Tuesday July 28, 2009 | 1 comment
Breakfast teas are not the only ones designed for a certain hour of the day. Indar, a French brand, describes itself intriguingly as Boudoir Tea – for whenever the opportunity arises, no doubt. British firms like Jacksons sell Afternoon and Evening teas but the apogee of this practice was attained by the now-defunct London firm which only sold six teas: Morning, Lunchtime, Afternoon, After-Dinner, Evening and Drawing Room.
Another “veddy Brit” practice hallowed by usage is to give teas names connecting them, however remotely, to the institution of the monarchy. Melrose, the leading Scottish tea brand, created its Queen’s Tea for Victoria’s use at her beloved Balmoral Castle. It is predominantly Darjeeling, with the addition of black teas from China, Assam and Ceylon. In London it was Thomas Ridgway who catered to the Queen’s tea needs with Her Majesty’s Blend or H.M.B. tea, which is also still sold. Ridgways’ H.M.B. is a delightful blend of rather delicate India, Ceylon, Taiwan and China black teas.
This practice spread to the colonies as well. In Vancouver, British Columbia, Murchies’ Empress Blend has been sold for over a century, just as First Colony in Norfolk, Virginia, has sold its Queen’s Blend since the 1870s, both created in Victoria’s honor by Scots who immigrated to the New World. Mr. John Murchie apprenticed at Melroses, in fact.
Some fragments of tea history are preserved in certain proprietary names like Boston Harbor Tea, exported by a London firm which was already 127 years old when it changed its name to Davison, Newman & Co. in 1777, only a few years after previous exports were tipped into Boston Harbor, purportedly by Indians. Mark T. Wendell’s Hu-Kwa Tea carries the name of a Cantonese who became a world-famous merchant prince and a household name for half a century. He had actually sold tea to the clipper ship captain whose nephew Mark T. Wendell founded the present firm in Boston. Before the Opium War, the chop, or stamp, of Hu-Kwa (actually spelled Houqua) was a guarantee of excellence. A man who concluded deals on a handshake, he was so highly esteemed that America’s first clipper ship was named for him. Houqua tea made the fortunes of Astor, Perkins, and Peabody, America’s first millionaires, and sustains Mark T. Wendell still.
Ty-phoo owes its beginnings to a digestive disorder suffered by the sister of a Birmingham grocer, Mr. John Sumner. His sister discovered or imagined that a certain small-leaf Ceylon tea helped her condition and at her urging he began selling this tea under the name Ty-phoo in 1905. Her Invalid Tea became so popular that within a short time families in the neighborhood were calling themselves Ty-phooites, and Mr. Sumner’s company went on to win a major share of the national market. It and the completely retro Betjeman & Barton Dowager Tea persist, though Cambric and Nursery teas have quite disappeared into history.