Tea Rituals and a Challenge

Green, yellow oolong and black tea (Photo: wikipedia)

Green, yellow, oolong and black tea (Photo: wikipedia)

Are you a tea drinker? If so, what is your tea routine?

My Nana would give me coffee or tea from the time I was about 8 years old, filled up with about half milk and lots of sugar, but I only drank it at her house. I am not sure if my mom would have let me? I wouldn’t have tea at my other grandmother’s house because she steeped it on the stove all day long. It was so strong you could stand a spoon in it, as the expression went! And it was served with canned, evaporated milk!

Morse's Tea

Morse’s Tea

I started drinking tea after school every day when I was 14. This was unusual at the time since teens usually didn’t drink tea or coffee at all until they were out working. My family, like everyone else, bought Morse’s tea bags, a local blend made by Barbour. It is available only on the east coast (Canada). I never had coffee at home then, because we only had strong Maxwell House coffee made in a percolator – how evil!

Wade Whimsies - still available at flea markets for about $3 each

Wade Whimsies – about 1″ tall. Their non-rare ones are still available at flea markets for about $3 each (Photo: antiquetrader.com)

When I was a kid, boxes of tea came with a little porcelain animal inside – which I learned only recently are called Wade Whimsies. Everybody and their grandmother had dozens of them!

I had only regular black tea as a hot drink until I was in my mid-20s, when I started working at a library department full of coffee drinkers. They converted me, and I’ve never looked back.

I currently drink 3 mugs a day of half-caff, and I have espressos on the weekends. Every day, my multiple mugs last me until about 2 pm, and in the evening I make a cup of tea. I just boil water in an electric kettle and use a tea bag and that’s that.

I am in the midst of a little personal challenge. Last year, I faced the fact that my stash of tea bags was ridiculous! Besides regular black tea (orange pekoe), I probably had 8 boxes of other kinds: a box of 100 Twinings Earl Grey from Costco, ginger peach, white raspberry, and you-name-it. In addition, Rom doesn’t drink black or green or fruit teas and has only herbal ones like rooibos and chamomile, so he has his own stack of tea boxes.  Finally, on three different occasions, I’ve received large gift boxes of tea bags like this:

Gift Teas from Hickory Farms

Gift Teas from Hickory Farms

I probably had enough tea to fill a swimming pool! But I still came home and had my regular black tea every night. I had another kind maybe twice a week. So all my varieties and flavours of tea were going to sit there forever.

The first thing I did was use up the Earl Grey and not buy any more. I miss it! At the new year, I decided to finish up my last box of black tea bags and not buy any more until I’d used up all the other kinds. I have now been without any black tea for about 6 weeks. Of course I can drink green, mint, licorice, pomegranate, lemon and any other kind to my heart’s content. But I’m not content, am I?

I gave away all the unopened boxed teas to the food bank, but I had lots of opened ones. I took some to work. I’ve become somewhat accustomed to having my herbal teas in the evening but I still don’t prefer them. There are some varieties I like more than others but I am hardly going out to buy more!

The last of my tea bags are behind the kettle on the counter - Rom's are at Top Right

The last of my tea bags are behind the kettle on the counter – Rom’s are at Top Right

I am finally down to just 17 tea bags – fruit ones mixed with hibiscus and rose hips, green, mint and lemon. The end of the project is in sight!

Our kid Link is now a tea snob and drinks only loose leaf tea, and they chose some for us for the holidays. I liked the ritual of brewing a little pot of tea, and it has the bonus of requiring barely a teaspoon, and generating no waste. Since I drink all my tea at home and have plenty of time in the evenings, I’ve decided to go that route too. So I’m looking forward to starting over with 2 or 3 kinds of loose leaf tea, and maybe developing my own little stock of favourites.

Tea picking in Kericho, Kenya - evidently not shade-grown! (Photo: wikipedia)

Tea picking in Kericho, Kenya – evidently not shade-grown! (Photo: wikipedia)

If I don’t like the black tea blends available, I planned to go back to tea bags – but just one brand! – because of course I have my brand loyalty – now Tetley. But the latest news is that Tetley tea sold in India is harvested with “slave-like” labour. So maybe I will make a special effort to find loose black tea that I like, which is also fair trade organic. If not, maybe I’ll go with the UK institution “PG Tips”- a brand with a short history in Canada, but all their tea is Rainforest Alliance certified.

