Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Jane Austen Tea Series from Bingley's Teas

Photo provided by Bingley's Teas.

In my mind, Jane Austen and tea go hand in hand – something like pencil and paper or fish and chips. Julia Matson, founder of Minneapolis-based Bingley’s Teas, holds the same view.  About a decade ago, she created a Jane AustenTea Series for her company.  This series of tea blends, which debuted at the Portland AGM back around 2010, was the first to match Jane Austen characters with tea profiles.

In each tea of her fun Jane Austen Tea Series, Ms. Matson represents a Jane Austen character through a clever selection and blending of ingredients. For example, the heroine of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet, is represented by a tea blend called “Elizabeth Bennet’s Wit.” This blend includes black tea for Elizabeth’s “strength of character,” cranberries “to represent her quick wit and sharp mind,” and blue mallow flowers to bring to mind Elizabeth’s “sweetness felt for her sister and close friends.” You will find equally apt descriptions for each of the 21 different tea blends featured in this series.

Julia Matson
I asked Ms. Matson which came first, her love of tea or her love of Jane Austen.  This is the story she shared with me.

I’ve been an Anglophile since I was a little girl. Books and a healthy bit of Masterpiece Theater after school, where I’m sure there must have been an Austen version I wasn’t aware of. Like many people, a film version first caught my attention. Mine was the 1995 P&P and led me to read Austen and soon learned there was a society to gather with other people completely taken by the novels and other contemporaries or hers in the Regency period. 

I was fairly young when I joined and was still learning my culinary skills. I took a class on how to bake traditional English desserts. In the class, the instructor prepared loose leaf tea and served it with cream! I’d never had anything more than Lipton or herbal bag tea before and had thought I just wasn’t a tea person. This loose leaf from Ceylon, literally changed my world! My brain slightly exploded and I began trying every loose tea I could find. Some good, some amazing and some pretty disappointing! Tea at that time wasn’t as widely found and it was all over the map for quality. 

As I began to study tea, it captivated more and more. Eventually, I made it to tea growing country and then I was a true goner! Absolutely smitten, bitten by the tea bug. I was still very much about Jane Austen meetings and outings and the two soon merged. It was important to me to try and have it make sense, not gimmicky. In courses you learn to profile tea, UCB like wine sommeliers. In doing so, I found myself coming across and describing tea in a way that reminded me of Mr. Darcy. After that, I thought it would be fun to keep going, Jane has told us who these characters are, their story and personality. I don’t have a Jane Austen tea specifically because we cannot truly profile her. We can imagine, but with her characters, she laid it out there for us.

It can take some time to develop and I’ve enjoyed the process. It’s especially fun when fellow Janeites read a description of the tea and start to laugh out loud, commenting that describes that character ....to a tea! We know we are in good company then and can talk about the characters as if they really lived and no one will look sideways at any of us. 

It’s been incredible to have an opportunity to share this tea and Austen love with others around the world, through the tea, through talks and more. 
“It is such happiness when good people get together.” 

Ms. Matson has donated three teas to a silent auction which raises funds for UNC Chapel Hill’s Jane Austen Summer Program(JASP) 2020.  JASP is an annual conference designed to appeal to anyone who appreciates Jane Austen and her work.  My daughter and I had the good fortune to attend last year’s conference where we heard contemporary novelists discuss Pride and Prejudice, we learned to sew reticule bags, and we devoured scones with tea.

I have created a silent auction gift package using the three Jane Austen character teas donated by Ms. Matson for JASP 2020.  In this silent auction package, you will find Emma’s Perfect Match (a green tea blend), A Dance for the Musgrove Sisters (an herbal tisane), and Mr. Knightley’s Reserve (a black tea blend).   This silent auction package is made possible through the generosity of Ms. Matson and Bingley’s Teas.  She tells me, “It’s been wonderful to have the support of fellow Janeites through the years as we are a simple, family business doing it for the love of tea and Jane.” 

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© my tea diary
Maira Gall