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Feb 4, 2005 02:34 PM

tea time

  • h

bought english tetley's tea bags after reading many a limey endorsement in various publications over the yrs. it was very yucky. it had a very unpleasant flavour. they were cheap and they tasted it. bleck. i also have a very hard time understanding the english habit of putting milk into tea. ick. i also don't get earl grey tea. isn't it weird tasting? isn't it unyummy? to balance out the antibritness of this post i will say that i like scones and english muffins and um, i tried a sample english farmhouse cheddar yesterday and it was the best cheddar i've ever tasted. i can enjoy cucumber sandwiches when i'm in the mood and i have to say the whole taking time out for tea and sweets in the afternoon idea was a very very good one, english people. thank you for that.

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  1. Well, de gustibus non disputandum est, as we like to say in the British Isles... (not really) - you are entitled to your likes and dislikes. Tetley tea bags are certainly among the lowest-quality tea you can get, but no worse than Lipton.

    Earl Grey is not everyone's favorite, but it's a traditional taste and at least it's derived from nature, unlike most of the truly repellent flavors put out by Celestial Seasonings. Now THERE's some truly disgusting artificial "tea" for you.

    Interestingly, marketing research shows that American consumers prefer a stronger bergamot flavor in their Earl Grey than Britons.

    Personally I love milk in my tea, although not in every kind of tea. But many black teas - like Assams, Keemuns and Yunnans - taste fantastic with a little milk. (I'd never use it in Darjeeling or oolongs, and most Ceylon tea is better w/o milk too.) I usually add no more than a spoonful per cup; the tea needs to be strong.


    6 Replies
    1. re: Sir Gawain

      lipton has no taste but tetley's tastes repulsive and repulsive IS worse than bland.
      i have to admit with the earl grey that it's not just the bergamot. a friend brought us some fruit flavoured teas from marriage freres when she went to paris and i thought they were all a waste of tea and some of them really sickly. i think i just don't like stuff in my tea (including milk).

      1. re: hello

        hey, some people eat fried eggs with peanutbutter, which also makes me want to puke- I suppose there's no accounting for taste. The Mariage freres teas are exquisite IF you like good quality single estate teas- next time try the higherpriced keemun or formosa oolong teas- they DO stock 300+ varieties.

      2. re: Sir Gawain

        S.G., You might want to check out
        World Spice has many rare teas along with an excellent range of spices. As to tea itself, single malt scotch negates any need for tea's existance.

        1. re: Leper

          I appreciate the sentiment, but with my tea consumption level (min. 4 cups a day), the scotch route would cause my household major economic distress, I'm afraid...

          Thanks for the link BTW.

        2. re: Sir Gawain

          Never tried Tetley, but Lipton is disgusting. "Brisk" my hiney. Made me want to give my tongue a good scraping afterward. I think that the Earl is an acquired taste. It took me a few tries and a little lemon and honey to love it. And I love a strong straightforward black tea with a little sugar and a lot of milk. Sue me.

          BTW I thought that the preferred English tea was PG Tips?

          1. re: Kimm

            crap, now i have to try 'pf tips'.

        3. earl grey makes pretty phenomenal ice cream.

          i'd recommend getting a good earl grey though.

          1. English muffins are not English and you don't find them over there. The closest thing would be a crumpet. I like milk in some tea. some tea I prefer black or with lemon. I like Earl Grey and the very smoky Lapsang Souchong. The tea I am brewing up right now it Taylor's of Harrowgate's'Irish Breakfast Tea and they recommend serving it with milk. I am going to use half andf half because it is what I have on hand.

            40 Replies
            1. re: Candy

              you have obviously never read 'the importance of being earnest'. shame on you.
              milk doesn't work for me, but half and half is half CREAM! this is unacceptable. you must not commit this crime against tea.

              1. re: hello

                I read it before you were born.

                1. re: Candy

                  well okay, but then you obviously missed the bit about muffins. there is a recipe for them in elizabeth david's bread book! english cookbooks, english novels, english journalism, i am not imagining it! they are english. that is why we clever yanks call them 'english muffins'. dingdingding... here comes the muffin man.