I know that green tea is more healthful but I just don’t like it enough to make that switch on a regular basis.

What’s your tea preference?

See also:

Fair Trade Coffee

No Waste Coffee




  1. I went off tea when I got pregnant and couldn’t even stand making it for others as the smell put me off. I drink strong black coffee but I have found green tea ok and I’m trying to drink that instead of so much coffee x

  2. Wade whimsies! We had the complete set when I was young but my Mom sold them. I saw them at a flea market in st Catharines lately and really wanted to buy them! I still might collect them again at some point because I love them! They are so cute! I am a big tea drinker. We drink PG Tips here. I tried drinking green tea instead, but I threw up after every time I drank it?!

    • We got rid of our Whimsies too. They were so commonplace that no one really thought they were worth saving. I have bought 3 of them and am trying not to buy dozens more but I might cave! (I now have the owl, hedgehog and giraffe).

      I don’t care too much for green tea, but can tolerate it – no physical reaction! But sure did not like matcha when I tried it.

  3. I have A LOT of tea. Mostly held all at work. It’s not my fault! I admit I drink tea but I had a big collection that I started making tea for everyone at work… Then I guess people thought I REALLY liked tea and started giving me tea when they left or as a gift. So my stash has over 40 varieties of tea right now. It’s kind of insane. My collection in February 2013: http://theasianpear.blogspot.ca/2013/02/the-tea-collection.html

    It’s actually grown. EEK!

    As for tea rituals, I don’t have any. It kind of depends on the tea. Because I have so many varieties, it depends on what I’m drinking (black, green, white, herbal, oolong, pu-ehr, darjeeling, etc.)

  4. Holly

    I finish my daily coffee (black, strong, up to 2 mugs) by noon and I don’t have much if any caffeine after that. I seem to be able to handle a cup of black or green tea in the late afternoon, though I don’t have it every day. Yet somehow I managed to have an overage of tea on hand. It was too much to use before it would go stale. I gave away all the unopened boxes to the food drives. I took tea bags (from opened boxes) to work and buried them in the tea stash there. And I am still making my way through the rest of it. Earl Grey was the first to go, because I really like it. Right now I am on Constant Comment Green. I am not sure what I will choose to use up next, or what I will do with all the herbal teas, as they just don’t float my boat. Iced herbal tea perhaps because I don’t want to toss it. Going forward I think I will content myself with just two options on hand, most likely Earl Grey and some kind of green.

    • It sounds like we’re in the same boat! I finished my Earl Grey first too. Iced herbal tea is a really good idea. I hate drinking water so that would be good for me in the summer.

  5. I’m a tea drinker. And a very particular (some would say fussy) one. So for me that means black tea. Not a herbal tisane or black tea flavoured with fruit. I love how tea is civilised. Cafes are so noisy, with all that banging and hissing in the making of coffee. Why people pay so much money to drink out of cardboard is beyond me. And cafes generally can’t make tea – using lukewarm water and not keeping their tea so it doesn’t absorb the flavour of coffee. So I normally only drink tea at home or work. Friends know I am fussy, with my tea and only having fresh (not long life) full-cream (not skim) milk. So they get in the milk or warn me to bring my own.

    As to which tea – I use Nerada tea bags for everyday. Nerada is grown in Australia, pesticide free. I can be sure, due to our labour and environmental laws, that the workers will be paid properly and the plantation won’t negatively impact on the environment (or the neighbours would complain and the local authorities act). Also I am not contributing to carbon footprint by too much transportation.

    Every weekend I make a little pot for breakfast. It gives me three cups in my Wedgwood china cup. (I set my table with a matching cup and saucer and milk jug.) For weekend breakfasts and special brews when friends come over, I buy loose leaf from a specialist tea shop. They have a couple of stores and are online: The Tea Centre. I drink Assam. My favourite is Joonktollee. I also like English Breakfast and Irish breakfast.

    Can’t start my day without a cuppa. Making me feel like one now!

    • I don’t have tea at most cafes either – I agree, they usually use either lukewarm water, or industrially overheated / scalding water. However the occasional place does looseleaf tea nicely. We certainly don’t have tea grown in Canada so I expect I will go the fair trade/organic route.

