Teas for waking hours

I can’t claim to be an expert when it comes to tea, but I do drink several pints of the stuff most days.

My first tea of the day is taken in a large mug, which holds just over a pint. I fill it as full as I can, and so each day starts off with a nice big pint of tea:

This first tea is Darjeeling, brewed from a teabag:

It has just occurred to me while writing this that taking Darjeeling in a pint mug is a bit like wearing a silk dress with steel toe-capped boots. Somewhat incongruous, for Darjeeling is a very light, almost floral, floaty sort of beverage, also known as the ‘champagne of teas’. I think it would be the tea of choice for butterflies, flower fairies and water nymphs (this may be entirely erroneous and simply a figment of my imagination, then again it may not).

There have probably been many mountainous tomes written about Darjeeling tea, because it likes to think of itself as the glamourous face of hot beverages, attracting lots of attention and high prices for the first crops of the season. Perhaps I’m subconsciously trying to keep its feet on the ground by swilling it from a pint mug, I don’t know. All I do know is that when I wake up in the morning I am desperate for a large quantity of Darjeeling tea.

I like my first cup of tea to be black, and Darjeeling is perfect without milk. Because I take it black I can brew it slightly stronger than I want it and then add cold water to it, which allows me to drink it immediately without having to wait for it to cool down. This, to my mind, is the perfect scenario: a large quantity of instantly drinkable tea at the point in the day when I’m most keenly in need of it. Tea purists would no doubt be horrified by this ritual, and if I have offended you in any way I apologise.

About an hour or so after breakfast comes stronger leaf tea with milk. At the moment I’m in the habit of mixing two leaf teas that happen to be in the cupboard, because it turns out that they make a very flavourful and delicious blend:

The one on the left is my local supermaket, Tesco’s, cheapest leaf tea. You might think that since it’s so cheap (only about 95p for the box, I think) it wouldn’t be up to much, but it has some tricks up its sleeve. It’s a blend of African and Indian black teas and is quite astonishingly good, in fact I would say it’s even better than some other more expensive leaf teas. The one on the right is also a blend of African and Indian black teas, and was purchased in the Lancashire town of Carnforth, in the famous railway station refreshment room. Carnforth was the location for the film Brief Encounter, and they’ve jumped on the bandwagon by flogging all manner of film merchandise to anyone giddy enough to part with their cash. Being prone to a bit of giddiness, this included me when it came to their specially packaged tea.

I like to take this blended tea from one of my recently purchased tea-and-cup-plates (aka tea and toast sets, thank you for that information, Marian). Sometimes I accompany it with a scone, or a slice of cake, or some chocolate, and on other days I am a good girl and have a healthy snack instead (chunks of honeydew melon and sultanas sprinkled with cinnamon, in this instance):

My regular post-luncheon cuppa is English Breakfast (oddly enough), or occasionally Traditional Afternoon, both supplied by the inestimable Twinings:

Other black teas that are currently resident and sometimes get a look-in include the beautifully packaged and very flavourful Yorkshire Tea:

The somewhat suave and gentlemanly Earl Grey:

And Cafe Direct’s tasty blend of African teas:

One tea that is not currently residing in the tea cupboard is, strangely, one of my all-time favourite black teas: Assam. For information on this tea, I would like to refer you to the magnificent Shona Patel, a fellow blogger who was brought up on an Assam tea plantation and is a wealth of information on the subject.

If I’m not awake and drinking tea, then I like to be asleep. I’m a big fan of bedtime and look forward every night to getting into my jim-jams preparatory to falling into bed nice and early and allowing myself a decent long snooze.

In order to make the most of this,  after about 14:00 I switch to decaffeinated tea. I’ve tasted many woebegone tasteless decaf teas, but thankfully I have found two brands that do at least have a bit of oomph about them. My current favourite is Twinings Everyday Decaffeinated:

I drink this as I would most other black teas, brewed nice and strong, taken with a little cold milk and no sugar. If I fancy something a little lighter, or slightly different, in the evening there are several other decaffeinated teas I often turn to. One of these is Redbush, a beautiful red coloured tea from South Africa:

If I’m in the business of consuming a considerable quantity of chocolate (a not unusual occurrence)  there is a tea that I think is the perfect accompaniment. It’s called Kukicha and is made from roasted Japanese twigs. It’s taken black and has a sort of smoky, earthy flavour that I think is truly wonderful:

When it comes to tea on a worldwide scale, I feel I am dreadfully ignorant. I know very little about Far Eastern teas and one of these days I would like to visit Japan and attend a tea ceremony.