                2. re: hello

                  I'm confused. I recently read a book by a British author who had her characters in the early 1900s brewing their tea with sweetened condensed milk. Yes, it's milk, but it might as well be cream. (and it's a wonderful brew)

                  I personally love early grey, british/english breakfast and irish breakfast teas. And I love them dark with milk and sugar (or cream if necessary). No one 'taught' me this, it's just how I've always liked my tea. Very strong, very creamy, very sweet.

                  Can you explain the necessity of a 'shame on you' in this post? What am I missing? Is cream a crime against nature to a proper brit?

                  1. re: krissywats

                    I am an elderly American who grew up with an Edwardian-era English stepfather and for a while lived abroad in an English community so it was milk in tea all over the place. Milk, not cream, and it had to go in the cup first then the tea was poured on top of the milk. Some myth about settling the tannin. Did not realize I liked tea until I grew up and left home: voila, eureka, everybody was drinking it clear and it was actually good. Other parts of the English Tea Ceremony were, always warm the pot before making the tea, use a tea cozy, ask the ranking woman present to pour, and always have some of the savory before some of the sweet. Also, "high tea" means "hearty afternoon tea that includes meat or egg"---definitely not a formal meal. In spite of this brilliant education, I now heat a mug of water in the microwave and and grab a teabag. Sic transit, et al.

                    1. re: N Tocus

                      Hahahaha. I love that!

                      I've actually been to a few 'high teas' at snooty American hotels in Boston and NYC - it's sort of become a hobby of mine. I love them. But those are interesting facts. Thanks so much!

                      Of course I'll keep drinking mine however I like it. Which is with a good milk and some sugar. I love it so much I'm surprised how many people hate it with milk. I can't imagine what's to hate. But, my blood is United Kingdom so perhaps it's just in my genes.

                      Someone mentioned that the sweetened condensed milk is an Indian influence thing that seeped into British culture. I'm interested to know.

                      1. re: krissywats

                        i'm indian (well, i was born in california, but my parents are from india) and we never use sweetened condensed milk. the way we approximate indian tea in america is we brew very strong black tea and then add evaporated milk and sugar. it's not nearly as good as the real thing from india, but it'll do for here. i think india is where the brits picked up the tea habit, no?

                        1. re: arifa

                          That was very informative, thank you. I have no idea about the history of tea but I'm certainly learning a lot.

                          1. re: arifa

                            evap milk + sugar is condensed milk basically. what version of 'the real thing' is that?
                            i think brits were drinking tea from china before they started importing from india.

                            1. re: hello

                              the indian version of the real thing (and, yes, i realize it's just a version) is made with buffalo milk and is really rich and yummy. basically, you heat buffalo milk with just a splash of water until it comes to a boil. then you add in loose black tea and boil for a while (maybe 3-5 minutes?). pour into small cups and add in sugar. some people also put cardamom in their cups for the fragrance.

                              1. re: arifa

                                oh - and about the sweetened condensed milk... it does NOT taste the same as evaporated milk. evaporated milk has a "cooked" and creamy flavor to it whereas sweetened condensed milk tastes kind of raw and gritty.

                        2. re: N Tocus

                          i'm sorry you had to endure english class retardation 101 (you're american, i wonder what putting your milk in after the tea would have signified about you?) but microwaved water and a tea bag is not the way to rebel. you are only hurting yourself. you might think about getting an electric kettle, it's just as convenient, if not probrably more. i guess water is water but i find microwaving it somehow freakish. doesn't it take a while to get really hot. truthfully, don't you sometimes settle for not quite hot and then get icky tea. I also find if you use one of those mugs with the removable filter it's just as convenient to use loose leaf as it is to use bags even if you're just making tea for one, though i don't feel quite so strict about that if you use good quality.

                          1. re: N Tocus

                            Interesting about certain tea etiquette...

                            Apparently, way back when these things mattered, putting milk in first to the bottom of the tea cup was something that indicated lower class manners. People disparagingly would label someone a "milk in first" sort to indicate coarse upbringing.

                            Upper classes would swish teapots several times with hot water, before brewing tea for a specified amount of time, and add milk in last.

                            It all seems rather silly to me, since Asians would never contaminate a good cup of tea with something like milk. Deadens the taste and loses all subtlety of good tea.

