Category Archives: Tea culture

Tea Propaganda during WWII

This wartime film, titled “Tea Making Tips,” illustrates the correct way to make a proper cup of English tea. Released by Britain’s Empire Tea Bureau in 1941, the film is nothing short of propaganda. These “golden rules” of tea-making include correct storage, using fresh water each time, boiling the water to perfection, and giving the tea leaves enough time to infuse into the water.

The film features women working at counters making huge vats of tea and serving it to young, handsome, gleeful British soldiers. Another scene depicts wheeled tea carts being rushed to the scene of a bombed-out city square as a soldier hangs a Union Flag among the rubble. This film declares tea the British national beverage, and that correctly preparing a good cup of tea is an act of national pride. The production of such a film by a government bureau proves the British government not only acknowledged tea’s status as a nationally-beloved beverage, but also took action to perpetuate its status as such.

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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Tea culture, Tea history, Video


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Tea in a Global City

London has the reputation of being the global bastion of tea-drinking – a well-deserved designation. Tea in the increasingly diverse city, however, can no longer be reduced to Twinings and PG Tips. Immigrants living in London have brought their tea customs with them, or have reinvented English tea to suit their cultural tastes and needs.

This diversification of tea in modern England is beautifully illustrated in the BBC film “For All the Tea in England,” by Kerry McLeod.

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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Tea culture, Tea history, Video


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Tea App for iPhone

I just discovered a nifty little iPhone app called “Tea.” It allows you to catalog your tea stores and monitor your brewing habits so that you can make your perfect cup every time. Each time you brew a cup, you enter the name of the tea, the type of tea, the amount (in bags or ounces of loose tea), the steeping time, and the temperature of the water. Then, a timer begins and chimes when you should stop steeping the tea. Then, post-consumption, you rate the taste of the tea. Over time, you can deduce from your records the conditions necessary to brew the perfect cup of a particular tea.

I do have a minor off-the-bat criticism of the app; I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not measure the temperature of the water in my kettle before pouring it over my tea. However, when using the app, I enter either 212 degrees (boiling, for black teas) or a non-boiling (for green teas) temperature, if not a an exact value.

When discussing Tea with my boyfriend, an aerospace engineer, he came up with an idea that could really elevate the app. If the collected data could be shared among users, the app could create a series of graphs — one for each type of tea — with points that represent individual ideal cups of tea. The x-axis of the graph would correspond to steeping temperature, and the y-axis would correspond to steeping time. Therefore, if a user observed a clustering of points around a particular temperature-time intersection, the user would have an idea that that temperature-time combination makes a great cup of that particular tea.

Tea is available in the iPhone app store for $1.99.

A more in-depth review of Tea can be found here.

Tea app

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Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Images, Tea culture, Tea recipes, Tea tech


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High Tea at High Cost

A recent article in The Daily Mail, the UK’s second biggest-selling daily newspaper, reported that many English luxury hotels charge sky-high prices for the indulgence of afternoon tea. The Lanesborough Hotel, a five-star in Knightsbridge, charges 85 pounds for high tea ($134.74 American). London’s The Ritz charges patrons 64 pounds ($101.45 American).

As gasp-inducing as these prices may be, the answer for those who want to enjoy this English tradition without breaking the bank may be as simple as “shop around!” When I was abroad in London last year, a few of my lady friends and I decided to go for high tea at The Milestone Hotel, a five-star boutique hotel located at the southwest corner of Kensington Gardens.

On a beautiful April afternoon, we walked along Kensington High Street, clad in sundresses, espadrilles, wide-brimmed hats, and posh sunglasses. We entered The Milestone, and we were led into the tea room:

The Conservatory at The Milestone Hotel

Photo courtesy of

Super-chic, no?

We enjoyed pots of tea of our choice, and several three-tiered trays filled with as many scones and finger sandwiches as we could eat. The scones, served with clotted cream, were beyond divine, and the classic cucumber sandwiches refreshed and provided a satisfying crunch.