What I do know about tea is probably what most other Brits know. Tea is a big part of life in Blighty and, as far as I’m aware, I have only ever physically met two people who didn’t like tea. One of them didn’t like any hot beverages, and I can’t remember anything about the other one, I just remember mentally chalking up a second non-tea-drinker on my radar.

I’m not sure how widely travelled the concept of ‘Builder’s Tea’ is, but I believe it’s a British expression. It refers to strong tea with milk and lots of sugar in it, the sort that builders apparently prefer (along with a big plate of chocolate biscuits, cakes, scones, sandwiches and pies, if they can get them). I didn’t know, until yesterday, that it existed as a brand. I might not have noticed it at all, were it not for the fact that it wolf-whistled at me from the shelf:

It claims to be ‘tested and approved by real builders’ and, according to the side of the pack, the tea people are ‘proud to work in partnership with the Federation of Master Builders’. I almost bought a pack but then I put it back, remembeing that there simply isn’t any room in the tea cupboard.

There are many other excellent teas I haven’t mentioned here, some of which I only have occasionally and keep for tearoom consumption, such as Oolong and Russian Caravan, but since tea is such a massive subject any post I do will barely scratch the surface.

This afternoon, in an attempt to soothe my burning throat (all sympathy welcome, I appear to have caught a cold), I tried a sort of hot toddy tea, using this Yogic concoction:

I thought the spiciness might be good for throat pain, and to give it a bit more welly* I added some honey and a splash of whisky. The whisky was, for any interested parties, a 10 year old Macallan fine oak triple cask matured single malt. Adding this to a cup of tea might seem a disgraceful way to treat such a prestigious beverage, but it was the only whisky I had to hand, and I must say it produced a most satisfying throat soothing medicine.

*according to the Wiktionary this expression means to add fuel or power to an engine, but it’s generally used as a slang term in the UK to mean adding some ‘oomph’ to something


81 thoughts on “Teas for waking hours

    • We don’t have that here, it’s something I’ve only ever seen outside the UK. I don’t know how Lipton’s have secured the worldwide market in tea but they seem to have their little yellow packets everywhere!

        • That Japanese twig tea in my post, Kukicha, is smooth and I think very easy on the stomach, but the things that spring to mind specifically are peppermint which is said to aid the digestion, camomile, which is another soothing herbal tea, and then some of the Yogi teas like that one I had for my throat. They do one called Stomach Ease, which I’ve never had but I have seen it in shops and my sister likes it. If you have a problem with your stomach strong tea might well exacerbate the trouble, I’m not sure, but I reckon something mild and soothing would be good. Perhaps the redbush/rooibos might be nice, it’s completely caffeine free and comes from a different plant than black tea.

  1. How fun to see your collection of teas (tho’ probably not ALL of your teas)! I haven’t heard of a lot of them, but I tend to get into tea ruts. I have a big, plastic container filled with various kinds, plus one side of a cupboard shelf loaded down with yet more…

  2. LOL! Ask a question… I love that you have different teas for different times of day. I always wanted to know why a tea would be labeled “breakfast.” I love your giant mug of Darjeeling. Interesting (to me) is that I have seen some of your teas where I shop, but in different packaging. I wonder if it’s like the Heinz canned beans situation where they have different recipes for the UK and the US.

    • It’s true, this post is all down to your question. I didn’t know they had different recipes for Heinz beans in the UK and US. What’s different about them, I wonder? I’m not sure why breakfast tea is so called, perhaps because it’s a fairly strong one and a lot of people need a bit of boost first thing in the morning. Is it the Twinings varieties you’ve seen in different packaging?

      • In the US the beans have tomato. I found this out, because people were always eating beans on toast on UK film and TV. Sounded not so good, and when done with American beans, it isn’t. With the UK beans, it’s pretty good. Go figure.

        Yes, the Twinings boxes are different. The box here (in Houston, at least) is red with no picture. I’ve hardly ever even seen the afternoon tea or the Yogi cinnamon (which looks really good). I’ve just noticed the Yorkshire, and it’s the same box here.

        I’ve been an English as a second language teacher for 24 years. I’m supposed to know about multiculturalism. Who’d have thought I’d be learning so much where English is REALLY the first language!

        • How curious about the beans. I’ve never understood why they change packaging for different countries, you’d think if it works in one place it’d be fine somewhere else. I’m quite amazed that you have Yorkshire tea there, although I know they’ve had a big campaign in the States recently, so perhaps it’s not all that surprising.

          What languages do most of your students speak as a first language, or are there a whole load? I would imagine Spanish and Chinese might be near the top of the list, but that’s a complete guess.

    • I don’t understand why packaging is different, either. Oh, and I finally had some Divine chocolate as an Easter present from my oldest daugher (complete coincidence). It’s 70% raspberry coins and deserves its name.

