Welcome to A Brit Excellent, a small celebration of British brands, foods, people and places that I love. Every week I give a little nod to our humour, our quirkiness and all the excellent things we make.
I am part woman, part tea. If something is wrong it’s usually because I’m due another cuppa. I own several teapots and send official Sarah Powell teabags out to everyone on my mailing list (why yes! you can sign up right here lovely!) Basically I sodding love tea.
The Powells are a Tetley household. We have always had Tetley tea unless there was a very good offer on another brand that my mother June was swayed by. In the morning June will say “don’t speak to me I haven’t had tea yet” and never goes abroad without several sandwich bags packed full of Tetley. One year she also took Rich Tea biscuits but it turns out they don’t travel well.
In 1822 Joseph and Edward Tetley were selling salt from a pack horse in Yorkshire. Somewhere between then and 1837 the lads swapped salt for tea and started Joseph Tetley & Co. One of my favourite tea facts is that in 1908 Thomas Sullivan sent leaves in little silken sample bags from New York. Everyone assumed you put these in a teapot instead of emptying them out and this is how teabags were created. By 1953 our Tetley boys had moved to London and were the first people to sell tea bags in the UK.
The year before, in 1952, they used Petula Clark’s single Anytime is Tea Time Now to advertise on Radio Luxembourg. I always remember the Tetley tea folk adverts on telly and June buying a year’s supply of tea so we could own all of the figurines. I regard Tetley Tina as one of my earliest role models.
After 10 years of not being perched on the end of a cup and saucer and much to everyone’s delight, the Tetley tea folk made a comeback in 2010. When Julia Bracknell moved over here from Sweden she saw them on telly and fell in love with them. She said she’d never heard accents like it before and now loves them so much she has a tea folk collection worth £15,000. She’s got everything from biscuit tins to aprons, much to the delight of her daughter who she’s going to pass it all down to.
It takes five years to become the dream… a Tetley tea taster. You can see Mark, Kate and Sebastian on the website in their lovely blue tabards. Sebastian loves tasting tea so much he’s actually insured his taste buds for £1 million. The tea Seb loves used to come from China but now it’s from Argentina, Kenya and Malawi as well.
In 1997 Tetley was one of the founding members of the Ethical Tea Partnership, which helps to create a global tea industry with social responsibility and is environmentally sustainable. They have also committed to get 100% of their tea from Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM gardens, they’re currently at 50%. In fact Tetley farmers have got their own Facebook page right here, where they post pictures of the tea fields and you can write and send photos of your brew to them.
Tetley are on a tea break mission to bring back a good catch up and a cup of tea at work which I’m ALL for. They have also been using #itstartswithtea to celebrate things that are excellent about Britain and, as the best things do, probably started with a cup of tea. This blog post did and has been fuelled by it throughout.