It’s not difficult to imagine John Harney, founder of Harney & Sons tea company, becoming interested in tea and learning the art of tea blending in the basement of the historic White Hart Inn, of which he was the proprietor. As an inn owner, finding the “best” of everything to offer his guests is not only part of the job, but a natural inclination for someone in the hospitality business. His passion for tea blending led him to start his tea company in the inn’s basement in 1983, and it has only grown from there.
Harney & Sons Teas
Today, the company has passed down to the next two generations of Harney’s; including John Harney’s sons, Mike and Paul, and grandsons and daughter-in-law. They’re committed to the same standards of excellence and have helped the company grow from a line of six teas to more than 300. Their company sources, blends and packages all of their teas directly.
I became a fan of Harney & Sons’ Earl Grey Imperial tea a few years ago. This tea is a selection from the Historic Royal Palaces collection and the flavor and aroma combine to make a particularly excellent Earl Grey. I welcomed the offer to sample some of the teas from their Classic Collection.
I invited a close friend to join me for some tea tasting; she’s half-British, enjoys going out for high teas here at home and when she travels. She puts on a great High Tea herself, in the comfort of her own parlor, serving from an extensive collection of teacups. Years ago when my daughter’s school threw a “tea party” and all of the other children (naturally) invited their moms, my daughter invited my friend Wendy. Wendy did not disappoint, and arrived in dress, beaded sweater, gloves and naturally, a hat. She was a hit, and apparently a natural teacher of all things “Tea” for the class. While she’s not a Master Tea Blender, I knew she could provide excellent extra insight in my tastings.
The English Breakfast is a straightforward, sophisticated take on a traditional British tea. Aromas from the sachets are soft and subtle and it brewed to a deep brown. The flavor is smooth, full-bodied and “brisk with a very slight bittersweet hint,” according to my friend. Wendy took hers with a “dash of milk as my proper English grandmother would.”
Aroma is important to me in teas (a big part of the reason I love their Earl Grey). Paris, with scents of vanilla, fruit and citrus, and just a tad of lemony bergamot, is an excellent aromatic tea. We both loved the unique fragrance of this tea. Wendy found the flavor to be a “complex blend of lively complementary flavors; lightly fruity, sweet of bergamot, touch of vanilla and grounded with caramel.” She drank this tea in a French Limoges cup to celebrate the City of Lights. This was our favorite of the four teas in our tasting.
Cinnamon Spice contains dried orange peel and strong scent of cinnamon, cloves and orange. The tea brews to a copper color and has “robust, pervasively spicy flavor with sharp pungent overtones, and long lasting smells,” according to Wendy. We agreed; this provides a hearty cup of tea on a cold, rainy afternoon. She added, “It conjures up warm, faraway lands.”
There was no mistaking the peppermint in Peppermint Tea. I haven’t had peppermint tea in a long time and really enjoy how refreshing this was. The tea brewed to a clear, greenish light brown. Wendy believes a good peppermint tea is a healthy, mild tea to serve to children, with a dash of sugar. She brewed some for her granddaughter in a Beatrice Potter cup, the same cup for which she used to use to serve tea for my daughter. This would also make a terrific iced tea.
Briskness, Body & Aroma
We appreciated the clear quality of the tea, the roominess and neutrality of the sachets, as well as the packaging.
Drinking a good cup of tea has the capability of being invigorating, enlightening or rejuvenating; good words to use, as noted on the company’s tea tins. I also liked Mike Harney’s rating based on briskness, body and aroma. Whether you’re drinking tea solo or with others, it really should make you stop, take notice and provide respite from whatever else is happening.
In addition to the Historic Royal Palaces and Classic Collection lines, Harney & Sons’ offers the HT Tea line, seasonal teas, fresh brew iced teas, other loose and bagged teas, snacks and gift items. They provide free shipping for online orders. In New York, be sure to drop by one of their two tea shops; one in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City and the other in Millerton, New York, in the Hudson Valley. We absolutely enjoyed Harney & Sons’ teas and recommend them to readers at home.
- Harney & Sons, www.harney.com
- Take a look at the excellent Tea Tutorial on the Harney & Sons website, harney.com/pages/this-is-tea
– Cover photo courtesy Harney & Sons. All other photos as credited.