Builder’s Tea: A Workman’s Tradition

Builder’s Tea is a uniquely British concoction that is both indispensable to its working class and a fascinating unsung contributor to its tea culture. This creation of Yorkshire Tea is still a staple that drives its marketing, like the ad for Yorkshire Tea starring Sean Bean, which we enthusiastically recommend that you treat yourself and give it a watch (we’ll include a link at the bottom). “Proper brews… for Yorkshire!” Now that’s the passion that good tea deserves.

Worker's Enjoying Tea

Worker’s Enjoying Tea – Gunbower District, Victoria

Builder’s tea has been around far longer than there has been a name for it, but it is thought to have developed in the 1970’s, as the U.K. was finally regaining its economic footing in the decades following WWII. The British manufacturing industry was on the rise, domestic production was highly valued, and skilled laborers were in demand to work assembly lines and construction sites. A new blue-collar culture began to emerge, and with it, a demand for low-cost, quick-brewing tea that could provide these workers a rapid dose of refreshment. This need was especially vital for those working outside factories and offices, where deadlines were tighter and breaks more sporadic – everyday tradesmen like carpenters, electricians, and bricklayers.

The essential elements of a cup of builder’s tea were thus tailored to the demands of the laborer. Traditionally, the blend utilized would consist mostly of Keemun (also known as Qimen or Qimen Gongfu) a Chinese black tea out of southern Anhui Province. First produced during the Qing Dynasty, this tea has been popular in the West since the late 19th century. Its characteristics make it ideal as the base of builder’s tea, which needed to be inexpensive, highly caffeinated, and with a flavor able to withstand a fast and brutal preparation. Historically favored brands include Tetley’s, PG Tips, and – of course – Yorkshire.

Colonial Breakfast Tea Liquor and Loose Leaf

Colonial Breakfast Tea

Builder’s tea was always brewed directly in mugs instead of a teapot. Boiled water was poured directly over teabags (loose tea was never preferred), and each mug was then subject to vigorous stirring. The idea was to extract as much flavor and caffeine from the teabag as possible in an abbreviated amount of time, and stirring was thought to speed the process along. Once the desired steep strength was reached, the bag was discarded, and generous amounts of full-fat milk and white sugar were added for an extra boost of energy and calories.

These days, although still conspicuous on any British construction site or factory floor, builder’s tea is waning in popularity as coffee blends and energy drinks seek to crowd out competition. Brands like Yorkshire Tea, however, still insist on keeping builder’s tea alive. And if you’re curious to try a strong black tea to get you through the workday, we at Dominion Tea recommend Colonial Breakfast. This Keemun blend boasts a malty kick and a delightful smoothness, and is perfect for both a morning start or an afternoon pickup. Hard to beat that for a proper brew!

By: Jen Coate
Yorkshire Tea Commercial: https://youtu.be/8cipMoGKXGE

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3 Teas to Replace Coffee

Malty Assam Black Tea and Liquor

Malty Assam Black Tea and Infused Liquor. This crush-tear-curl tea even looks like ground coffee beans.

We get a lot of people in the shop that love tea but will not abandon their morning cup of coffee. This is a shame given all the benefits of tea. So, here are recommendations on the 3 teas to replace coffee, especially that first cup in the morning. We have seen, first hand, their success in converting those whose are willing to try.

  1.  Malty Assam – This bold black tea from the Assam region of India is the only CTC (cut-tear-curl) tea we carry. The CTC method for manufacturing tea gives you small balls of tea leaves. The small surface intensifies both the flavor and briskness of the tea. This tea holds up to milk and sugar, in case that is the real reason you love your morning cup of coffee.
  2. Ceylon OP –  This beautiful tea from the mountains of Sri Lanka features malty flavor and brisk mouth feel to help get the morning started quick. It’s a wonderful tea on its own with no need for milk and sugar.
  3. Kosebei TGFOP – From Kenya, this beautiful black tea has flavors of currant, malt, and moist earth. It can also handle milk and sugar without losing its flavor.

Yes, all these teas are black. Their woody and earthy flavors accompanied with their astringent/brisk finish is fairly similar to coffee. However, they are easy to drink without milk and sugar, so we recommend you try them straight first. You may be pleasantly surprised that you can get rid of the milk and sugar calories. The other big difference you will notice is that the caffeine doesn’t disappear out of your blood stream as fast, so there is no energy crash an hour later. For those of you who already drink tea in the morning and are looking for new ones to try, take a look at our piece on new teas to try in the new year. Personally, we start our morning with a wide variety of teas, some days green, others puerh and so on. So don’t think black tea is the only way to start your morning.

