Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Queen locked up her Darjeeling. She loved it so.

This is not about Queen Elizabeth. A happy belated birthday to her majesty, but today we talk about her grandma, Mary of Teck who was the Queen consort of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Empress consort of India, as the wife of King-Emperor George V, (1867-1953). Queen Mary loved her favorite tea so much she kept it locked up in a cupboard.

If you are wondering what tea that could possibly be, I will spare you the suspense. Open the book The Tea Lovers' Treasury by James Norwood Pratt, which many of tea lovers must have if not should have, and there you will see the author disclose that it was nothing less than "a fine Darjeeling with a pronounced muscatel flavor." According to Pratt, who is the demigod of American tea devotees, Twinings later marketed this tea as "Queen Mary Tea" describing it as the personal choice of the late Queen Mary.

A bit of internet "research" shows that Twinings launched Queen Mary Tea in 1916 and discontinued it only in 2007, after a 91 years run! It is amazing the brand lasted so long. Wonder why they did not go for the centennial. Seems like there was quite a bit of followers after all: we found a Facebook page called Bring Back Twinings Queen Mary Tea, Please.

According to the posts in this page, some of which seems to come from informed sources, Queen Mary Tea was actually a blend of Darjeeling and Keemun. The latter is a robust tea with a smoky and honey flavor, used in the traditional English Breakfast Blend. We can imagine it brought more depth and sweetness to Darjeeling's floral spiciness.

But where did the knowledge of the Queen locking up her tea actually come from? Pratt finds it the book Dinner at Buckingham Palace by former royal chef Charles Oliver. Notably, Oliver credits Queen Mary for bringing the English tea-time to perfection.

Queen Mary with her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth.

Talking about the tea tradition within the palace, Oliver notes: "The ritual of English tea-time was brought to perfection by the late Queen Mary, for whom it was the favorite time of the day. Everything had to be fully ready by 4pm punctually, with sandwiches, cakes and biscuits invitingly set out on gleaming silver dishes upon a smoothly-running trolley. The teapot, cream jug, hot-water jug and sugar bowl were always the same antique silver service which had been a favorite of Queen Victoria...[Later] Queen Mary would take over and meticulously measure out her favorite Indian tea from a jade tea-caddy she kept locked in a cupboard. Then she would pour on the boiling water and complete the tea-making ritual by snuffing out the spirit stove before sitting back for the footmen to pour tea and hand round sandwiches and cakes. But before Queen Mary gave the signal for this to begin she would always let exactly three minutes elapse from the moment she poured hot water on the tea leaves so that the tea leaves so that the tea would be perfectly brewed."

Queen Mary was known to have exquisite taste in all things and she obviously had one for tea - that she liked Darjeeling, referred to as the champagne of teas by tea connoisseurs around the world, is no surprise.

But this story does make one curious about the state of the royal security. For the Queen to have to lock up her favorite tea in her own palace is a rather unfortunate situation. Guess the Queen figured that a good Darjeeling was worthy of her own personal protection!

 Alas, there is no more Queen Mary Tea. But there is still Darjeeling!

1 comment:

  1. I lock up my favorite (various) teas too!!! Lolol The Queen & I have something in common, indeed! Great blog!