Who needs a Tea Cozy?

Really cute Poinsetta tea cozy by Smellymonelly on Etsy (please click image to go to site)

That’s like asking who needs a hug? The whole world does. A teapot inside a tea cozy is a molly-coddled teapot. Cozied teapots are hugged often and this helps the tea ponder as it brews for you. Drinking this tea will make you a wiser and better person. Tea cozies are fun to look at and may cause sudden and inexplicable bursts of joy. Suddenly the world seems just soooo nice! 

Did you know tea cozies make sensational hats? Half the royal guests at William and Kate’s wedding had –guess what on their head– tea cozies! You may also be surprised to learn those fat, fuzzy hat-things worn by the Queen’s guards once sat on her teapots. BIG tea guzzler, she is, that creaky old hatter. Among other functional uses, a tea cozy may be used to dress a cat or warm your feet- but please, not both at the same time. Cats don’t like being crowded with smelly toes and may ruin your new tea cozy out of feline spite and then you will turn around and blame me for giving you bad advice.

Now that I have convinced you the crucial importance of owning a tea cozy, you may want to peruse these exceptional hand-made tea cozies on Etsy. Here’s is a small piece of advice: please make yourself a cup of good, strong tea before you do because by golly, there are some 7,000 tea cozies to choose from and you are about to make a life-enhancing decision. Good luck.

BTW which one did you pick? Just curious. Tell me your tea cozy and I  will tell you the person you are: I will read you like a book and even tell you what you ate for breakfast. Talking about books, if you like tea, tea cozies and hoity-toity conversation such as this, you may like my book Teatime for the Firefly. Check it out and drop me a line and tell me if it’s your cuppa or not.


For more (but not necessarily reliable) information about tea cozies, check out good old Wiki.

Shona Patel’s debut novel Teatime for the Firefly is a love story set in a tea plantation in Assam. You can read more about it HERE.  She is represented by April Eberhardt Literary.

What is the difference between Green Tea and Black Tea?

Green and black tea both come from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, a member of the evergreen family that thrives in semi-tropical climates. This is the only plant from which “real” tea is produced. All other beverages that are loosely referred to as “tea” such as “herbal teas” are really herbal infusions or decoctions. Tea comes in many varieties, however, based on the way the leaves are processed, all teas are divided into four basic types: black, green, oolong, and the very rare white. 

BLACK TEA is produced when newly harvested leaves are crushed and exposed to air. This enzymatic process (oxidation–similar to what happens to a cut apple or pear when left exposed to air) changes the colour of the leaves from green to brown and, when dried, to black, resulting in a delicious, rich flavour and color. Black tea is the most popular tea in the West.  Black teas are full-bodied and are able to withstand the addition of sweeteners and milk.

Popular Indian black teas include Assam Tea (sold as English Breakfast Tea): this robust tea goes well with milk; Darjeeling (a Himalayan tea with a flowery bouquet) and Nilgiri, grown in the hills of South India. The climate and terrain of the area where the tea is grown gives each variety its characteristic flavor which is why the region is often a part of a tea’s name.

GREEN TEA has a more delicate taste and is light green/golden in color. Green teas are not oxidized but merely withered and dried.  The leaves are steamed right after the withering stage, which destroys the enzymes that would otherwise cause the darkening. The steamed leaves are rolled and immediately fired. The brewed tea is a pale green liquid, with the grassy flavor of the fresh plant. Because the tannins do not go through the oxidizing process, which has a mellowing effect, green tea can be bitter, more astringent if it is steeped for a long time.  

Oolong Teas are the teas that are most often served in Chinese restaurants.  Oolongs are processed in the same way that black teas but they aren’t allowed to oxidize fully. Predictably, the flavor of the semi-fermented tea is somewhere in between black tea and green tea.  

White Tea is minimally processed, usually only air-dried and slightly oxidized. The highest quality white teas are picked before the leaf buds have opened, while still covered with silky white hairs. Of all teas, whites probably have the least amount of caffeine. 

Herbal Teas are only called teas because they are steeped the way “real tea” is, but are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant.  Technically, herbal or medicinal teas are “tisanes” or “infusions”. Herbal and “medicinal” teas are created from the flowers, berries, peels, seeds, leaves and roots of many different plants. Chamomile and Peppermint are just two of the most popular herbal teas available today.  

