Tea has an ancient origin, and any insight into the world of Tea will immediately encompass numerous and a quite frankly bewildering array of topics
From the history of growing tea to production and terminology, ethics and the environment to biodynamics, the marvellous myths, legends and stories that surround tea, there are a quite bewildering array of topics, each multifaceted and complex. It is almost reason enough to give up before even embarking on an amazing journey that is the world of Tea.
Tea with Mary Kate was looking for help to further explore this fascinating world that is Tea. Having found Northern Tea Merchants on the Web, Tea with Mary Kate enthusiastically accepted owner James Pogson generous offer of an invitation for a day of tea tasting.
A pot of Black Idulgashinna leaf Tea arrives replete with china tea cups and a tea strainer stand
James starts the day, and our journey into the world of tea by sharing his current favourite brew, a rare, full bodied biodynamic black Ceylon not currently available from the company’s vast selection.
James is a Tea Man through and through.
His passion for Tea is palpable. As the third generation of his family to own and run a tea merchants, James has grown up in the tea trade – you could say tea runs in his blood. There’s an honesty, frankness, perhaps some would even consider it blunt Northern openness to his manner, but it’s relaxed rather than formal, friendly rather than officious. He is proud there’s not a single machine at his Chesterfield premises that he can’t personally fix. Beyond his immediate business though, James has strong views about the ethical, social and as well as environmental issues that surround tea and seeks to apply these principles in his own back yard.
There is a bewildering array of tea terminology
Clearly an expert tea taster, James is generous in sharing his knowledge and insight into tea quality and pricing. He is keen to dissolve some of the myths that surround tea, and what he considers dubious tea descriptions. James seeks to educate and demystify, a new generation of Tea man, recognising that the world has changed from the days when his grandfather used to personally deliver to customer’s in the Chesterfield area. The company is still located there, but now has a Web presence, with James interested in controlling as much of the process as possible from tea plantation to cup.
There is an etiquette to Tea
James enthusiastically discusses the various teas we are to taste, and how to assess quality. The aroma of the dry leaf, the appearance of the wet leaf, the look for the liquor is all important. There’s so much more to tea that English Breakfast and Earl Grey! I think James is on the right track here in providing more guidance to demystify tea. Helping his customers make an informed choice will not only support expanding their choice but increase understanding about different types of tea.
Trust & “Gentleman’s agreements” are a legacy of their historic past that lives on.
In what other business will the tasting of a small sample result in an order of tonnes. It is reassuringly, and very aptly for tea, quite gossipy, this small tea merchants world.
Start the Tea Tasting Clock!
Gosh, how I adored the traditional tea timer! I was secretly very pleased that the battery had run out on his electronic one, glad to hear the ticking of the timer that seemed to more appropriately resonate with the legacy of times past, far more appropriate for its purpose of the ancient art of tea tasting that is the life and soul of a tea merchants than its electronic equivalent.
On their Golden anniversary, Northern Tea Merchants tracked down customers that were still buying from them 50 years later
Each customers who had continued to buy their tea for over 50 years received a specially designed Tea caddy to share in the celebration of their Golden anniversary, filled with leaf tea of course. James delights in sharing a reply from one of these long standing customers:
…..He [James Grandfather] never left us without tea during the rationing period of the war years, and always came in for a chat with my parents – even though sometimes it was quite late when he finished his deliveries (and no doubt he would want to get home before the sirens went!)…..but I still enjoy my favourite “cuppa”.
It’s a wonderful testament to Northern Tea merchants that 50 years on, their customers still write so fondly about them. It is also a fascinating insight into rationing in WWII, tea was precious then.
James has been the driving influence for inspiration for the new Northern Tea packaging.
The marvellous crooked Spire is from Chesterfield Parish church is the same image that his Grandfather used in setting up the original Spire Tea Company. The church was built in 1234 with unseasoned timber’s in the spires construction that left it with its distinctive crookedness.
Tea with Mary Kate believes this nation of Tea drinkers needs to reclaim that heritage
Often you’ll hear the cry “it doesn’t taste like it used to”, and James concedes that there has been an inevitable influence from supermarkets, but both he and his father before him are strong advocate in supporting access to an appropriate standard and quality of tea. Tea with Mary Kate has a renewed enthusiasm for expanding her tea repertoire and developing her tea palate, and is very grateful to James for his time, his enthusiasm, and sharing his knowledge and passion for Tea.