      The kids I taught came from Spanish speaking households.

  3. So much tea ❤
    I love to drink tea to 🙂
    have you tried "rhubarb with cream" ? (tasted black tea)
    It's the favorite – it's even nice to drink cold in summer x)

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, I can’t help but chuckle that my mom and I have a habit of buying all sorts of tea too. Quite a collection you’ve got there! There’s a brand called TWG that makes the most aromatic and delicious teas that you’d probably enjoy and Teapig is another brand that’s always in the pantry.

    • Thank you! Buying new teas can become a bit of an addiction, can’t it? I haven’t heard of TWG but I do know of Teapigs, we have them here and they have such beautiful little teabags. They call them tea temples, I think, don’t they? Something like that, but yes, they are lovely.

  5. Tea drinking is a whole different world! In the morning, I just throw 2 Red Rose (black) tea bags in the pot with 1 of Celestial Seasonings, Mandarin Orange Spice. Luvly way to start the day. In the evening, hubby and I treat ourselves with something different from a tea shop called Aromatica. It’s a place we drive to in the Lower Mainland of BC, Canada. Currently we really enjoy a tea called Powerhouse. That’s a mix of red rooibos (bush) tea and lemon myrtle. I don’t really like rooibos tea, it’s a little smoky but the lemon myrtle cancels that. You can use the lemon myrtle to punch up any lemony dish you are making as well. I am also trying Tetley’s Vanilla Earl Grey which is very soothing. My kitchen is a clutter of tea paraphernalia which I have gathered over the years. lol!

    • What a most unusual drink to start your day with, do you take that concoction black? I haven’t heard of lemon myrtle before, I’ll look out for it. Collecing tea paraphernalia is a fine hobby!

  6. A very lovely blog set-up, thank you so much for sharing 🙂

    You make me think that I was English in a past life. This sounds like heaven!

  7. You’ve done it again Lorna, another informative and amazing post. Your collection of teas is mind boggling. As you say there are so many teas you could be writing posts forever just on tea types. My favourites are Chai and Twinings blackcurrant when I want something a bit different.

    • Thank you Heather, how very kind. I love chai too, it’s so incredibly comforting. I haven’t tried the blackcurrant, but I don’t often drink fruit teas. I honestly can’t remember where that mug came from but there are several shops near me that sell that make. It’s Dunoon china: http://www.dunoonmugs.co.uk I don’t see that particular one on their website, but I think they don’t have them all displayed. If you type ‘dunoon mugs’ into Google you might be able to find it on sale somewhere, there are a lot of stockists. On the bottom of the mug it says ‘Weather Forecast – a design by Jackie Reynolds’, if that’s any help.

  8. Lorna, you are my kind of tea drinker. A HAPPY one! My goodness, you have quite a collection! I just opened my cupboard and found lots of old funny teas I need to throw out. I love that you use a big mug for the dainty Darjeeling and the Builder Tea sounds deliciously strong. I must send you some Assam. And oh, many thanks for your very kind mention of my blog.
    xx Shona

    • Thank you Shona! I get into that state too, finding old dodgy teas lurking at the back of cupboards. The problem is I sometimes buy one I think I’ll like, have one cup and then don’t have any more. I’m not sure what types of tea the builder’s tea is made from, I’ll have to have another look in the supermarket (and, no doubt, come home with a pack). It was a pleasure to mention your blog, you write so brilliantly.

  9. Love this! So informative and I’m letting you know, you’re definitely my tea connoisseur! Firstly, love your first cuppa Pint mug size with rainbows and such, very whimsical for fairy flower tea! Secondly love the variety and mostly, I must have been a builder in a past life cause that’s exactly how I like my tea, strong, milk and lots of sugar!!! Ha ha 🙂

  10. Lorna, you’ve done it again–you make a tour through a tea cupboard as entertaining as a tour through an exotic country! I have a cupboard crammed with tea, myself (though I don’t often expose it to the public). But, since we’re playing the tea-game (and what fun!), I’ll divulge. I usually start my day with a Yogi detox tea, and then I commence with the toxing. I’ll go to a few cups of coffee, then back to a stout green tea or a fragrant Earl Grey (always Twinnings), then perhaps a peppermint or other herbal concoction in the afternoon. By 5:00, I’m on to wine. Red, if you must know.

    • Oh Robin, you do amuse me! I love the idea that you start with the detox and slide downhill after that, ending up with red wine. You obviously like the good things in life but have enough of a conscience to pepper your day with herbal teas. That is a most interesting tea drinking routine, it seems that Earl Grey is a popular afternoon drink for many, although I tend to have it late morning when I have it. I bought some decaf Earl Grey for the evenings but it’s a bit of a let down (Twinings, too, I expected better). Thank you for sharing your teas, it was delightful!