Green tea is touted as having  two to three times the antioxidants of black tea but the fact remains about twice the amount of leaves is used to make a cup of black tea so the antioxidants per cup of black is still high.

Source: Financial Express “The humbler cuppa fights back.” Read the complete article HERE

Tea talk on Tea Buddy
What is Assam Tea?
Types of Assam tea: ORTHODOX & CTC
How is Assam Tea Made?
Is global warming changing the flavor of Assam Tea?
 Shona Patel’s debut novel Teatime for the Firefly is a love story set in a tea plantation in Assam. You can read more about it HERE.  She is represented by April Eberhardt Literary.

What tea do you drink? Please share!

What is Assam Tea?

Map of India with ASSAM marked in green

Assam Tea is tea made from the Camelia Assamica tea bush that grows exclusively in the silt-rich Bhramaputra River valley of Assam in northeast India.

Where is Assam? Assam is in the north-eastern tip of India (marked in green on the map) and borders Bangladesh and Burma (now Myanmar). It is the largest tea growing region in the world. This is rain forest country, very wet, very green, very wild. The Camelia Sinensis plant from which tea is made grows close to the sea level. Assam experiences some of the heaviest rainfall in the world :10 to 12 inches per day during the monsoons (mid May to end June) which is the peak tea picking season. The tea bushes flush at a furious rate and have to be plucked on a continuous 5-7 day cycle. Daytime temperatures rise up to 103oF and this together with the extreme humidity creates a hothouse effect that give Assam Tea its bold, malty taste.

What is special about Assam Tea? Assam tea is a robust tea,   bold and strong with a distinct earthy aroma. It has a bright coppery-red color and has a rich, creamy taste. Assam tea is the perfect morning tea and the ideal afternoon picker-upper. It is the beloved Breakfast Tea of the British.

Why do the British add milk to tea? Assam tea is strong tea that is high in Tannin: a natural anti-oxidant. Tannin is also present in dry wine- it that thing that causes the inside of the mouth to pucker and resluts in the chalky, dry taste at the back of your mouth. When milk is added to strong Assam Tea, the protein binds with the tannin and softens the taste. This is exactly the same reason why wine and cheese go so well together.

How is the tea picked? Very selectively and entirely by hand. Premium Assam tea is made from tender leaf tips. The part that is plucked is either ‘two leaf and a bud’, ‘one and a bud’ or just the pubescent tips. The quality of the  leaf decreases from the bud downwards. Good leaf is good tea and this is where good plucking scores. Experienced tea pluckers use the balls of their fingertips and not their fingernails to pluck the tea in order to avoid bruising the leaves.

Tea talk on Tea Buddy
Types of Assam tea: ORTHODOX & CTC
How is Assam Tea Made?
Is global warming changing the flavor of Assam Tea?
Shona Patel’s debut novel Teatime for the Firefly is a love story set in a tea plantation in Assam. You can read more about it HERE.  She is represented by April Eberhardt Literary.

Types of Assam Tea

ASSAM TEA IS BLACK TEA. There are two  kinds: Orthodox and CTC, both named after the manufacturing process used to create them. (You can read more  about how tea is made HERE) The leaf used from the bush (Camelia Sinesis) is the same in both cases. Quality leaf makes quality tea.There is no way around that. Quality leaf is determined by the pedigree and health of the tea bush and by careful hand-plucking. But like wine, tea manufacture is a fine art involving years of experience, in-depth know-how and often closely guarded secrets. The crucial step in making black tea is to allow the juices in the rolled fresh leaves to darken from contact with the air. Tea makers call this process “fermentation,” although, technically, it is “oxidation.” A similar process occurs when a cut apple turns brown. The dark substances that form while the tea leaves are exposed to the air is produced by the chemical reactions of the tannins in the tea.  The leaf is spread out and left to wilt, losing some moisture, stiffness and much of its weight. Then it’s rolled, exposing essential oils to the air and starting the oxidation process.  When the leaves have transformed sufficiently, then they are “fired,” dried over heat to stop the oxidation process.