The above experience, which lasted a few hours, cost each of us 31.50 pounds ($49.93 American), a much more reasonable price than those asked at more-mainstream luxury hotels. Cost notwithstanding, high tea is a uniquely English experience that I encourage all visitors to enjoy.

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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Images, Tea culture, Tea foods


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Q&A with Christian Van Luven, owner of Roji Tea Lounge

Christian Van Luven is the owner of Syracuse’s Roji Tea Lounge. He sat down with The Teatotaler to talk about tea, his business, and why Syracuse is the perfect setting for a tea house.

The Teatotaler: When and why did you open Roji Tea Lounge?

Van Luven: At first we were living in NYC when one of our friends, who was working on Marshall St., suggested we open up a sushi or bubble tea place there. We were big fans of bubble tea in Chinatown at the time, and the idea of opening our own place seemed like the right time and direction for us. After a year of planning, site selection, menu changes, logo, and name, Roji Tea Lounge finally opened its doors in May of 2004.

TT: What is the demographic that patronizes the tea house?

VL: I would say it ranges by the time of day. During the afternoon, it’s a good meet up destination for people downtown, or a place for teachers and students to relax and sit with their laptops. During the weekend nights it becomes an alternative to the bar scene, where many college and high school students can come and socialize while feeding their tea and dessert cravings! Sometimes those days swap, so I guess we have a very broad demographic!

TT: What is your favorite tea? The most popular in the shop?

VL: I am a big green tea fan. I like Houji-cha [a Japanese green tea that is roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal], as well as Genmai-cha [green tea combined with roasted brown rice]. The most popular in the shop would be Chai, Keemun [a fruity Chinese tea], and Mountain Grape, a flavored Sen-cha blend.

TT: Your mission statement declares that “we are all equal in front of tea.” Could you explain this philosophy further?

VL: This is kind of our interpretation from what Sen no Rikyu, who was heavily influential in Japan on chanoyu (“way of tea”) meant, that regardless of age, sex, political views, or color, tea is meant to be enjoyed by all, and the mind should be at ease when enjoying it! I would also recommend reading, for those who want more of an understanding of what influenced us, to read “The Book of Tea” by Okakura Kakuzo. It really explains what direction we want to go with Roji.

TT: I have an ongoing series of posts in my blog entitled “The Great Debate: Tea vs. ‘Fee.” Do you drink coffee?

VL: I tried coffee, on a regular basis (meaning more than the occasional once every five years or so) for the first time last year. My friend was experimenting with “fire roasting” coffee beans, using maple or oak wood. It actually tasted amazing, but it also gave me the quick highs and a crashing low effect! I have not really touched it since. I don’t know if I’m adapted to drinking it, maybe it’s just not for me, but I still enjoy the smell of it, oddly enough.

TT: How would you describe the physical aesthetic of Roji? What are you trying to accomplish?

VL: Right now we are in between phases. We have a second room that was added three years ago. We have it set up in “tatami” room fashion, and everyone sits on the floor. Our main room is surrounded by couches and small tables. It definitely gives you a relaxing vibe as you enjoy your tea. This year we are trying to work with the city for a grant to rebuild some of our furniture and counter space. Using reclaimed wood pieces, it will give our shop a unique aesthetic as well as complement the tea! I’m hoping that will happen in the fall.

TT: Why does Syracuse need a place like Roji?

VL: As society seems to keep moving at a pace faster than we realize, there are few places where you can come in and drop the worries of the day, even for a short time. We’ve always looked at this as an oasis from the outside, which is where we came up with the name Roji (which means “the pathway that leads you to the tea room”). Over the years, the vibe and crowd may change, but the overall goal has always been to provide excellent service to our customers and provide a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy their tea.

Roji Tea Lounge is located at 108 E. Washington Street, Syracuse, N.Y.


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The Tea Harvest

A mini-photo series on’s PhotoBlog illustrates how tea is harvested by hand in China.

A handful of tea leavesPhoto courtesy of’s PhotoBlog. Carlos Barria / Reuters

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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Images, Tea culture, The business of tea


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A little Sunday night tea humor

Mr. Tea teapot

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Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Images, Tea culture, Tea wares


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