                            1. re: Pupster

                              >>It all seems rather silly to me, since Asians would never contaminate a good cup of tea with something like milk. Deadens the taste and loses all subtlety of good tea.

                              Strongly disagree with your last statement, and it's even inaccurate. Indians put not only milk but also sugar and spices in their tea. Tibetans and Mongolians put yak butter in their tea. So what you really mean is the Chinese, the Japanese and the Sri Lankans as the other major "tea nations".

                              But it's all irrelevant, because I am not Asian and prefer to drink tea the European way, which means I add milk when I feel like it. (I also, unlike 90% of China and Japan, vastly prefer black tea to all other types.)

                              A small quantity of milk actually accentuates some qualitites of good black teas, because it takes the edge off the tannins. Some toasty Assams are specifically made to be consumed with milk, for example.

                              1. re: Sir Gawain

                                Exactly, which is why I have milk or half and half in my Irish Breakfast tea.

                                1. re: Sir Gawain

                                  I'm estimating that the percentage of Chinese liking green over red/black is closer to 50%. In China, green teas aren't vastly more popular than white/flower/red/black teas on the whole, although the preferences might change from region to region. For example, one is likely to find more oolongs than green teas in Fujian.

                                  In SE Asia, we usually put milk, (condensed and otherwise) into our teas too.

                                  On a personal level, I tend to brew light and fast to keep the tannin levels under control. But it's sometimes nice to have slightly more robust tannins when drinking with rich foods.

                                  1. re: Limster

                                    I guess my 90% was an exaggeration, but I remember seeing a statistic to that effect somewhere - that sales of black tea in China accounted only for a very small fragment of the market, most of black tea being produced for exports. But I don't know how accurate and how old the statistic was.

                                    In any case, acquaintances who travel to China tell me that white, green and oolong teas (and their flavored varieties) tend to be far more prevalent in people's homes and restaurants/tearooms rather than red teas.

                                  2. re: Sir Gawain

                                    Sir Gawain, you are right that I was remiss in not accounting for the Tibetans (though I'm not sure you are right about the Mongolians; did you mean the Nepalese?)

                                    As for the Indians, is milk in their tea before or after the influence of the British? (I don't think the Sri Lankans are dairy-friendly, but I can't say definitively.)

                                    As for your tannins theory, I would venture to guess that those teas specifically requiring milk were formulations concocted by occidentals (just as Orange Pekoe and Earl Grey were invented by the East Indian Cos. for British tastes.)

                                    1. re: Pupster

                                      Hey P,

                                      No, I am not confusing Nepal and Mongolia. I actually have the pleasure of having two Mongols among my friends.

                                      I don't want to draw out this discussion interminably, but you seem to be making two basic assumptions:

                                      1. Asians in general are great gourmands and connoisseurs of high-quality tea, and as such wouldn't sully its exquisite taste with a dull substance like milk.

                                      2. Even for a contemporary European, drinking tea any other than "the Asian way" (beside the fact that there is no such way, as simply there are too many different ways of preparing and drinking tea in Asia) is somehow incorrect and amounts to not being able to fully appreciate its taste. "Occidental" ways of preparing tea are inauthentic and inferior.

                                      Both assumptions are wrong, in my opinion.

                                      People in Asia drink some very crappy tea in ways that are as varied as that continent is, from adding all kinds of stuff (including milk, salt, rice, flowers, spices, sweeteners and [rancid] butter) into it to using lidded canning jars that you bang on the table before drinking the tea that sits in them all day long. (As they do in some parts of China.) In many parts of Asia, tea is a basic utilitarian drink of poor quality that is NOT drunk for taste - let's say it's the equivalent of Coors or Bud Light here in the US.

                                      Secondly, if the way I (a non-Asian) drink tea now is a result of a blending of cultural influences including the British colonization of India, so what? That's what happens, see. Half of Japanese culture is a result of the Japanese colonization of China, including their use of tea. Who's to say the Chinese "do it right" and the Japanese don't, with their bizarre, inauthentic ground matcha?

                                      Finally, I am not an experimental cultural anthropologist trying to recreate some historic ideal of the "original-authentic" experience of tea drinking. I merely like (black) tea and believe that it sometimes tastes good with a bit of milk. And that some nasty colonial Brit has brought me this pleasure through his perverse insistence on cultivating rich, biscuity, toasty Assams that are perfect for milk doesn't bother me at all.

