Book Review – Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea by Jeff Koehler

darjeeling

Twice as much tea is sold as “Darjeeling” each year than is grown on the 87 tea estates in the Darjeeling region of India in the Himalaya mountains between Nepal and Bhutan.

This “champagne of teas” is much coveted, and factors such as weather, politics and working conditions mean that tea sellers are more than willing to blend the lesser batches of Darjeeling with other black teas such as Assam, both to make a buck and to meet customer demand.

Most Darjeeling tea is sold as a single estate product, and is one of four “flushes” that occur each growing season. The tea bushes must be picked (or rather carefully hand plucked) weekly, and starting in the spring, will be categorized as one of four flushes: first, second, monsoon or autumn, each with their own unique flavours and characteristics.

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Awesome Thing – Modern Tea Cosies

flockofteacosies

At first glance, they look like hats. Beautiful, thick, felted wool, with nifty little flowers or fringe at the top. And then Flock of Tea Cosy creator Michaelle McLean pulls one up to reveal a teapot underneath. Or a bodum.

For tea drinkers with modern decor, grandma’s knitted tea cosy might look a bit out of place. But McLean’s felted works of art offer clean lines and quality, eco-friendly materials to fit into sleek kitchens and dining spaces. She also offers trivets and table runners, as well as coffee cosies to fit over French press coffee pots.

Why are they awesome? First of all, they’re art, and add a bright, cheerful touch to a table with none of the twee usually associated with tea. Second – eco-friendly, renewable resources. Third – they keep your tea (or coffee) warm so the second cup isn’t gross.

 

 

 

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Lucky Dip – Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Everything old is new again. The next food trend won’t be about trucks or foam – it will be about history. [Wall Street Journal]

Your peanut butter is about to get expensive – even if you buy the local stuff. Time to stock up. [Toronto Star]

They don’t get to choose what they’ll eat, and to protesters there to have their say against corporations like Monsanto, than might mean dinner is a choice of prepared foods made with GMOs or nothing, but the folks occupying Wall Street are eating pretty well. [New York Times]

Canada is the only G8 country without a national school lunch program. Will we ever get one? [Globe and Mail]

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Tee-Totaler

A Social History of Tea
Jane Pettigrew
The National Trust

Every afternoon at 3pm, I have a cup of tea. It doesn’t matter the weather or the season, if it’s hot I’ll have it iced, but every afternoon, barring some great calamity, I take a break from my day to have a cup of tea and something sweet.

Tea is one of those things that we sort of take for granted; less popular than coffee, it’s still typical in many homes, particularly in Eastern Canada where I’m from originally. There, harsh orange pekoe tea can sit and stew for hours, with a couple more bags and a top up of water the only acknowledgement that the pot might need dumping or cleaning.

Jane Pettigrew is one of the UK’s tea experts, having run a tea shop for many years and written a number of other books on the subject .

A Social History of Tea traces the importance of tea to Britain from the seventeenth century onward, exploring its arrival in England, its origins and the politics surrounding the commodity. Pettigrew looks at how tea became popular, first with the upper classes, then with the middle classes and the poor.

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Two For Tea and Becoming an “Expert”

I’ve been to two different tea events in the past week. Both very different in scope and both of which left me with a curious little bug in my brain.

The first tea was an afternoon tea and lecture on the health benefits of tea at Toronto’s Casa Loma. Having never been to Casa Loma after living in Toronto going on twenty years, I figured it was high time to do so and tea in the gorgeous marble conservatory was as good an excuse as any. Casa Loma is, indeed, a big freakin’ castle, and was as marvellous as it had been made out to be. It would have been more pleasant had there been considerably fewer tourists, however, because nothing takes the charm out of tea in the lush conservatory of a castle than a bunch of people in ugly shorts and sneakers and ball caps peering through the glass doors taking your photo.

The meal itself was your standard afternoon tea fare – scones, pastries, fruit and sandwiches. Passable, but not outstanding on any level: California strawberries when local ones are still in season, too many super-sweet pastries that got left behind, clotted cream passed around in the jar (!!!) instead of in a dish (am I at someone’s house??), and, as is always the case, not enough vegetarian sandwiches, because inevitably, the meat-eaters will ignore the roast beef and turkey and scoff *all* of the egg salad before you even knew there were any there.

The actual tea for drinking threw us all for a bit of a loop. It seems that Lipton was a sponsor in some capacity because all that was on offer was different varieties of Lipton tea – in bags. There were prize baskets from Lipton given out at the end, and I suspect that the guest speaker was a shill for Lipton as well, so frequently did she tout their products.

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