Hundred-year-old Tips for Selecting Tea

tea cup

There are so many kinds of tea. It’s always challenging to decide which purchase  . . . bags or loose? . . . black, green, or herbal?  . . . strong or mild? . . . organic, fair trade, or unidentified pedigree? . . . cheap bargain brand or pricey gourmet blend? . . .

I need help. So, when I saw information on how to select tea in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook, I eagerly read the advice:

Selecting Tea

In buying tea, choose the variety most pleasing to your taste. It should be free from stems and from powdered particles. When put in boiling water the leaves should not entirely unroll in a short time. Soak a pinch of tea, unroll the leaves, and  note their size and shape. Also note proportion of large to small leaves and stems.

A very low priced tea is not really cheap. More is needed to give the required strength than with more expensive teas and it also yields more tannin, which we wish to avoid. Tea does not keep well, so it should be bought in small qualities and kept in air-tight glass jars.

A good grade of English Breakfast with a flavoring of Orange Pekoe makes a very pleasing tea.

The Science of Home Making: A Textbook in Home Economics (1915)

57 thoughts on “Hundred-year-old Tips for Selecting Tea

  1. I have tried and tried to become enthusiastic about tea, and generally have failed. Iced tea in summer? Of course. And an occasional spice tea in winter. That’s ok, too. But it just doesn’t appeal, and two that most of my friends grow rhapsodic over (Earl Gray and any sort of green tea) are especially unappealing. I tried a Tazo that sounded wonderful, and I gave it away. Maybe I should try again.

    1. In my opinion, we are both old enough to know what we like and don’t like. If drinking tea isn’t your “cup of tea,” I won’t worry about it. 🙂

    1. We’re entering ice tea season. It’s getting darn hot here. . . Actually a wintry Australian evening almost sounds good right now.

  2. It is so true about the cost and taste. I accidentally purchase a higher price tea,was so amazed at the difference in taste. I don’t have to use as much leaves and the taste was much smoother. So in the long run there probably wasn’t much difference in cost. Your tea cup and saucer are very pretty!!

    1. I like the cup and saucer, too. They aren’t actually a hundred years old, but were made after WWII and have a made in “Occupied Japan” stamp on the bottom.

        1. I think that many of these items were sold to U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan after WWII. I had a great aunt who was in the Women’s Army Corps- and she brought the tea set back that this cup and saucer are part of.

    1. Wow, I thought all Brits loved tea, but it makes perfect sense to me that different individuals like different foods and drinks. And, your comment made me think about the importance of not stereotyping.

  3. Even the smell of different teas is a clue to how good it will be when you dip it in hot water. I enjoy drinking it either hot or iced, depending on the flavor. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a pretty antique cup of tea, other times I just want my comfort mug to sip while reading. Either way, it’s good 😊

  4. I’m a huge fan of tea in all its forms. Unfortunately I usually don’t have the time to brew it in a pot, and end up with various tea bags. But when I do, I can definitely notice the difference in quality from different brands. Good advice! 🙂

  5. I feel the same way as Shoreacres: only iced tea in the summer for me. But I do like a little hot tea in the morning – only if I have a bad cold!

  6. Nice advice on tea. Now-a-days the many teas that’s on the shelves can make a person go tea-crazy trying to decide on which one to buy. I agree with the advice from a hundred years ago on selecting one to enjoy. 🙂

    1. It’s so easy to end up with lots of packages of difference types of tea that start to overwhelm my food pantry. I’ve learned over time that I need to be firm with myself and finish one variety of tea before I buy another. 🙂

  7. I am a HUGE tea drinker, and drink mostly herbal with no caffeine. So many lovely varieties out there! But I don’t buy tea leaves, I’d rather just nuke my tea bag in water and call it good. 🙂

  8. Sheryl. Oops, I have a lot of tea to discard and will start over with all new! Thanks for the 100 year old tip! I was just bragging the other day that nothing in my pantry is out of date. A braggart one should not be…it smacks back at you!

    1. All the tea varieties are so enticing. It’s so easy to purchase new packages of tea before the previous ones are quite gone. And, then before I know it, the cupboard is overflowing with almost empty boxes of tea. 🙂

  9. I love all sorts of green teas, white teas, fruit teas, normal black tea, herbal teas but not rooibos tea, that one, I don’t like at all but it is my husband’s favourite. 😀

    1. I don’t think that I’ve ever had rooibos tea. Your comment makes me curious about it. I may have to buy some and see if I like it.

  10. It is not easy, but I have finally found a tea that pleases my taste: Yogi green tea. That is my staple and when I want a strong tea, it has to be Earl Grey. But it took quite a bit of time 🙂

  11. Was the piece of advice really advertising for English Breakfast? 🙂 I only use tea bags for the convenience. I used to drink a lot of tea, but have started enjoying Hazelnut coffee in the morning.

    1. No, English Breakfast tea is a blend of tea (not a brand) that has been around at least a hundred years. According to Wikipedia :

      “English breakfast tea is a traditional blend of teas originating from Assam, Ceylon, and Kenya. It is one of the most popular blended teas and the most common form of tea in British tea culture. English breakfast tea is a black tea blend usually described as full-bodied, robust, rich and blended to go well with milk and sugar, in a style traditionally associated with a hearty English breakfast.”

  12. Thank you for sharing the article Sheryl. Indeed there is so much wisdom in how things were done those days. Dorothy Hartley’s “Food in England” is a great example.

    1. I need to read Food in England. I am fascinated by foods of the past and I think that I’d really enjoy that book. Thank you for reminding me of it.

  13. Every morning I have a cup of Celestial Seasonings English Breakfast tea from a Keurig coffee maker. How things have changed in 100 years, but we still have a form of English Breakfast tea. 🙂

    1. Your comment made me smile. It interesting (and wonderful) how traditions and technology work together over time to create new versions of old comfort foods.

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