      I do like flavoured black teas but it depends on the brand; some have very artificial flavours. I love ones with orange zest or even just orange scent. I agree that tisanes are not tea and that word should be in use more to distinguish between the two!

  6. Do you know you can use all your black teas for other things – like cleaning wood floors! (If you have them.)

  7. joanie

    My grandparents always drank tea (she was from the Isle of Man and he was born and raised in Aberdeen, Scotland) so I started drinking tea with them. My grandmother took milk and sugar. I don’t like milk but I did use sugar in the beginning. My grandfather would always tease me about spoiling the taste of a good cup of tea so I started taking it black like he did. I still do.
    The entire top of the fridge is covered with boxes of tea. I keep buying various blends of green tea because it’s supposed to be healthy but I just don’t like the taste. I don’t know how I’m going to get rid of them.
    I keep a pitcher of tea in the fridge at work and I drink iced tea most of the day. Cannot stand the taste of coffee. My boss brews one or two pots of very strong coffee for himself every day.

  8. EcoCatLady

    Hmmm… I’m a green tea girl. I just like it, plus it has less caffeine than black, and I have to be careful because of migraines. Every once in a while I splurge and have a cup of coffee at breakfast – well, I guess technically cafe au lait because I make it with half coffee half milk. Black tea I generally only use for “medicinal” purposes… when I get a migraine, a cup of black tea and two Tylenol tablets will usually nip it in the bud.

    In case you’re not familiar with the migraine – caffeine connection… caffeine constricts the blood vessels, which can help to abort a migraine, and it also boosts the effectiveness of acetaminophen. BUT… too much caffeine, or irregular consumption of it can actually trigger a headache because once the constriction wears off it tends to contribute to blood vessel flaccidity which can cause migraines.

    My dad is a total tea snob and won’t drink anything but loose leaf teas… and they all have very exotic names. I just buy green tea bags at the grocery store!

  9. I started drinking tea as a young teenager – I would have a cup in the evening with my parents – and as I got older and started high school, I started drinking tea more often. I’d sometimes make myself a cup in the morning to bring to school in a mug, I’d take a mug with me on trips or when I went skating, and I had a cup in the evenings whenever my parents made it. My absolute favourite flavour is Tetley’s earl grey vanilla, which I like with cream and sugar. Last year, when I was living in my university residence, I found myself in a similar problem to yours – I had about a dozen kinds of tea, but only ever drank my earl grey vanilla! I tried cutting out my earl grey vanilla to use up the other kinds, but I found that instead of using them up I just stopped drinking tea! In the end I gave all of my teas except for one non-caffeinated flavour to a friend, and now I can enjoy my earl grey vanilla with some peace of mind!

  10. I agree with you on green tea – I know it’s better for me but can’t come to like the taste!! Currently I have an almost empty earl grey (twinings) box at home which I ferry an amount to work and currently drink a cup a day. I also have a big box at home and a little box at work of peppermint, the perfect remedy to my regular ill feelings in my stomach. I also have a little box of “pink” tea at work (some combo of berries etc).

    Other than those I’m trying to use up two sorts of loose leaf ‘relax’ teas, gifts from more than 5 years ago! I surprisingly went through a mixed tin of teas given at Easter, there was about 40 tea bags! Then there’s David’s loose leaf tea in maple flavour from a Canadian friend and I think that’s about all I have on hand. I would like to declutterer the loose leaf as I’m aware they aren’t my preference, too much bother (though I know I should bother!!)

    • I’m not sure if I will like having loose leaf tea every evening, or if I will find it a nuisance and just prefer the regular bags of black tea; I will find out in about two weeks! I agree that peppermint or ginger tea are “settling” and I also like lemon when I have a cold.

  11. I do like green tea but jasmine is my favorite!

  12. I’ve been drinking tea (and coffee) since I was quite young..although in the last five years or so I’ve realised that I can’t handle ‘proper’ coffee- too much (a large coffee shop cup) makes me feel ill, and even a small cup makes me twitchy!
    I used to drink a lot of tea, but my current tea routine is one cup with breakfast, and occasionally another in the afternoon. I use a 50/50 mixture of English Breakfast tea and Earl Grey- I find EG on its own too ‘floral’, but I like the mixture. I brew it in a little teapot- we no longer have tea bags in the house- and I find I’ve got used to the slight increase in time to make tea. I think the tea tastes better too, so it’s worth the wait! I have never had sugar in my tea/coffee, but definitely have milk.

