in the building.

– Did you try to create an atmosphere that embody Jane Austen’s love for tea?

We definately tried to create a Jane Austen atmosphere, from the decoration of the room to the Georgian music that is played in the background. We knew that tea was quite a luxury in Jane Austen’s day as it was very expensive and generally kept under lock and key within the household. In Jane’s home, she herself was responsible for the ‘tea key’.

– How did you link your menu with Jane Austen’s novels?

A local tea company created a tea for us, called Jane Austen blend which is extremely popular. It is a blend of Chinese black tea which was popular in Regency times. Our afternoon tea is called ‘Tea with Mr Darcy’, and until very recently each item on the menu was named after an Austen character. We still have a Dashwood’s Tea, Crawford’s Crumpets and Mr. Bennet’s Toasties!

– What is the tea people like the most?

The drink of tea that is most popular is either the classic English Breakfast tea or the Jane Austen blend. The afternoon tea which is most popular is definately the ‘Tea with Mr Darcy’ which consists of a pot of tea of your choice, sandwiches, homemade cake and of course scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

– How did you succeed in taking part of the “Tea Guild”? Is it for the wonderful idea of linking one of the most beloved English author to a most beloved English ritual or is it even for the excellence of our service?

It is very prestigious to be given the Tea Guild award for Excellence so of course we wanted to be part of that. To gain it you need to serve a wide variety of tea, give excellent customer service, have a lovely ambience etc. We wanted the award so that we would be recognised as one of the best Tea Rooms in the country.

Here’s the menu of the Regency Tea Room!

What can I say more?

I wish you would all be able someday to go to Bath and enjoy a pefect brew in this lovely spot!

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To whom do we owe the great pleasure of all the tea we sip?

Or, who are the greatest producers of tea in the world?

Just few numbers to understand where our precious “camelia sinensis” come from.

There are three countries who are holders of the greatest portion of production in the tea market: India, Kenya and Sri Lanka; it’s been said that this countries will see an incease in 2010 of their market portion, raising from 63% of 2000 to 70% in this year. This news are quite reassuring since this incredible growth is thinked to happen even though last year they all, more or less, suffered from drought and from the 2008 crisis.

This increase will be reflected in a general growth of production in the world tea market of the “camelia sinensis”: in this 2010 2.4 tons will pe produced, counting on a 1.2% of  average growth rate since 2000 each year.

Good news, good news, my brewers!!!

And to celebrate, a nice cup of tea!!! 😉

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Doing my spring cleaning I discovered that I had in my cupboard 17 blends of tea; I would have bet to have more than 10, but 17 is quite a number!

That’s make me start thinking about how much tea people consume in the world; so, I did my research and fascinating and surprising data came out.

Did you know that Turkey resulted to be the  leading consumer of tea worldwide??? Well, it is,  with its 2,5 kg of annual per capita consuption!

I would have never imagine that!

Well, I guess it’s true since it is one major producer.

Follows Uk with its 2,1 kg of consumption per capita per years,  followed in turn by its neighbour isle, Irland, with 1,5  kg of tea leaves.

I would have bet Uk to be first in tea consumption… This is the evidence that preconception are not right for most of the times!

What I found really surprising is that Japan and China are respectively only at the 8th and 14th place, with 900 gr. and 600 gr.!!!! This really astonish me, since China and Japan have both a great tradion in tea drinking with their own rituals.

What about Italy?

Well, Italy is only 25th in the list of the major consumer tea; thinking about Italy tradition in coffee drinking, it’s not really surprising.

I only guess that they haven’t counted me in this survey!!!

I made few counts and resulted that I drink in a year …. 2,9 kg of tea!!!!

4 cups a day ( not really, I usually drink 5 or 6 , but I decided not to exagerate), 2 mg of tea per cup, 365 day in a year…. !!!!

What about you? 🙂

Have a good brew and let me know! 😉

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At the beginning of 1773 the British East India Company was controlling tea trading between India and all the British colonies, even those in America; this passage guaranteed a high margin of gain for British merchants but it also meant a higher price for the American colonists. As a consequence, the colonist started importing tea from Holland; this was seen with concern by the British parliament, beacause all the British warehouses were full of tea that was left unsold, which would have certainly lead the British East India Company to bankruptcy. That was something that the British government could not just let happening.

The North ministry’s solution was the Tea Act, which received the assent of King George on May 10, 1773. This act permitted the company, for the first time, to export tea to the colonies on its own account. This would allow the company to reduce costs by eliminating the middlemen who bought the tea at wholesale auctions in London. Instead of selling to middlemen, the company now appointed colonial merchants to receive the tea on consignment; the “consignees” would in turn sell the tea for a commission. In July 1773, tea consignees were selected in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Charleston. Cutting this costs of the company allowed it to sell its tea cheaper than the colonial merchants who were selling smuggled tea from Holland, without even eliminating the taxes for the American colonists.
On the evening of December 16, 1773, in Boston,  a group of men calling themselves the “Sons of Liberty” went to the harbor, dressed as Mohawk Indians. They boarded three British ships that were supposed to unload the tea of the British East India Company, the Beaver, the Eleanor and the Dartmouth, and dumped all the forty-five tons of tea into the Boston Harbor.

