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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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Twinings is so popular today that if I left the page blank, it would be pretty much the same.

Well, not really, I was just saying. 🙂

But, let’s get serious.

When you see a twinings’ tea on the shelves of  a supermarket you can’t avoid thinking about England, you’re even able to picture a traditional, old-fashioned image of it: maybe a nice lady having tea in a nice room, in her nice victorian dresses…

… or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, Twinings was founded by Thomas Twinings almost a century before Queen Victoria went to the throne, in 1706. Anciently, it all started with a tea room situated in the Strand of London; it was only later, in 1787,  that it became a real enterprise, from production to distribution, and even one of the most famous in the reign.

Twinigs is also reknown to be the first creating the most famous varieties of tea:

  • The “Earl Gray” wasn’t really invented by Twinings, but it was the first producing it; the Earl Grey, which was Prime Minister at that time, saved a chinese Mandarin, who gratefully gifted him a tea blend and the recipe to prepare it: just the same we still drink today!
  • The “Prince of Wales” was created for Edward, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in 1921; unfortunatly, when he became king as Edward VIII, Twinings couldn’t sell it anymore in Englad due to the rules of the Royal Warrant, so now it can only be found outside the country!
  • The “Lady Grey”  is a delicate, fragrant variation on the more famous Earl Grey blend. It consists of black tea scented with oil of bergamot, lemon and orange. As you can easily imagine it’s named after Earl Grey’s wife, Mary Elizabeth.


Today  Twinings can be proud for being an holder of a Royal Warrant and for being one of the most selled brand of tea worldwide.

Sipping a nice cup of “Lady Grey”, Roberta wishes you a good brew too! 😉

It was a boring rainy day in Milan, a couple of days ago.

To me, the only way to cheer up a little was to make some tea: I choose a black one, blended with some roses’ blossoms. It actually worked.

When my entry phone buzzed I had just the time for a few sips,  then I welcomed my chinese friend, Helen, who came for studying. Apart from being a little wet, I noticed she catched a glimpse of my tea and cordially asked her if she wanted some: she didn’t, actually, since, as she said, she wasn’t much of a fun of the western tea.

<<But why? I mean, this black tea is exactly like a chinese one; it even comes from China!>>

Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Anyway, now I am concious of my pre-existing state of ignorance on the subject.

Drinking tea in China is kinda holy and can assume different meanings.

Tea is prepered and consumed for showing respect; in Chinese society, the younger generation always shows its respect to the older generation by offering a cup of tea. Even now, inviting and paying for their elders to go to restaurants for tea is a traditional activity on holidays.

It can be prepared for apologizing, for expressing gratitude and as a ritual in marriages, to connect the two families, respectively the one of the bride and the one of the groom.

I was completely amazed by these diversity; so, I started asking for more.

She told me about the different kinds of ways a tea can be brewed.

There’s the “Chaou brewing”, which is composed by a lid, a cup and a soucer; Chaou brewing is usually employed in tea-testings situations, such as when buying tea, where neutrality in taste and ease of access to brewing leaves for viewing and sniffing is important.

Then, there’s another kind of brewing, the so-colled “Gongfu Chadao Brewing”. It makes use of small Yixings teawares teapot to enhance the aesthetics, and more importantly to “round out” the taste of the tea being brewed. This kind of  brewing is quite formal, and is used for private enjoyment of the tea as well as for welcoming guests. This ritual is considered to be a kind of art.

Quite an enlightening afternoon!

Personally I can’t choose between eastern and western tradion on this matter; I am not even sure anymore there’s a ‘battle’ going on here. But I let you decide your own favourite…

… as long as you enjoy a very good brew! 😉

Ps.I attached two videos I found online that shows very well how different these rituals are!

Walking in a sunny day of this reknown spring in Milan with my friend Belle, I made a nice discovery.

I was in search of a new kind of tea to try, as I am most of the times,  and I was really tired of those hanging down the shelves of a sad supermarket; it was in that moment, at the beginnign of Via Montereno, that I found the nicest little tea shop I have ever seen: “Montresor”.

I went in and I was immediatly welcomed by a lady who not only was very kind but also seemed quite available to answer a few questions for my blog 🙂 .