    I’ve been decluttering my tea too! Some of it got composted as it was not tasty enough to drink..the rest was mostly herbal tea, so I started having herbal tea as well as black tea with breakfast. I have now worked my way through all of the herb teabags, and have now got some loose leaf herbs tea from work, as I really like my morning herb tea. (Currently meadowsweet and nettle).

    • I had no idea there were uses for meadowsweet. Silly me! I love Earl Grey but there is a kind with extra bergamot and I found that too much. I am also a milk/no sugar tea drinker.

  13. I think I may be your only reader who doesn’t like tea. Fruit teas are also a big no no for me too. I buy the Clipper tea for M (and guests) – one box lasts us for ages.
    I love that you’ve been ‘de-cluttering’ your tea! 🙂

    • I looked up Clipper; it sounds like a bold or brisk tea. Must look for it next time I’m over! Can you imagine if everyone decluttered their tea? There must be enough tea to supply the population for decades, stored away in kitchen cupboards!

  14. urbanmythcafe

    My spouse is the real tea drinker: very strong black tea every evening with cream and sugar.
    I never really liked tea until I discovered loose tea, and whole leaf tea. I brew a pot of Ceylon whole leaf tea in the morning (in the coffee pot ) and I drink it at work, during the day. I look forward to it much more than the coffee that I used to drink.
    Last week we found several tins of loose London Cuppa at the discount store, I am going to go brew a pot right now!

    • Hi UMC, Do you use a drip coffee maker with a filter for that? How does the taste of whole leaf versus loose tea differ? I like the idea of having a whole pot!

      • urbanmythcafe

        I use a drip coffee maker, that has a permanent filter. Leaf tea is a little tough, because it takes a little while for the leaves to absorb enough water. So, I put the leaves in a cup of water then mircrowave that for a couple of minutes, then dump that into the filter thingy, then turn on the pot and brew as usual. Does that make sense?
        I love the loose leaf Ceylon tea. We scrounge at the TJ Max, Marshal’s, and Ross’s stores, and sometimes hit the jackpot on very good tea. It is often hard to tell what is insideby looking at the container. Really good teas will make you wonder why you ever liked plain old tea bag tea.
        This morning, I used our London Cuppa, which was finer than whole leaf. I put two and one half heaping teaspoons (the kind of teaspoons that you eat out of) directly into the filter. It made 12 cups of nice strong black flavorfull tea.
        Another option with loose tea is to make your own tea bags with coffee filters and sissors and a stapler and some creativity.

      • Good description; I understand what you mean. I have a permanent filter too. Two and a half teaspoons for 12 cups, wow!

  15. I love all kinds of tea, but fruity/herbals teas seem best for warmer weather. Loose leaf is my preferred choice, but I admit I often opt for teabags for the convenience. I use the fruity/herbal teas to make gelatin for a light hot weather snack.

  16. Thanks for sharing. My youngest son is the electic tea drinker. I am a Constant Comment or Earl Grey drinker, but I will drink different kinds as well. Take care and happy steeping. BTG

  17. Angela

    In the morning I like strong tea eg English Breakfast although we usually have Yorkshire Tea for hard water areas in the cupboard which are nice and strong. In the afternoon I would drink Lady Grey or Earl Grey. Also like peppermint tea. When I gave up my biscuit cravings it took a month of fruit teas – you can’t dunk Digestive biscuits in fruit tea! To break me.

    • I like both English and Irish breakfast, but will have to try Yorkshire when I’m in the UK. I had to look up Lady Grey and now I want to try that too! I’d better watch out or I’ll be accumulating more tea in no time! At least you don’t dunk doughnuts like we do in North America.

  18. I’m strictly a coffee drinker (french press), unless I am traveling in a tea drinking country. Donna is the tea drinker in the family (loose Earl Grey for black tea and bags of Ginger for de-caf). In our kitchen she has a “tea drawer” with her supplies. Our agreement is that the collection does not outgrow the drawer.