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Golden Tipped Yunnan

Golden Tipped Yunnan

Yunnan Sunrise (aka Golden Tipped Yunnan)

Golden-tipped Yunnan also goes by the name Dianhong. Dian is the short name for the Yunnan province and hong means red tea, so the name is Yunnan Red tea. Keep in mind, what Americans and Europeans refer to as black tea is called red tea in China. The red refers to the color of the brew, while the black refers to the color of the leaf. Neither name is wrong, they just refer to different characteristics of the tea.

Origin of Golden Tipped Yunnan

As the name suggests it is produced in the Yunnan province of China. Known more for puerh and bricks of packed tea, Yunnan province did not move into producing loose tea until the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.  Their loose black teas are some of the most complex with rich flavor, most notably by the inclusion of golden buds in the black tea. Most notably the golden-tipped Yunnan is made from the cultivar Yunnan Dayeh, which has a broad leaf, stronger and thicker buds (making it easier to twist and keep whole at the same time), and an earlier sprouting meaning they are harvested in early March instead of late March, allowing the farmer to harvest more during the growing season.streaming The Bye Bye Man film

Golden Tipped Yunnan Production

To produce the golden buds, there are additional steps in the production of this tea than in a typical black tea. As with all tea, after the leaves are plucked they are immediately withered in the sun or climate controlled warehouse to allow the leaves to be pliable and to remove around 60% of their moisture. Next they are rolled either with machine or by hand to help breakdown the cell membrane and speed along oxidation. Then the leaves are laid out and allowed to rest while they oxidize. After assessing the moisture of the leaves, they may be covered with wet cloths to speed the oxidation processes. This is where the Golden-tipped Yunnan deviates from the standard production. The leaves are not allowed to oxidize fully and a slow oxidation process is needed to control it properly so the cloths are not used. They are allowed partial oxidation with the tea master inspecting often to ensure those golden tips don’t turn fully black. They are dried by a variety of techniques by blowing warm air on the leaves. They are then sorted by size to be sold. In some cases, a second drying may occur to further reduce moisture if needed and increase the golden color.

Loose leaf Golden Tipped Yunnan after infusion.

Infused leaf of Golden Tipped Yunnan.

Golden tipped Yunnan (Yunnan Sunrise) has a beautiful mix of golden and black buds with a slightly hoppy smell. It brews a beautiful reddish-brown with a complex mix of orange, malty and smooth finish. The partial oxidation on the leaves allows this black tea to be brewed like an oolong, at lower temperatures, which produces a more creamy flavor.

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Sweet Tea Recipe – An American Classic

Sweet Tea // Ice Tea

Popular throughout the American south, Sweet Tea can be a great way to beat the summer heat. Photo by liz west (Flickr) – CC BY 2.0 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/641462022/

Sweet tea has been around since the 1800’s in the United States. It has had many variations in a wide variety of cookbooks. Generally speaking it is tea, sugar and lemon. It is the ratio’s of those ingredients that provide this variety and allow this drink to become a family recipe. The big headache with sweet tea is getting the sugar to dissolve in the cold tea. The recipe below takes care of this by using a tea infused simple syrup.

Sweet Tea (1/2 gallon)

4 cups of water

4 tablespoons of loose tea (Originally this was green tea since that was what was available in the 1800s, but now it is usually black. English Breakfast or Irish Breakfast make a great base.)trailer movie J. Cole: 4 Your Eyez Only 2017

1 lemon

1 cup of simple syrup

4-5 cups of ice

Start by making the simple syrup from the recipe below. You can use the same tea you are using for the base of the sweet tea or change it up to add a hint of something else. Moroccan Mint or Earl Grey with Lavender make interesting twists to the flavor of sweet tea. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the tea. Allow to steep for 5 minutes if a black tea and 3 minutes for a green tea. While the tea is steeping. Take out a 1/2 gallon pitcher and fill half-way up with ice. If you have a larger pitcher, just add 4 mounded cups of ice. Then pour in the simple syrup over the ice. If your simple syrup just came off the stove, it will melt some of the ice. Add more ice to get your ice back up to half way up your pitcher. When your timer goes off, put a strainer on the top of the pitcher to catch the loose tea and pour the hot tea into the pitcher over the ice. You are using the ice partly as water and partly to cool this down quickly to ice tea.