Tea tasting in the factory. Historic photo provided by Roy Church

In practice when a factory is running, samples are taken every hour and tasted which may indicate how the manufacturing process needs to be readjusted. Tea Planters judge determine the quality of tea by its bright color and taste. The liquor when left to cool should turn opaque.

Orthodox Assam Tea. Notice the lighter flecks like tobacco called "tips". This is what gives tea its strength and flavor. Tippier teas have higher caffeine content.

GRADES OF ASSAM TEA Tippy” teas have a higher percentage of buds which show up as golden flecks (like tobacco) in the finished tea. The more “tippy” the tea,  the higher the grade/quality. Very ‘tippy’ teas are expensive. Top grade Orthodox is sorted entirely by hand and woolen blankets are sometimes used to further separate the fine golden tips. Orthodox names often have the words “golden” or “flowery” in the description but some names are confusingly common to both methods (Orthodox & CTC) of manufacture.

The four grades of Orthodox black tea are: 1. Flowery Orange Pekoe (the small leaf next to the bud).  2. Orange Pekoe (the second leaf next to the bud).  3. Pekoe (the third leaf next to the bud). and 4.  Souchong (the fourth leaf next to the bud).

TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) is the highest grade of Orthodox Assam, hand processed in small quantities at the finest plantations. It contains roughly one-quarter tips. The joke among tea aficionados is that TGFOB stands for “Too good for ordinary people.” TGFOB fetches top prices in the Arab world. It is drunk “pure” without milk. Bottom of the barrel are the Fannings and Dust. This is the tea that go into tea bags. Tea Dust is also what is boiled in milk and spices to create Indian street chai, which is a whole different cuppa altogether.

The word “pekoe,” used in grading black teas, comes from the Chinese word meaning “silver-haired.” This refers to the silvery down found on especially young tea-leaves. “Orange Pekoe” is neither flavored with oranges nor especially orange-colored.

“Orange” probably comes from the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange. (The Dutch played a major role in bringing tea to the West, and the Dutch East India Company was the first large tea trading company in Europe.) So Orange Pekoe tea is a fancy grade of black tea, as indicated by the reference to Dutch nobility and the fact that it contains particularly young tea-leaves

CTC tea: a dark fully oxidized tea that give a strong dark brew and has a rich malty taste.

CTC TEA: At the start of the 20th century when tea drinking caught on in the UK,  British tea companies started experiments in Assam and the CTC method invented and used to the increase volume of tea. CTC is the acronym for Crush, Tear & Curl. It describes the factory process used to make the tea which is similar to that of orthodox tea manufacture but instead of the leaves being rolled as a final stage, they are passed through a series of cylindrical rollers with hundreds of small sharp “teeth” that Crush, Tear, and Curl the leaf into tiny little balls.

CTC tea gives double the cuppage for the same weight as orthodox. For example one Kg. of CTC tea yields around 500 cups compared to 250 cups from Orthodox. The quality of Orthodox however is better than CTC as the coarse leaf is discarded at the time of manufacture by shifting.

Pekoe nowadays simply denotes the size of the tea particle. The smaller the particle size the quicker and stronger the brew. Large whole leaf teas tend to brew slower and lighter, and have more subtle flavours than small leaf teas.

Until the late 1960’s, 90% of Assam tea was sent to U.K. (to pay Sterling shareholders). Now it’s the other way round (90% sold in India). This also means that today’s tea standard is much lower than it was. This matter is further complicated by today’s practice of tea being grown on small private gardens who sell  their green leaf to other gardens which in practice means there is little control over quality.

(This post has been compiled from information collected from Larry Brown, Roy Church, Davey Lamont and Ali Zaman: all veteran Tea Planters. I have also used some excellent tea excerpts from Andy’s website www.askandyaboutclothes.com. Any errors/omissions are my own. Please drop me a line if there is anything amiss or if you would like to be credited differently. Thank you!)

Do you have other questions? Shoot me an email and I will ask the experts.

Tea talk on Tea Buddy
What is Assam Tea?
Types of Assam tea: ORTHODOX & CTC
How is Assam Tea Made?
Is global warming changing the flavor of Assam Tea?
What is the difference between Black Tea & Green Tea?