International Tea Day: Let’s Talk About Tea

by Luke, 1/3 of

We Brits like to think of ourselves as the true custodians of tea: enthusiasts – perhaps even connoisseurs.

But let’s not kid ourselves. We didn’t invent it.

The stuff comes from China. It’s the national drink of Afghanistan. It’s grown everywhere south of Blighty, from Kenya to Vietnam.

Supposedly it’s Ireland which has the highest proportion of tea drinkers, and Turkey tops the list for per capita consumption.

We may have ‘English Breakfast’ in the UK. And ‘Lady Grey’ (or ‘Countess Grey’, I’m told, if you shop at Fortnum and Masons).

But I went to China this year and got laughed at when I asked for a builders’ tea.

For starters, they call it ‘chá’ (茶). There it’s all about green, red, jasmine, longjing, pu-erh and tens more fancy-sounding ones.

Real builders in China walk around with transparent flasks of home-brewed ‘lü chá’ (绿茶, green tea) with the loose leaves floating around. No milk, no sugar.

My lack of sophistication on this front was all too obvious to the Chinese.

So 15th December is ‘International Tea Day’ and I’m determined to brush up on my tea knowledge while drinking a cup of cha.

What’s the point of International Tea Day, I hear you ask? Just another way for corporations to get us to overindulge?

Not this time. It’s an annual celebration started in 2005 by trade union movements in tea producing countries like India, Kenya and Vietnam.

The day is meant to draw attention to the global tea trade and its impact on workers.

So if ever you needed an excuse for an extra cuppa, here it is. Preferably ethically traded from a business that has a personal relationship with the growers such as our friend Bev’s Tea Co (when you make an order, you can get free postage and a taster sample if you use the code ‘RTT’).

Tea’s meant to be pretty healthy for you too: antioxidants, moderate caffeine levels (compared to coffee), hydrating effects and no calories to boot.

Anyway, despite the rest of the world being pretty advanced in their appreciation of tea, all is not lost for the UK’s hopes for tea-worthiness.

There is in fact one tea-based invention that a Brit abroad can claim credit for.

It is, of course, the humble tea towel.

The English upper classes invented it to dry their crockery in the time of Jane Austen, whose birthday is 16th December.

And now the Radical Tea Towel Company has brought it to the masses:

Happy International Tea Day!

Buying Gifts for Left-wingers, Radicals & Liberals

Everyone knows that the best birthday and Christmas presents are ones that speak to a person’s interests and values, because they show you’ve at least put some thought into the matter instead of just plumping for the latest Top Cat shot-glass.

It’s easy with kids, where you can simply pinpoint their latest craze (Lego, Manchester United, tiddlywinks) and buy them virtually anything to do with those categories. Things are a little tougher for us grown-ups whose core ‘interests’, as measured by amount of time spent, often seem to revolve around the commute to work and unblocking the storage room toilet.

When people do have obvious hobbies, the likelihood is that they know a lot more about it than you, and therefore your attempts to impress with a copy of the ‘Titchmarsh Annual 2013’ risk shooting wider than an England quarter-final penalty kick.

A person’s politics, on the face of things, offers a golden opportunity to get someone a gift that is both useful and fits their values. Yet before the Radical Tea Towel Company came along, the choice was surprisingly limited. Books were by far the most common solution – but there’s only so many times one can read a biography of Jeffrey Archer.

It’s Christmas, so here’s a list of potential political gifts for leftwingers and liberals: Continue reading “Buying Gifts for Left-wingers, Radicals & Liberals”

Our Story: Part 2

This is the second in a two-part series outlining the background of the Radical Tea Towel Company. You can read the first part of our story here.

By Luke, co-founder

If you’ve read Beatrice’s post on the origins of the Radical Tea Towel Company, you’ll know that the concept for our site was originally spurred by her attempts to find a politically-themed but also practical gift for an elderly relative.

It was quite a challenge initially getting our project off the ground, but fortunately, we found out pretty quickly that Beatrice wasn’t the only one interested in radically themed stuff. A few years ago, you couldn’t get more than books and t-shirts for progressive-minded people, but in the past couple of years, we’ve grown from just a few tea towel designs, to expanding our range of political gifts to include mugs, bags, cards and fridge magnets.

It’s an interesting experience, this whole start-up business thing. You have to juggle several projects all at once: the products, the website (more work than it seems!), suppliers, wholesalers, social media, and of course the customers. Continue reading “Our Story: Part 2”

Our Story: Part 1

Firstly, welcome to the new blog of the Radical Tea Towel Company. Our old blog was quite rubbish, so now we’ve re-launched properly with a promise to write some decent content rather than procrastinating with constant tea-making. We have loads of great articles planned that we can’t wait to share with you, so make sure you subscribe to updates via email or RSS on the sidebar!

Now enter Beatrice for our first post, and a bit about the background to this strange phenomenon of radical tea towels, which have been stoking revolution in kitchens from California to Basingstoke… Continue reading “Our Story: Part 1”