Thursday, May 13, 2021

Time For Tea - Tom Parker Bowles

This is the third title Tom Parker Bowles has done for Fortnum and Mason, and I had resolved to resist it. Then I saw a copy and that was that. A person can leave the drinks industry but it seems like the desire to know more about drinks never leaves you.

For most of my adult life tea was my hot drink of choice, then a couple of years ago a really good coffee roastery set up locally and I realised that I did like coffee - when it's made from freshly ground beans that have distinctive flavour profiles, and filtered (with water that's just gone off the boil). If that sounds fussy I'm comfortable with it, I like a drink that comes with a certain amount of ritual about it, it's a luxury and deserves the effort.

All this means that I drink less tea than I used to, but my approach to it is the same in terms of the trouble to make it - be it with a Yorkshire tea bag, or some carefully selected leaf tea. Despite years of tea drinking and a good deal of enthusiastic buying of different sorts of tea over the years though I'm not very knowledgeable about it, so 'Time For Tea' is a useful addition to my drinks library.

Not that there's any particular shortage of books on the subject, but this one suits me despite, or maybe because, it's very much an advert for Fortnum's and their products. I like Fortnum & Mason, I always have ever since my first visit as a wide eyed schoolgirl. It's the unashamed luxury image of the shop that gives even it's most mundane products a little glamour. A lot of the prices are eyewatering but it's always been fun to buy a bit of patisserie to take home, or a spice that you cannot find on a supermarket shelf (and comes in a pretty tin), to enjoy the packaging, and to consider that so many things we take for granted really aren't mundane at all. 

I also like Tom Parker Bowles food writing. He's informative and engaging which makes this an attractive book to dip in and out of, coming back with some new piece of information each time. The recipes are good as well, and it feels like there are more than 50 of them (which is what it says in amazon and Waterstones website) probably because they cover such a variety of things. These cover the range from things that use tea as an ingredient to things that go with tea. There's plenty of food and tea matching (right up my street) and a few cocktails that involve tea (something I'd actually been looking for, so that's handy).

As with the other Fortnum's cook books there are things so elaborate that I have no intention of ever making them - but which I like reading about - and plenty of classics that I'm very likely to make. There's also a good mix of sweet and savory (it's not all scones and biscuits) as well as recipes that will take you all the way through the day.

In short you get everything - trivia, brewing tips, all sorts of tasting notes, recipes, and everything you could think of that relates to making a cup of tea (down to the merits of different sorts of cups). Browsing through the book gives me something of the same feeling that browsing in the shop does. 

It's also worth noting that the introduction and bibliography acknowledge the murkier aspects of our relationship tea and it's colonial history (amongst other issues). I'm pleased to see this - it's not much more than a note in the introduction, but the suggestions for further reading are there for anyone who's interested in exploring more, and the acknowledgement itself matters. Our history is complicated, we shouldn't ignore that. 


  1. While I am not a tea drinker, this sounds awfully good! One day I will fulfill my ambition of going to Fortnum's for tea.

  2. Having been to Fortnum's for tea and desperate to go back again, I am so tempted by this book. Even more tempted by one of the hampers it is included in.

    1. It's a lovely book, and as I'm nowhere near ready to head into central London it'll do me for now.