Yorkshire Tea is grown in more than 20 different places across Africa and India, then imported to Harrogate and blended – so why is it called 'Yorkshire Tea'?
If you drank one of those 20 teas on its own, it would typically be described in terms of its origin – Assam tea, for example, or Rwandan tea, Kenyan tea and so on.
But blends from multiple origins need to be named more creatively. Take 'Russian Caravan', for example – a famous blend of oolong, Keemun and Lapsang Souchong which made its way from China to Russia on 18th century camel caravans. It wasn’t very practical (or very catchy) to call it Oolong Keemun Lapsang Souchong, so instead it was named after its trade route.
In Britain, there's a more familiar example: English Breakfast.
English Breakfast tea was a mongrel. When tea traders needed to sell the last scraps of their various teas from around the world, they mixed them all together and sold them as a blend. There was no guarantee of consistency, quality, origin or flavour – but the product still needed a name. So it became the defining example of a blend named after the place it was created, and the market it was created for.
English Breakfast tea caught on – and its composition became a little more standardised and refined. Ultimately, it provided the inspiration for most of the black tea blends Brits drinks today. And the source of its name has passed into tea-making tradition too.
As Taylors of Harrogate, we've been creating tea blends in our North Yorkshire home since 1886. It's this blending that defines the art of the tea-maker. It’s a careful process which layers the complimentary flavours of individual teas on top of each other to build a more complex flavour, and a great blend can achieve a balance and depth which single origin teas can't, along with a taste profile which is uniquely its own.
In the early 20th century, when the water supply was less uniform than it is today, we used to make individual blends for each customer at our flagship store in Harrogate. And so, in the 1970s, we created a black tea blend specifically for the water supply in Yorkshire, and sold only in Yorkshire. in the great tradition of English Breakfast, we named it Yorkshire Tea.
Over the years, a fondness for our brew spread well beyond those regional borders – which is why it's now sold everywhere in the UK, and in lots of other countries too.
Most people now know the story behind it, but occasionally someone will pick up that box and wonder why it's called 'Yorkshire Tea'. So if anyone ever asks you that same question, you now have an answer: it's a blend of teas, and blends are often named after the place they were born. Just like English Breakfast.