The struggles of the “Sons of Liberty” lead to victory. In February, 1775, Britain passed the “Conciliation Resolution”, which ended taxation for any colony that satisfactorily provided for the imperial defense and the upkeep of imperial officers. The Tea Act was replaced by the Taxation of Colonies Act, in 1778.

At the very least, the Boston Tea Party and the reaction that followed served to rally support for revolutionaries in the thirteen who were eventually successful in their fight for indipendence.

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“At 9 o’clock she made breakfast- that was her part of the household work- The tea and sugar stores were under her charge.” ( “My Aunt Jane Austen” by Caroline Austen)

Of course, Jane Austen loved tea. Everyone who have read at least one of her novels knows it. Just think what a relevant role tea plays in her novels: In “Emma”, Miss Bates doesn’t drink coffe, ‘A little tea if you please’; in “Sense and Sensibility”, it’s tea everyone’s drinking when Elinor notices Edward’s mysterious ring set with a lock of hair; in “Pride and Prejudice”, the great honour Mr. Collins can praise with Elizabeth and her friends, is dinking tea with Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Tea has not always been part of  British life: Henry VIII, around 1520, used to have breakfast with some ale, for example. But, in the Georgian Era, when Jane Austen set up her writing ‘career’, tea drinking was like breathing for English people; that’s why there were more ‘tea meal’ than ‘normal meal’, and we will go through them all 🙂 .

  • Breakfast wasn’t a formal meal: people chatted, or read letters or newspapers; the menu itself was quite frugal, with hot rolls or muffin with some good butter, or some toast and pound cake, and tea, of course.
  • Afternoon tea. Legends wants the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anne, to be responsible for having introduced in England the habit of drinking tea between noon and the supper, inviting all her friends to join her in this new fashionable meal. Tea was usually drunk with milk and accompanied with sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries, usually served on a tiered stand.
  • Evening Tea was a special moment in which family and friend gathered together after the day’s activities; since evening tea came after dinner, we wouldn’t have found the rich menu of afternoon tea, but only some toasts or, at least, slices of bread and butter.

Now I know what I’ll do tonight right after dinner: sit down with my favourite Jane Austen book, “Persuasion”, while enjoying a wonderful cup of tea 😉 .

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These sad and rainy days in Milan make me feel like winter hasn’t really ended.

I rember when it used to snow, everything was white, and a steaming cup of tea was the perfect missing element for a perfect movie-like scene.

It was in one of those days that I had the best experience regarding tea I’ve ever lived. A friend of mine told me she had a most wonderful cup of tea here in Milan and promised to bring me  with her wherever this place was; so we decide to go together on a snowy Friday, we took the metro right to Montenapoleone and then we took some little, not very well-enlightened streets and then, there we were: The Bulgari Hotel.

In that moment I felt quite uncomfortable and awkward: I was in one of the most luxurious places in the city!

But as I sat in a most cosy and soothing armchair and a polite, smiling waiter gives us a warm welcome, all that ill-fitting feelings just disappeared.

The atmosphere was simply perfect: snow outside, a popping fire and classy but warm furnitures inside.

If the atmosphere was perfect, well, that’s how the service was too: with a cup of excellent tea, served in a white fine bone china, some fancy pastries and chocolates.

Just two commentary words: simply divine.

Waiting for the sun to come I enjoy a steaming cup of black tea with rose petals!

I hope you will enjoy it too!

Roberta 😉

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When I sit in front of my computer for writing a new post in my blog I never start without a steaming cup of tea; it was yesterday, while boiling the water and choosing the leaf, deciding for one of my favourite- “Pleine Lune” by Mariage Frères- that I started thinking about this french industry.

The title tells it all: how can it possibly be called the tea choosen by the JAL (japanese airlines) for its first class costumers? If you need to know more, Mariage Frères is the same tea that is served at one of the Tea Guild of UK’s top ten tea room Claridge’s.

It’s becoming so popular that it didn’t even need advertisement!

Apart form that , it’s just enough thinking that french tradition of tea really started with this industry.

It all started when in 1660, the Compagnie des Indies and Louis XIV appointed Nicolas Mariage  to go to the Persian countries, to convince the Shah of Persia to commerce with France. At the same time, his brother Pierre Mariage, was sent as a special envoy to Madagascar for a similar purpose.

But actually their descendents, Henri and Edouard Mariage, were among the firsts to have success with their activity of tea seller in France, selling it to retailers, tea rooms and hotels; it was only in 198o that their company started selling to the public too.

Now, they have three flagship store in France and four in Japan and a wide net of distribution all over the world, since it has become another point of excellence in the reknowed french culture; it’s even selled in the Opèra Garnier in Paris (where I actually bought it 🙂 )!

And, a book has been freshly published to confirm the established excellence of Mariage Frères: “The French Art of Tea”.

Personally I have to say that Mariage Frères makes one of the best tea I have ever sipped. So, from my blissful condition of tea-drinker…

… I wish you a very good brew! 😉

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