There is not a tea list that would ever be complete without the mention of tea from England. Yorkshire Tea is the tea many people wake up with every morning, even when traveling, as so many tea lovers take it along on holiday. The tea has something of a celebrity following too, including Madonna and Ozzy Osbourne.
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Look closely at any box of Yorkshire Tea and you will see the Royal Coat of Arms. The Royal Warranty of Appointment was granted to Yorkshire Tea by The Prince of Wales for supplying his London residence, Clarence House, for over five years.
It is brothers Charles Edward and Llewellyn Taylor who, in 1886, set up their tea and coffee importing business, with Charles opening tea and coffee ‘kiosks’ in the thriving spa towns of Harrogate and Ilkley. The ‘kiosks’ went on to enjoy huge success and continued well into the 20th Century, but following a post-war decline in the business, were put up for sale. The buyer for the tea company came after a chance conversation that Taylors were selling both their tea shops and their tea and coffee importing business was heard by with tea room waitress May Carter in another of Harrogate’s famous tea shops, Bettys.
The rest, as they say, is history. The newly-formed company of Bettys and Taylors went on to become one of Yorkshire’s most famous and loved brands. It was the only tea specially blended to suit local tap water.
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Charles, 2nd Earl Grey was British Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834 and is famed for managing to pass The Great Reform Bill of 1832, which started the process of parliamentary reform, leading eventually to modern British democracy. The Earl lived at the beautiful Howick Hall in Northumberland, a place worth visiting not just for the lovely Edwardian tea rooms, but the stunning gardens surrounding the property. The distinctive tasting Earl Grey tea (named after the Earl) was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin who used Bergamot to offset the lime-tasting water in the well at Howick.
The tea became popular when Lady Grey served it in London and was eventually marketed by Twinings and now sells worldwide and s made by too many companies to mention. Unfortunately, the Greys didn’t register the trademark, so never received a penny in royalties for the tea. A glaring mistake. There is a statue of the Earl at the top of Grey Street in Newcastle and Grey College in Durham is named after him.
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By the 20’s the motor vehicle arrived on the scene and Ringtons bought two, it was thought in the hope of improving the speed of deliveries. The cars, however, were not popular with the Geordie tea drinkers, and with their preference for the horse and cart, it was another 40 years before the last horse retired. Eventually, Sam returned to Leeds and in the 1930’s opened the Ringtons factory and the family-run business went from strength to strength. In the 21st century, Ringtons still deliver door-to-door to over 280,000 customers, worldwide to many more now of course from their on-line shop. There is also a thriving wholesale business, including selling to that most famous of British stores, Marks and Spencer.
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Twinings is one of the oldest tea brands in Britain dating back to 1706 when the far-thinking Thomas Twining, tired of drinking ale in the morning (which was common practice at the time), started selling tea from his coffee house on London's Strand. He quickly gained many fans of the ‘new-fangled’ beverage particularly as it gangrened popularity for its restorative qualities and because it was drunk by 'celebrities' of the day, including Jane Austen and Charles II.
Despite great opposition from the pub owners seeing profits began to dwindle, and heavy tea taxation, he persisted and opened the Golden Lyon, Britain’s first tea shop. 300 years later, as well as still selling tea from Thomas’s shop, the tea is sold worldwide the major difference being that there are over 100 varieties in the Twinings range.