What is tea?
"As proud as we are of our tea, we're first to admit that Yorkshire Tea has only been around for just a fraction of the time people have been enjoying tea."
The history of tea
As proud as we are of our tea, we’re first to admit that Yorkshire Tea has only been around for just a fraction of the time people have been enjoying tea. Legend has it that 5000 years ago, leaves blew into water being boiled for Chinese emperor Shen Nung who tried it and felt immediately relaxed.
It took thousands of years for tea to spread to Europe. Only in 1662, when the new wife of King Charles II, Princess Catherine of Braganza, brought her tea-drinking habit over from Portugal, did its popularity then spread across the UK. High taxes made tea too expensive for the working classes so smuggling was rife until William Pitt the Younger cut tax from 119% (!) to 12.5% and smuggling stopped.
We join the story in 1886, when Charles Edward Taylor noticed that different regions had different water, and that this affected the taste of their tea. He began creating bespoke blends for each region, using top quality teas from around the world. We still do this today, producing slightly different blends of Yorkshire Tea to suit the water it will be made with. We even make a Hard Water blend so people who live in areas with really hard water, like York or London, can still enjoy a proper brew.
"Between leaf and cup, each tea will be tasted by our blenders up to eight times to make sure everything has been done properly each step of the way."
From bush to cup
All tea comes from one type of bush, called Camellia Sinensis, and its journey is quite something. The tea we’re interested in is mainly grown in the best tea gardens of Assam, East Africa and Sri Lanka. Soil, climate, and rainfall all affect the quality. So does the way its picked. Yorkshire Gold, for example, uses only the best quality first two leaves and a bud picked from each plant.
Once picked, tea leaves are ‘withered’ by spreading them out in troughs to remove moisture. They are then cut and rolled then left to ‘ferment’ by being exposed to the air. As oxygen circulates around the leaves, they turn from green to brown. The tea then turns black when fired in hot ovens, which stops oxidization by ‘sealing’ the leaves. It’s then sorted by size, graded and packed, ready to be shipped all the way back to Yorkshire.
We buy teas from different origins in different seasons, each with different characteristics. So our experts taste all the teas we buy before deciding exactly how much of each tea will go into our blends. We then gently mix up to twenty different teas to create the perfect taste and colour of Yorkshire Tea. A special blending drum is used that turns only twelve times as tea is delicate and leaves can bruise easily. We then whisk them off to be bagged and packed, then wrapped to seal the freshness in.
Between leaf and cup, each tea will be tasted by our blenders up to eight times to make sure everything has been done properly each step of the way. That’s something to think about next time you’re waiting for your kettle to boil!