  11. Your tea education isn’t complete, Lorna till you’ve tried (Aussie) Billy tea and damper.
    A handful of leaf tea is thrown into a tin of boiling water, fresh off the campfire, (preferably a smokey one to keep the mozzies away), then swung round the head seven times at the end of a wire or rope and poured into mugs. Milk and sugar to taste.
    Damper is SR Flour, salt, water, oil or fat kneaded flattish and tossed onto and covered with the hot embers of the fire. The ash brushes off when the damper is ready to eat. Enjoy with a freshly caught fish also cooked in the embers and wash down with a stubbie or glass of wine. You’re King or Queen for the day!!

    My description makes me think I should make a caption, ‘DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME (OR IN THE KITCHEN)!!’ but it complements the Outback way of life.

    I’m at home today so will have to settle for Stovies and a mug of Assam tea.

    • I must say, that sounds wonderful Davey, you make me want to go all Crocodile Dundee with your description. I love the billy cans they have in the outback, such a great idea, and I’m definitely keen on keeping off the mozzies. One day, I hope I can taste Billy tea and damper, but I might have a bit of a problem with bush tucker since I don’t eat meat (that won’t go down too well, will it?!). Perhaps I’d have to put my usual eating habits aside on such an occasion.

      • We’d love to see you down here, Lorna—–you don’t have to go bush to enjoy Billy Tea and Damper—-most of the shows serve it.
        As for not eating meat, there’s quite a lot of delish, delectable witchety grubs, wormlike things pulled from the inside of a mangrove stem, fat insects and many more non meat foods that the aboriginals lived on.
        To tell the truth, I haven’t tried them either!!
        But we have eaten and enjoyed crocodile tail, camel steaks, wild buffalo meat and regularly enjoy roo meat.
        We haven’t tried the snake, I think it is called the Timor which Aboriginal women searched for among the roots of mangroves. These sea snakes are very tactile loving the feel and warmth of the human touch. The women killed them for food by fondling them and putting the prominent head inside their mouths, closing the teeth and jerking back the body sharply thus breaking its spine. Not for the faint hearted.
        Maybe better stick to your entertaining tea room blog! I’m not sure the snakes would go down well in a rural Scottish tearoom. Catch your own meal!

        • Witchety grubs sound like meat to me! Funnily enough I think I could eat them. I once had a job working in a laboratory classifying insects that had been pickled in alcohol. They were collected in the Sumatran rainforest and I had to try and identify them using a microscope. Some of them just looked like specks of dust until the microscope brought them to life, so to speak. I don’t know if it was the alcohol fumes, or the fact that I was alone in a lab slowly going a bit mad, but despite being a vegetarian, these plumped up little bodies looked delicious and it was all I could do not to pick them up with my tweezers and swallow them. I’m absolutely astonished by the idea of women killing live snakes by putting them in their mouths! I don’t think I have that kind of courage. As you say, I’ll just stick to my tame tearooms and if I ever make it to Australia I’ll look forward to Billy Tea and Damper.

  12. Thanks Lorna, I feel as though my education is a little more complete!

    Do you mind if I add a comment about Fairtrade? (Please feel free to edit/delete)

    I visited Sri Lanka, famous for its tea, a good few years ago and strolled through a tea plantation in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It’s called Ella and is in the hill country of south central Sri Lanka.

    The plantation itself was perfectly manicured and a delight to behold but then on the other side were the workers living quarters. It was a square approximately 40m across surrounded by a 2m high concrete wall and along each side was around 10 concrete boxes, each one would have been around 4m square and each was the living quarters for a whole family. I was shocked and appalled in equal measure. If it was in the UK it would have pigs in. There were no windows and no doors (and it gets cold at night up there) and all the people were dressed in little more than rags. I spoke to a local man who told me the workers are Tamils shipped over from Tamil Nadu in India and they are essentially slave labourers. I can imagine a tobacco plantation in South Carolina 200 years ago may have been similar to this.

    It was a real eye opener to see how our tea is produced and I’ve only bought Fairtrade tea ever since in the hope that it will help to ease the lives of the plantation workers.

    • Thank you Finn, a very thought-provoking comment. Your trip to Sri Lanka must have been amazing.

