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Illustration of how to set a Tea Table from "Mrs. Beeton's Household Management," published in 1880.

Tea Wars

Williams "The At Home" Tea Rooms, Llanfairtalhaiarn, Denbighshire, Wales, exterior, RPPC postcard front. The signs advertise that the shop is also a grocer's, selling and serving Lyon's tea.

In looking over old exterior views on vintage tea room postcards from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, it appears that between World War One and World War Two, the tea rooms of the British Commonwealth were experiencing something like the American "cola wars" of the 1970s and 1980s, only with respect to tea.

During this era, British tea shops and tea rooms displayed prominent exterior signage advertising the brand that they sold or served exclusively. This implies that regional and local distribution exclusives were being rammed down the throats of the tea room proprietors.

Judging by the number of signs photographed, the leading player in the "tea wars" of the 1920s and 1930s was Lyons.

Tea Blends for Fortune Tellers

In the 1930s the Ming-Cha Company issued a tiny booklet of instructions in tea leaf reading to accompany a special brand of loose-leaf tea called Tell Your Fortune Tea
A label for Fortune Telling Tea by aromaG's Botanica.

Every tea leaf reader known that the reading must start with a good choice of loose-leaf tea, but one secret that professional tea leaf readers have kept to themselves for decades is that they often make their own special blends of tea to facilitate cup reading. This is not done to enhance flavour or aroma so much as it is to bring out shapes. The selected blend provides leaves of varied sizes, textures, and colours, which means that more images will be formed in the cup.

I only know of two companies that have manufactured and distributed special blends of tea designed for cup-reading. The earliest was the Ming-Cha Company of New York, which came out with Tell Your Fortune Tea during the 1930s. The most recent is aromaG's Botanica, which introduced Fortune Telling Tea by aromaG's in the 2020s.

Ming Cha's Tell Your Fortune Tea was sold by Stephen Leeman Products of New York City, New York, and was accompanied by a miniature booklet written by Marcia Benevente that described how to read tea leaves and also contained a short dictionary of tea lead omens and symbols.

AromaG's Botanica of Nashville, Tennessee, describes Fortune Telling Tea by aromaG's as a "mystical blend created just for the art of tasseography ... a perfectly balanced blend of black teas and puerh that is designed for tea leaf reading [because] the variety of leaf helps create a wide range of shapes in your cup." The maker of this tea is Gregory Lee White, my co-author of "The Stranger in the Cup," a book about tea leaf reading which supports the upkeep of this site.

catherine yronwode
curator, historian, and docent
The Mystic Tea Room

See Also

Pages in category "Tea"

The following 3 pages are in this category, out of 3 total.


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