    • It’s funny; when I am in the UK I love to have coffee at Costa or Nero! I think having a drawer limit is a good idea. If I do switch to loose leaf, maybe I’ll limit myself to two flavours, or a small container to put the tea packages in.

  19. Lane

    Very interesting reading about everyone’s tea/coffee preferences. I have always been a coffee drinker; my grandpa would make me a cup with lots of milk and sugar cubes as a child. I drink it black now, until lunch time, sometimes half caff. The first thing I do in the morning is put my kettle on to boil; then a natural paper filter, my coffee ( I don;t grind my own as I am not a morning person and all that noise first thing would annoy me!) and make a drip pot directly into a large thermos pitcher. I love my coffee!

    Tea is usually a winter thing for us in the afternoon; Earl Grey or rooibos, usually. I never drink anything sweet, so in the summer we make the most delicious cold tea ( I don;t use ice)– 2 quarts of water, one bag each of green or white tea, Tazo’s Wild sweet orange, and Celestial’s Raspberry Zinger. This is so good no sweetener needed and very refreshing on a hot day. Sometimes I add my own dried lemon verbena.

    • Thanks for the recipe! I look forward to trying a cold tea that isn’t sweet. Do you actually make it with cold water, or make it with boiled water and then let it cool?

      I am very much a coffee person first!

      • Lane

        Sorry, I was not clear there! I use nearly boiling water and a tempered glass pitcher ( these are hard to find now), let it cool with the bags in the water and then refrigerate. In the summer, I heat up only half the water then, when the tea has cooled, fill up the pitcher with cold water from the faucet. I can’t make enough of this when my daughter’s college friends visit!

      • You’re right about the tempered glass! I think heating up only half the water is a good technique. Will try!

  20. Fiona

    I think I’m one of the few readers too who doesn’t drink tea. My husband doesn’t either but we still keep lots of different types for visitors…we have a glut of tea! Then it doesn’t get used and causes tea clutter issues in the pantry!

    Do you think there’s a couple of ‘standard’ teas we could keep, so we can reduce the stash of herbal / fruit-flavored / day-or-night teas we are keeping?!

    • Yes! I would recommend a regular black tea, a green tea, and one tisane (herbal or fruit with no actual tea leaves) – like mint or lemon. If you wanted to go a step further you could keep a flavoured black or green tea like Earl Grey or a Chai spiced blend. Just my two cents worth. Hope your trip is going great – we just booked our next London trip for September!

  21. Lisa

    Tea drinker here. We also had the collection of figurines when I was young, but I believe they were from Red Rose tea.

    I like black teas, and rarely venture from them. I really dislike fruity teas. I mostly drink loose leaf teas, which I brew by the cup in the morning and afternoon. Occasionally, I will get the teapot out and brew a ‘proper’ cup of tea. Since I don’t use milk in my tea, I tend to like a weaker cup. Still can’t unhook myself from the sugar though. In the summer, I brew ice tea using tea bags (with sugar 😦 ) and drink that in the afternoon. I’m looking at getting rid of tea bags altogether since I read they are not fully biodegradable being that polypropylene has been added to the bags. Maybe this is why I have to pick them out of my compost heap.

    Also, did you see this recent CBC Marketplace ‘investigation’ saying that our teas are exceeding allowable limits of pesticides? Not sure how worked up I am about this, but it does seem to push one towards using organic teas.

    • Yeah, it was part of my reasoning that loose tea was likelier to be better for the environment. I wasn’t even thinking about the tea bag material – but a lot of tea bags come in envelopes – some paper, but a lot bonded with plastic or foil. Thanks for the link – that was very discouraging, though – I guess I will be going the fair trade organic route! Since I’ll be buying so much less, it should be manageable.

  22. Angela UK

    Just saw you are coming to the UK in September. Hope you have a fab time. Are you visiting Sussex? I am in Hampshire. Hope the weather will still be good when you visit.

    • Yes, will be in East Sussex! I have only been to your area once – to Stonehenge, of course. Would love to go back. We often spend a day in Brighton. We don’t have a car when we’re there so we’re limited to places our lovely relatives will drive us, and public transport (which is good).

  23. Angela UK

    Ooh go to Winchester if you can it was the ancient capital of Wessex.

  24. Pingback: Tea Freedom | An Exacting Life

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