Tea & Sympathy’s Tea Guide

As the name suggests, tea is what we’re all about. There is no underestimating how central this brewed beverage is to the British way of life. 120,000,000 cups are drunk in the UK every day, while “Fancy a cuppa?” and “I’ll put the kettle on” must be two of the nation’s most spoken phrases.

Continuing our campaign to get you lovely yanks taking Afternoon Tea, here’s the first instalment of our Tea Guide. Originally published in our cookbook ‘Tea & Sympathy: The Life of an English Teashop in New York‘, it gives the lowdown on all the major brews.

Along with last week’s guide to making the perfect cuppa, and our recipes for finger sandwiches, scones and Victoria sponge, you have no excuse not to start taking British Afternoon Tea! So wherever you are, make sure you have a kettle and (at the very least) a couple of scones to hand come 4pm!

And if you don’t feel like making it all at home, have it in our restaurant – or we’ll deliver to your door! Give us a call on 212-989-9735 if you’d like to order, or if you have any questions at all.

ASSAM - This is a rich, full-bodied pungent tea that is a perfect all-occasion drinking tea. It is grown in the Assam region of northeastern India, where it was discovered growing wild in the 1830s by the Scotsman Robert Bruce. Prior to his discovery, all teas came to the West from China.

DARJEELING - Grown in the high Himalayan foothills of India, this black tea is considered one of the world's finest, and accordingly a quality example can be quite expensive. The delicate flavor is among the most subtle of the black teas, and connoisseurs describe it as having a hint of blackcurrant.

EARL GREY - This flavored black tea originally from China is said to have been brought back to England by the Second Earl Grey in the 1830s. It is actually a blend of black teas that are flavored with oil of bergamot, and Italian citrus fruit. This is an ideal afternoon tea, which can be served with or without milk or sugar to taste.

ENGLISH BREAKFAST - A blend of Assam and Ceylon tea. As its name implies, it is a perfect tea for mornings, and its full, well-rounded flavor stands up well to bold foods - like the classic British fried breakfast.

LAPSANG SOUCHONG - This black Chinese tea has a very distinctive smokey taste and aroma. The "souchong" refers to the leaf size, meaning the third leaf down from the top of the plant. Some people fin the smokiness a little bit of an acquired taste, but we recommend it as a very elegant tea that is better sipped and enjoyed rather than gulped from a mug.

The New York Times – An Improbable Magazine From a Fashion Zelig

Here’s a little piece from The New York Times from this year’s fashion week on the extremely talented Andre Walker. They caught up with him to discuss the second issue of his much-hyped fashion ‘zine Tiwimuta. And where did they choose for the meeting? Tea & Sympathy of course, over a spot of rhubarb crumble and a pot of Earl Grey.

An Improbable Magazine From a Fashion Zelig

By GUY TREBAY

Published: February 11, 2011

“It’s radically improbable and the most practically impossible thing you could imagine,” said Andre Walker, referring to Tiwimuta, a publication he refers to as an object-zine, as he hauled a new copy from his rucksack. “I did it in ignorance, the way I do everything,” he added. “I never really know what’s going on.”

Andre Walker, at home in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, produces limited editions of his eccentric magazine, Tiwimuta

This is far from the truth, as any fashion insider could tell you. Andre Walker always seems to know what’s going on and seemingly has since staging his first runway show in the Oasis, a Brooklyn club, at age 15. Mr. Walker is a kind of fashion Zelig, a man whose unofficial résumé (he would never have an actual résumé) locates him into so many places at so many times and in the thick of so many scenes that one cannot help but be amazed when he informs you that he is just 44.

Mr. Walker, who neglected to finish high school, got his start in long-ago times working for Williwear, a label created by Willi Smith, the prodigy who designed the wedding dress worn by Mary Jane Watson when she married Peter Parker in the Spider-Man comic book in 1987 and the suits that Edwin Schlossberg and his groomsmen wore when he married Caroline Kennedy in 1986. Mr. Smith died of AIDS in 1987 at 39.