                                      P.S. Try a good Yunnan sometime.


                                      1. re: Sir Gawain

                                        Sir Gawain,
                                        I think you read too much offense into comments that I meant to be inoffensive. While I prefer my tea black (so to speak), it doesn't make me feel in any way superior because of it; it's just how I drink tea. I don't particularly care how other people drink their tea, but for a mild curiosity.

                                        In any case, the origins and evolution of tea could span several books, a few that are already out there and interesting to read. I am no expert, just an interested amateur, due to my habitual consumption. Tea over coffee anyday.

                                        Where do you stand on the lemon squirt?

                                        P.S. BTW I knew there was no orange flavor in orange pekoe; just pointing out it was "invented" by British importers. ;)

                                        1. re: Pupster

                                          Dearest P,

                                          Your comments were not offensive - besides being serenely authoritative, they were simply incorrect, so I took the opportunity to educate a young 'un. ('Tis a hobby of mine.)

                                          No lemon, thank you.

                                          1. re: Sir Gawain

                                            Acknowlegded. My fault for throwing such a sweeping general comment out there as an afterthought. I will be more careful in future. ;)

                                      2. re: Pupster

                                        By the way, there is no orange in Orange Pekoe. Orange Pekoe simply denotes a leaf on the tea plant, it's not a flavor.

                                        But you are right in that the Indian tea classification vocabulary (pekoe, orange people, flowery, silver, tippy, etc. - abbreviated as SGTFOP etc.) is a result of British colonization.


                                    2. re: Pupster

                                      Now that's funny... My Irish relatives still swish a bit of hot water around in the pot and then pour it out before brewing. There's no way they would be caught dead affecting any aristocratic British mannerisms, as they are as proletariat as you can get...

                                      1. re: Pupster

                                        don't listen to sir gawain. he is just trying to confuse you with facts. you obviously have proper tea instincts and good taste.

                                        1. re: Pupster

                                          I was taught by my UK family that putting milk in first was done to prevent fine bone china cups from cracking with the sudden temp change. Heating the pot was just a practical way of keeping the tea hot.

                                          So 'Milk in First' kind of people were the upper class with expensive china around here!

                                      2. re: krissywats

                                        you've put cream in tea and it didn't taste unbearable? i've never had condensed milk in hot tea but that isn't the same. it's the fat does horrible things to the tea.
                                        shame on you cause 'the importance of being earnest' is required reading. wasn't being quite serious but there is a funny bit in there about muffins which, of course, are absolutely english.

                                        1. re: hello

                                          Yes, but English Muffins are not English but an American invention. If you ask someone in England about English Muffins they have no idea of what you are talking about unless they have visited here and been introduced to them. The muffins in The Importance would be more like common blueberry muffins etc.

                                          1. re: Candy

                                            Well this is our first english muffin-fueled flamewar. Congrats on a Chowhound first!

                                            There are obviously some sore spots being touched here, so we've removed the snippiness and we'll invite you folks to post again, this time keeping a few things in mind:

                                            1) We're a food discussion site. Nobody is the absolute authority on anything here, and posts that claim the authoritative answer, and try to shut the discussion down are not helpful and are counter to our mission. If you're done with the discussion, feel free to move on to a topic that interests you, without further comment.

                                            2) Please keep the discussion friendly, respectful and free from personal attacks on other posters.


                                            1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                              but, but... when someone is denying the very existence of muffins what is a person to do? what next? kippers? beans on toast? perhaps spotted dick has simply vanished from the face of the earth. would you want to live on an earth where a dish with such a name didn't exist? it is a slippery slope, chowhound team. a slippery slope.

                                              1. re: hello

                                                Believe us, we love a good spotted dick as much as the next guy.

                                                We have no problem with discussion of this topic, but the tone went downhill to the point where we felt the (valid and thoughtful) points being made weren't going to be heard because of the negative and inflammatory tones. We're sure nobody meant it that way... we know tea drinkers have the most scrupulous manners :-) We just wanted to wipe the slate clean so people could try again, this time in your best "tea room" voices. Thanks.

