How to make an Afternoon Tea Blend | Baroness Bolsover
Updated: Oct 12
How splendid of you to join me as I share my recollections of how I created a delightful Afternoon Tea Blend for my tea party guests back in the 1880's! The process was oh so VERY SIMPLE and I'm glad to say hasn’t changed in over a100 years!
Serving your own tea blend was absolutely THE done thing at our Afternoon Teas and we ladies would go to great lengths to create a tea blend that would appeal to everyone’s taste, it was part and parcel of Afternoon Tea Etiquette. It would be referred to as the Hostesses Blend or House Blend. To keep everyone happy it was necessary to create a tea that was neither too strong, too bitter, too flowery, too fruity, too much of anything really. One simply wanted a very nice tasting tea!
Off with the Corset!
The most important thing about the tea is that it should be light and refreshing. Light, because if you’re visiting several Tea Parties in any one afternoon, which was perfectly normal in our Victorian times, you may find yourself drinking several cups of tea, and refreshing because let’s face it, our corsets were tight and our clothing rather heavy! Unless that is, you were the Hostess of the party in which case, life was very different and you were allowed to wear your truly liberating Tea Gown, no corset required!
Always Use Good Quality Tea
It is essential to use top-quality teas for your blends, from a reputable Tea Merchant. With the help of the charming Mr James Pogson of Northern Tea Merchants in Chesterfield I’ve done just that and together we've created the delicious Baroness Bolsover Tea Blends which are now on sale at Old Bolsover Yard and The Coffee Cup in Bolsover.
I remember in the 1860’s when Afternoon Tea’s had just become all the rage, I would visit a little shop in Cullem St in London called Joseph Tetley’s Wholesale Tea Dealers to choose my teas. Mr Tetley was a very nice man, I see his company have done rather well!
Despite taxes on teas coming down towards the end of the 19th century and transport improvements brought about by the Industrial Revolution, certain teas were still nevertheless very expensive. White Teas, Green Teas, speciality teas, were very costly and although you would offer these at your Tea Party, along with coffee and a fruit punch, it would be the Hostess’s Blend that was generally drunk. Therefore, you could keep costs down by adding a less expensive black tea into your tea blend, such as an Assam. This can be a little strong however, therefore we would blend it with a milder tea. Darjeeling was always one of my favourites, expensive, as it still is today, but if you blend it with an Assam, you get a delicious tea at a fraction of the cost. A nice light China Tea would also blend well. My Traditional Afternoon Tea is just that, combining flavoursome large leaf teas from India and China for a beautifully smooth, light and refreshing taste. Perfect!
Earl Grey’s Tea had become very popular by the mid-19th century, and I simply adored it. Some do find it a little ‘flowery’, so I would mix it with a plain tea, say a light Ceylon Tea, leaving just a tiny hint of the Bergamot oil which gives it that distinctive Earl Grey taste. My own Earl Grey Tea Blend is extremely delicate and light.
I've also added some delicious English Breakfast Teabags to my range of teas. Firstly, of course, I must point out that we didn't actually have teabags in Victorian times. It was in fact my friend Mr Tetley's company who introduced them to England in 1953. Although one cannot beat the taste of fine loose tea, I do approve of the teabags functionality in this fast moving pace of life I now find myself in. They do rather spoil the fun of a spot of fortune telling though, and we Victorian Ladies did so enjoy a little tassology with our tea!
Lock up your Teas!
Due to the high price of tea, we kept our teas under lock and key in our Tea Caddy’s. Every respectable household had one of varying sizes and I’ve managed to keep one of my old favourites which I still use to this day.
My caddy has compartments for two teas of my choice, many had several so you could have a ball mixing together different combinations.
How to make a simple Tea Blend
I take one or two spoonful’s of the teas I've chosen, as suggested for example, a strong Assam Tea and a lighter Darjeeling or China Tea and blend them together in the glass mixing bowl, using a silver teaspoon of course. And that’s all there is to it! How simple is that? You’ve created your own unique tea blend.
The ratio of the tea mixture is the secret. It’s unlikely anyone has ever added exactly the same amounts as you! The balance does need to be right so if you find you’ve added too much strong tea, just add more of the lighter tea.
My tip is to write down how many spoonful’s of each tea you’ve added. It’s totally frustrating if you can’t remember! And whilst I think on, when making your tea, it's one teaspoon per person and one for the pot!
In my Afternoon Tea Etiquette Talk I encourage everyone to play around with mixing just two or three teas. It’s a good way of introducing people to teas they may not have tried.
So do give it a go, it's fun to experiment and if Mr Tetley can do it so can you. I have!
Baroness Bolsover's Town Tour & Afternoon Tea
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I hope you've enjoyed discovering a little about my Victorian world. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments and any questions you may have.
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