You can slice the lemon and add it to the pitcher. It will cloud the tea, but I find that it cuts the sweetness nicely. (Sorry I love my tea straight up.)  Or you put the lemon in the glass and pour the tea over it.

The ratio of simple of syrup to tea used above is borrowed from older recipes, but what you generally find is that it is a personal preference so feel free to adjust accordingly.

Tea Infused Simple Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup of sugar

1 tsp of tea

Simple syrup for sweet tea simmering on the stove.

Preparing simple syrup for sweet tea.

On the stove top, put 1 cup of sugar into 1 cup of water in a sauce pan and hit over medium-high to high heat to get to boil. It is recommended that your stir, it will not take long for the sugar to dissolve into the warming water. As soon as bubbles start to appear, put in the tea and set a timer for 5 minutes. It is easiest if you stir for the next 5 minutes, you will want the water at a low rolling boil. Once it is there drop the temperature so you do not turn your simple syrup into a caramel sauce. At the end of the 5 minutes, remove from the heat and strain out the tea. Simple syrup can be made in larger batches and kept in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, so feel free to make a large batch so you have them at your disposal anytime (It works nicely in tea infused cocktails).

 

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Smokey Mushroom Soup

As winter approaches, we start looking for warmer foods and smokey mushroom soup fits that bill. It is always fun when you can find ways to incorporate your favorite drink into warming food. The Chinese have used Lapsang Souchong tea for years to add smokey flavor to all sorts of dishes. So I figured mushroom soup would be a good candidate for this treatment.

Below is the recipe that swaps out the traditional stock with Lapsang Souchong tea, adding a nice smokey flavor to an already earthy soup.

Cooking up smokey mushroom soup

Smokey Mushroom Soup

Smokey Mushroom Soup

Serves six to seven

  • 6 grams Lapsang Souchong Tea
  • 4 1/3 cups water
  • 1 lbs mixed mushrooms – Shitake, Baby Portobello, White, King Oyster
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsps of red wine vinegar
  • Pepper
  • Crusty bread for croutons
  • 2 ½ tbsps. Olive oil
  • 6 slices Mozzerella cheese
  • Fresh tarragon

Start by bringing 2 cups of water to a boil and steeping the tea in the boiling water for 5 minutes. While you are waiting for the tea, chop up the mushrooms into even bite sized pieces and remove any hard stems. Remove the tea strainer with the leaves and transfer the tea to a 1 -2 quarter pot. Put the mushrooms into the tea and set the heat to medium, put a lid on the pot and allow to cook for 15 minutes. While the mushrooms cook, chop up the onions into small pieces and the garlic. In a small saute pan, heat up ½ tbsp. of the oil and saute the onions until almost translucent, introduce the garlic and then remove from heat about 2mintues later (You do not want to burn the garlic.). At the end of the 15 minutes, put the onions, garlic, remaining 2 1/3 cups of water and the red wine vinegar into the pot with the mushrooms and leave on medium heat while you make the toppings.

Smokey mushroom soup with bread, cheese, and taragon.

Smokey Mushroom Soup with Bread, Mozzarella, and Fresh Tarragon Just Out of the Oven

To make the topping for the soup, slice the crusty bread into thin pieces. Cut enough pieces to roughly fill 2/3 of the fop of your bowl that you will be putting the soup in for each person. Brush the front and back of each piece with olive oil and put on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top and put the cookie sheet in the oven under the broiler set to high for 3-5 minutes. I set the rack in the middle of the oven to lessen the likelihood of burning the bread. When you pull the bread out, do not turn off the oven as you will be using it in a moment to melt the cheese.

When you pull the bread out, taste the soup and add pepper to your liking. Slice enough mozzarella cheese to make the number of bowls of soup you are going to serve. Ladle the soup into the bowls, put the croutons on top and put the piece of mozzarella balancing on the croutons. Put the bowls onto the cookie sheet you just pulled out and put the soups back into the oven under the broiler just long enough to melt the cheese (about 2-3 minutes). Chop the fresh tarragon. Pull out the bowls of soup, sprinkle the tarragon on top and serve.

Note:  You can adjust up or down the level of smokiness by brewing more tea and using less plain water.

 

 

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