                                                1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                  Yikes. Every day I go on political boards where blood is drawn and shed and nobody gets nervous---all we are chatting about here is the right way to make a cup of tea. Food is always going to carry emotional baggage eg "Here it is Thanksgiving again and my stupid provincial family wants Green Bean Casserole---how can I bring them up to my level of sophistication and wonderfulness?". I doubt that it's possible to separate food from emotion. Who would want to? For that we've got the recipe on the side of the Betty Crocker mix box. But, Team, we will try to play nice.....

                                            2. re: Candy

                                              Thanks, Chowhound Team. We'll be good!

                                              I looked this up on google knowing nothing about this subject and this is what I found:


                                              These webpages site similar histories. An excerpt:
                                              "The origin of English muffins is not clear but at least one of the antecedents may have been "Bara Maen," a yeast leavened cake baked on hot stones in 10th century Wales. A similar cake or muffin baked on hot griddles was popular in 19th century England. During that time, the English muffin was originally eaten by the "downstairs" servants in England's Victorian society...The family baker made English muffins from leftover bread and biscuit dough scraps and mashed potatoes. He fried the batter on a hot griddle, creating light, crusty muffins for the servants. Once members of the "upstairs" family tasted these rich muffins, they began to request them for themselves - especially during tea time...Muffin men could be heard in the streets selling their muffins from wooden trays slung around their necks or peddling door to door in the early morning. For tea time in private homes and clubs, the English muffins would be split and toasted over an open fire and served in a covered sterling dish alongside tea. The prominence of the muffin men in English society was evident when "Oh, do you know the muffin man" became a popular children's nursery rhyme. The popularity of the English muffin reached its zenith in Great Britain during the years preceding World War I."


                                              This is an excerpt from the a story about the Harry Potter issue. The problem for one British gentleman was the fact that 'crumpet' had been changed to 'english muffin' in the American version of the books. What we find out here, is that no, the British do not consider 'muffin' as the big, sweet type (as in 'blueberry muffin')

                                              "Mr Gleick’s greatest castigation was reserved for crumpet, which the translators of the first book reportedly changed to English muffin...
                                              It is true that English muffins and crumpets are related things, though neither should be (or could be) confused with an American muffin, which to British eyes and taste buds is a sweet-tasting cake. Both muffins and crumpets are flat discs about three inches across and an inch or so deep, cooked in a pan or on a griddle, in the process generating deep dimples on one side to soak up the butter, which must be applied liberally once the cake has been toasted. The difference between them lies in the composition of the mixture used, which makes muffins feel and taste rather more like bread; in addition, muffins are baked on both sides, so they must be cut in two before they can be toasted."

                                              An anecdotal example:

                                              "I grew up in England (Gloucestershire) in the 1950s, and of course I learnt the nursery song - yet I'm sure I had no very clear idea what a "muffin" was. Somehow or other, I was lead to believe it rather like a crumpet (which was very familiar), yet definitely different. Over quite a few years of living in different parts of Britain (West Country, London, and Manchester) I began to realise quite how localised bakery terms are...during our trip to England this year (2000), I did some research. It's certainly easy to find the word, and my impression was that the most prominent use is in American-style fast-food outlets, for the sweet bun type. A few anecdotal enquiries suggested, though, that many people are aware there are two types, and the supermarkets soon produced some samples, as in the photos. The flat type are just called "muffins", while the sweet bun type usually attract some sort of "American style" label. It seems entirely possible that the original of the sweet bun type still exists in some part or parts of England, but I wasn't able to find it"

                                              Of course the English are not going to call them 'English muffins' much as the Chinese do not call it 'Chinese Food'. The fact that we now eat them for breakfast while the Brits ate them for tea is of little concern. Ultimately, as the last excerpt points out, regionally recipes change and names are different so knowing the exact place that 'english muffins' came about is impossible, yet it looks as if historically they were in fact part of English culture whereas the big sweet blueberry, etc, type are considered more of an American thing. Thus, when 'Importance of Being Earnest' refers to 'muffin', it would seem they are in fact refering to the flat type with nooks and crannies.

                                              1. re: Krissywats

                                                thank you for bothering, krissy. i'm sure our brothers and sisters across the pond will be relieved if they come across this scandalous thread and mrs. beeton lies still in her grave.