      So much of what we enjoy in the west is a result of unfair treatment of workers in less well developed countries. Your story reminded me of leather workers in Pakistan. I spent more than a year there doing voluntary work when I was 20/21 and there were some pretty shocking conditions. The worst I came across was the tannery near where I worked. It had the most horrendous smell I’ve ever experienced, perhaps similar to a decaying corpse (although I can’t testify to that), and yet people lived and worked there doing long hours in truly dreadful conditions, just to produce nicely coloured leather for making into the sorts of goods we often buy without thinking about them. There are no doubt many examples of this kind of thing in everyday products we take for granted, and it is a big problem to address (and I agree, it should be addressed).

      I like to think that Fairtrade products do contribute to better conditions for workers, and not just a fair price for the product. There is a lot of work to do to give everyone equality in this world, and I agree that we should be supporting schemes that contribute to that aim. I do like to buy Fairtrade when I can, and the ‘Fairtrade’ label is an attractive one for consumers, but perhaps it’s not yet as embedded in my psyche as it should be. I appreciate you making the point, it’s a valid one and something every consumer should think about, thank you.

  13. Nice post Lorna!
    I love to drink tea…unfortuantely I can’t find that much here in Italy. So normally I buy a lot of tea during my stays in The Netherlands as we (me and Luca) prefer to drink Twinings. Unfortunately I also need to pay attention with caffeine 😦 so I only drink decaffeinated or infusions….
    You will definitly have more sorts of tea at your disposal in the UK 🙂

    • Thank you Letizia, Twinings is a wonderful institution. The Italians are big coffee drinkers aren’t they? I do like coffee but I would miss tea if it wasn’t readily available. You might like to try that Twinings Everyday Decaffeinated, it’s pretty good for a decaf tea.

  14. I do hope that your sore throat is better now! Sounds like you gave it some proper medication. What an amazing variety of teas! I remember being made to drink Rooibosh or something like that, by a former boss who thought it was amazing. Ew, I can’t describe how disgusting. I’m restricting myself to one cup of ‘proper’ tea per day (with milk) and the rest are herbal teas which are OK, I guess. Love your Darjeeling mug!

    • Thank you Jo, Covonia throat spray seems to be working wonders for my throat, or perhaps it’s all the tea and cake, or maybe a combination of all three. I laughed at your reaction to Rooibos! I like it myself, but I appreciate it might not appeal to everyone. I hope your one cup of proper tea is a nice treat and that you can enjoy your herbal teas. Do you avoid more black tea for caffeine reasons?

      • Yes, I’m cutting down on caffeine but also dairy products as an experiment, as I’m feeling the first twinges of arthritis in my fingers. Black tea… I don’t think I could drink it anyway! I used to drink about 7 cups of milky tea a day. Actually (fingers crossed!!), cutting this right down seems to be beneficial.

          • Not so much the caffeine (although I keep it low) but I’ve read that some foods such as dairy can spark an allergic reaction which in turn causes arthritis, even if you have previously had no history of such allergies.

            • How interesting, I’ve never heard of that. I know there are lots of reasons not to eat dairy produce but I think I’d find it very difficult to give up.

  15. And I thought I had a lot of teas in my cupboard! Really enjoyed this post. Builders’ tea is surprisingly good I think; you wouldn’t think it looking at it but it’s not bad as an everyday, go-to cuppa.

    • Thank you Maria, and I’m most interested to hear about the Builders’ Tea. To me, it isn’t the most attractive of packaging, but I wonder if it’s aimed at men. I will certainly try it though, after your opinion on the subject, thanks.

  16. This is a lovely post, like spending time with friends! The packaging of your teas is beautiful! Some of those packs are suitable for framing! We have nothing like that in Canada. The Twinings Earl Grey here is a yellow pack with brown writing (although it tastes the same which is the important thing). I noticed that one of your commentors is writing from Houston and also mentioned the difference in packaging. The tea I drink the most is “Salada” which is orange pekoe. Goes very well with chocolate!!!!!

    • Thank you so much! I agree, some of the tea packaging is very attractive, which is probably why I buy far too many teas. I haven’t heard of Salada but I can well imagine orange pekoe going well with chocolate!

  17. Lorna, this is the most comprehensive tea article I have laid eyes on. Hoorah for tea! I’ve been meaning to get reading your blog and this caught my eye, we are about to go on a tea tasting mission, its the life blood of the BHK and keeps us ticking over nicely. I like all tea (although Chinese teas like Lapsang Souchong leave me a little green around the gills). Happy mugs and blogs. Lee (www.thebeachhousekitchen.wordpress.com) PS – Im a pint man in the morning also, but mine is green with ginger in.

    • Thank you Lee, I’ve just had a look at your BHK blog and it’s great, I’ll certainly be returning! Green tea with ginger sounds like a very cleansing and enlivening start to the day. In your own words, hooray for tea!

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