During our lovely chat, while sharing our mutual love for tea, I found out interesting ‘news’.

<<Until a couple of years ago our costumers were mainly middle-aged people with a high rate of income, but in the last few years more and more young people seemed to come nearer to the ritual of tea, even very young people, in their early twenties>>

To me, that was quite a revelation: apparently I was not the only one 🙂 .

The nice lady also told me about the preferences of their costumer:

<<The youngest costumers have a preference for green or white tea, since they have become famous thanks to fashion magazines for their dietetic and diuretic properties, even though it’s not really like that; anyway  young people continue prefering them for their light and delicate taste. On the other hand, people who are more expert, tend to prefer black tea and even black blended tea for their strong, determined flavour.>>

At the end, I was so much taken by the conversation that I completely forgot to choose a tea for myself!

Well, I suppose I will go back there quite soon. 🙂

I wish, at least you, would have…

…a very good brew 😉

Roberta

Careful consideration about the many pleasures of tea rituals goes on.

This time I started thinking about ‘tea meal’, the idea of gathering a small group of people to enjoy together a good cup of tea.

But, to better understand dynamics and social elements of a tea meal and to see how different this rituals can be from the ones that usuallly took place a century ago, I decided to hold a little Tea Party 🙂 .

Quite an eterogeneous group of young students get together the 17th of March in my little apartment: eight different people to see if ‘brewing’ is still alive.

At 5pm my table was covered with cakes, pastries and cookies; 10 kinds of blended tea were ready to be sipped!

Conversation started immediatly: tea was in their cups and on their lips!

Helen, my chinese friend, immediatly told us how different tea is in her country; they drink it as we do with coffe, in very small cups with no blends as we think of them.

“Then, why do Britains use bigger cups?” “Why do european country such as France and Belgium have always love to blend tea in their tradion?” “Do French and Belgian people have a tradion in tea at all?” “Really?” “Yes, above all with flowers contrary to the Russians” “The Russian? Do they drink tea?” “ Yes, they do. Their tea are with parings of citrus fruits…” “ Are they? Citrus fruits?”

History, tradition, contemporary art and cooking were also among the most discussed topics.

These conversations went on with an only, constant request, timid at first then louder every time: “ Can I have some more tea, please?”.

Yes, of course you can 😉

It makes me always smirk the idea that many of my coetaneous have of brewing tea: old, obsolete, a dead tradition; the best you can hear is that some of them enjoy it cold, on a hot sunny day at the beach- which is not bad, but is not “really” sipping tea.

Just think about all the action everyone has to do for drinking a cup of tea: you boil the water and wait for the kettle to “sing”; then you choose the leaves you want- no teabags, of course – and put it into the water; you wait again and then you finally pour it in your cup, sit and enjoy.

Can you see it?

It’s all about TIME.

It’s about you, taking meticulousy care of something with beating but slow times.

It’s about meditation. It’s the impression of feeling safe, it’s the sensation of home and heart .

When you drink tea you should try to get aware of what are you really doing; you should become conscious of all those wars and rebellions that tea has fight for or against colonial power and finally understand its role throught modernity.

When you catch this, who needs movies anymore? 😉

Roberta

During my latest travel in the UK’s capital I did an unusual discovery which left me quite happy; walking around Covent Garden with my dearest friend Belle, I decided not to visit the famous Tea House in Neal Street again but to wondering around in search of something new.

I have to admit that I was prejudiced about Whittard of Chelsea, thinking it had become too much commercial; it certainly has commercial stuffs and stuffs for tourist, but at the first floor there’s something everyone would love: what about creating your own type of tea?

That’s right! A long white table with three basic tea-leaves pots to choose (white, green or black tea), a series of dried elements (fruits, flowers, other leaves, etc…) and several natural flavourings (vanilla, cinnamon, bergamot, strawberry, etc..).

“Blend your tea”! To me, “that was invitation enough” *! What did I choose?

Black tea with rose petals, mallow flowers and bergamot flavouring!

Simply delicious!

If you are wondering how to blend your own tea, you can do it comfortably at home through Whittard of Chelsea web site. (http://www.whittard.co.uk/)

As always Roberta wishes you a good brew! 😉

* (Pride and Prejudice, CH 1)