                                        2. re: hello

                                          Hi. An English lady, who serves "English High Teas" at my friend's B&B insists upon PG Tips, and even brought them back with her after any trip to England (one of our stores now carries them). I, personally, find them a little harsh, although one bag could probably do an entire big pot of tea. I got hooked on Red Rose long ago, because I started collecting the animal "strikers" that came in the box, so, for an everyday teabag, I like those best (and I use milk and sugar, or lemon). But, love a proper pot of loose leaf tea, English Breakfast, or Irish Breakfast, or Darjeeling. Have also tried Lady Grey tea, a nice alternative to Earl Grey... from Twinings, I think, in a royal blue box. Anyone had teas from the Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C.? If you are ever there, walk up the street to Murchies (spelling?) Tea for a treat, and then stop at Roger's chocolates for the full effect. Yum!

                                          1. re: JennBenn

                                            I got PG Tips at Harry's in Atlanta and it is not a favorite either. I ffind it a bit thin as well as a bit harsh.

                                            1. re: JennBenn

                                              what are animal strikers? now i must try red rose just to know. i read a funny article in LA times (my local paper) a while back. author's parents were from B.C. and had witty jabs at quality of tea they had to endure when visiting daughter here. i thought must visit B.C. and have lots of tea.

                                              1. re: hello

                                                Hi... as a "premium" in the tea boxes, Red Rose includes a porcelain figurine, made by Wade pottery in England. I think they've been doing it since the 1970s, and my friend told me they are called "strikers", because they are rough on the bottom, and you strike your match against the rough spot to light the fire to make your pot of tea. Anyway, they change the series of animals every few years, and you never know which one is in the box, so, to get a complete set, you buy lots and lots of tea. Very clever, and very collected by lots of people. You can buy them cheaply at most antique stores ($3 or $4 or more), but, I like to get them free. At the moment, it's the "Noah's Ark" series, which is NOT included in the 40 bag box... you have to save your box bottom and send away for Noah (but, I think is included in the 100 bag box). Probably way more than you EVER wanted to know about Red Rose animals !!!

                                          2. re: Candy

                                            I too love Earl Grey & Lapsang Souchong! Jasmine tea (a high-quality one) is also great in Spring/Summer.

                                            For an everyday tea I drink Taylor's of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold, a nice English Breakfast kind of blend.

                                            Because they can be a little pricey, I have Harney & Son's for more special occasions.

                                            For my daughter's tea party I served a Harney & Son's Plum Tea. It was pink-colored and tasted kind of like the spices in chai tea, the girls loved it. (When I can figure out how to post some photos of the party, I will.)

                                            (By the way, I make a strong cup, and like a good amount of milk.)

                                          3. Did you ever see Alton Brown's show about tea? Recently re-aired...very interesting! I'm with him...oolong is my favorite hot tea right now...just plain, sipping it while hot is very nice. For iced tea, though, I really do like Luzianne tea bags...I tried making iced tea with's barely okay but the delicate flavors are lost with the sugar and fresh lemon. Earl Grey you can keep...I had an immediate aversion to it the first time I tried it...tasted like I was drinking perfume or after shave and alas, bergamot is used in many perfumes. I should try jasmine tea again sometime...I remember it being kind of perfume-y it as perfume-y as the Earl Grey? Jasmine is also used in many perfumes...and I do love wearing perfumes, just don't like tasting them...just me.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Val

                                              jasmine's fine. i'm not as into green tea or oolong as black. the green with the toasted rice (genmaicha) is kind of nice.
                                              i've never tried luzianne but i shall as i am an iced tea addict.
                                              yes, earl grey is just not right.

                                              1. re: hello

                                                oh, it's a louisiana thing. exotic! shall order.

                                            2. a
                                              Anna 'Boo' Carroll

                                              I moved to London in 1969 and was straight from the Georgia woods. I thought it was quaint that the English had 'tea' around 4:30. I developed a fondness for Twining's Prince of Wales tea. Still drink it. However, my dream was soon dashed when I learned that the English don't eat supper/dinner until 9:00 or later at night. That's why they have something at 4-ish. To keep them from falling over from hunger. In all the years I lived over there, I never got used to having to wait till 9 for dinner. Thank heavens there was a Wimpy Bar across the street.