Mr. Walker then went to Paris to work with the designer Patrick Kelly, another early AIDS casualty; formed his own label; made clothes whose padding and flanged hemlines put some in mind of the design genius Charles James and others of the mermaids at Weeki Wachee; and become a center of a small downtown design cult and a Paper magazine darling and a hired gun for other designers, like Kim Jones, who seem to be intrigued by his near-telepathic ability to read the spirit of the moment.

Most prominently, he worked as a consultant to Marc Jacobs for a decade until Mr. Jacobs abruptly cashiered him by text message a year ago.

“We’re still good friends, though,” Mr. Walker said. “What can you do?”

You can start a magazine, of course, although you have no publishing experience. You can give it a nearly unpronounceable title formed from an acronym (This Is What It Made Us Think About) and sell it at Barneys New York, Rizzoli and Dashwood Books on Bond Street and at Colette in Paris in costly limited editions — the first number was $375; the second, which comes out this week, costs $195 — and produce it yourself in the vast Victorian house where you were raised in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, and where your parents, Jamaican immigrants and ordained ministers, operate a beauty shop in the basement.

You can ask pals like Mr. Jacobs to pose half-clad in women’s evening wear and to be photographed by Jean-Paul Goude and then print the resulting pictures on heavy stock with an embossing press; and solicit contributions from other friends, like the writer Hilton Als (a pal from Danceteria days) and the photographer Marcelo Krasilcic and the artist Phillipa Horan, compiling their efforts in an image-dense volume that, once it finds its way into the studios of art directors and designers, is certain to be scrutinized with the kind of rapt devotion one associates with the Book of Kells.

“It’s wonderfully eccentric,” said David Strettell, the former cultural director of the photo agency Magnum and the proprietor of Dashwood, referring to Tiwimuta. “It’s so free-form it’s hard to get a grip on, but that’s also what’s so special about it.”

Everything he has learned to date, Mr. Walker said, “I’ve learned from having a lack of knowledge.” By certain standards this might make him an idiot savant. Yet Andre Walker is nobody’s fool. “I was never afraid to come up with an idea that was totally impossible,” he said last week over Earl Grey tea and rhubarb crumble at the Anglo-centric restaurant Tea and Sympathy.

“That’s a problem with fashion right now, and with art and with culture,” he added, before heading off to pick up a bunch of new issues from the printer.

“People have become too fearful,” said Mr. Walker, who was wearing cerulean corduroy jeans and a snug cotton T-shirt; he had a wool cap pulled low on his brow. “They’re afraid to do something improbable, something that is not immediately commercial. They’ve gotten themselves locked inside this cold referencing machine and they’re stuck.”

Tea wars!

Bleeding Nora! It’s all kicking off on the tea front. Who could have thought such a delicious beverage would cause so much grief. Well, the Boston Tea Party perhaps, but let’s not get into that… Here’s two articles from back in Blighty, that show this powerful brew isn’t to be messed with.

Broken china!

First up, war has been waged over the trademark for a whole bloody county! And not just any old county but Yorkshire, the biggest one we’ve got! As an interesting aside, English folklore has it that there are the exact same number of acres in Yorkshire as there are letters in the Bible. Whether this is true or not is beyond us; if you’ve ever counted, please get in touch. Yorkshire Tea, made by Taylors of Harrogate have gone after young upstarts Jeeves & Jericho, for claiming they can make a tea that does Yorkshire justice. We’d hate to get involved, but you can test this out yourself: we sell Yorkshire Red and the premium band Yorkshire Gold in-store, and we can ship.

As if that weren’t enough, tea brand Twinings have been hounded into reverting to their classic Earl Grey blend by “furious tea drinkers” who were unhappy when they tweaked with their favorite cuppa. We’re more than confident that our own blend – at $11.50 a 1/4lb is up to scratch, so any disaffected Twinings fans out there – get in touch and sample our brew!

Hopefully order will soon be restored in the usually quiet world of tea. In the meantime, put the kettle on would ya.