There’s a belief among many serious tea drinkers: “There’s no good tea made in America.”
Well, if you’ve traveled in tea-appreciating countries like Great Britain, Canada, Japan and India, you know that saying is mostly true. It’s tough to find really good tea in the United States. That is unless you get your tea from premium tea companies like Harney & Sons, proprietors of very fine teas.
Thirty-four years ago innkeeper John Harney, proprietor of the historic White Hart Inn in Connecticut, fell in love with fine teas. Stanley Mason, a tea master in London and New York introduced John to tea. Over time, Stanley taught John how to make and blend great tea.
Beginning in 1983, John started blending teas and heused guests at his historic inn as guinea pigs to test out his tea blends. They loved his teas and the company grew and grew. From humble beginnings in his basement, John transformed Harney & Sons into a global operation that employs more than 200 people and makes more than 300 unique tea blends. Thirty years after its modest beginnings, Harney & Sons is still family-owned and managed. While founder John passed in 2014, the company includes Mike, Paul, Brigitte, Emeric, and Alexander Harney. They source, blend and package all of their products from the best sources around the world.
Harney & Sons sells several types of tea: white (young leaf tea); green (non-oxidized tea leaves); Matcha (powered tea); oolong (semi-oxidized); black (oxidized tea leaves); herbal infusions (mixtures of tea, herbs, leaves, fruit, and flowers); decaffeinated (black, green, flavored and herbal without caffeine); and organic (no artificial fertilizers, pesticides used).
Sampling Four Teas
Realfoodtraveler.com editors had the opportunity to try four Harney & Sons teas: English Breakfast; Paris; Hot Cinnamon Spice; and Peppermint herbal. All the teas came in tins containing 20 tea sachets. Unlike many companies that use paper tea bags, Harney & Sons offer satiny, pyramid-style tea sachets. Each tea tin offers brewing directions, a description of the tea (character, effects, brew time, caffeine content) and storage. Additionally, Mike Harney has rated each tea on its Briskness (mouth pucker); Body (how it fills the mouth); and Aroma (robust scent?).
English Breakfast: This is a robust China black tea. RFT Editor Anne Weaver is an inveterate black tea drinker so I knew she’d be the one to evaluate Harney & Sons English Breakfast tea. Anne says, “This is a nice, smooth tea with excellent flavor. It’s a strong and simple tea that makes a great morning beverage.”
Paris: This is a blend of black teas with natural vanilla, fruit and citrus flavors. It has a fruity flavor with notes of fragrant lemony bergamot orange and vanilla undertones.
Hot Cinnamon Spice: This is another tea blend. It combines black teas with three kinds of cinnamon, orange peal, cloves and artificial and natural flavors. I like to make my iced tea with a combination of several black tea bags and a single cinnamon spice tea bag to give the tea a little sweetness, more depth, and to cut any bitterness from the black tea. This cinnamon spice tea makes a great addition to my ice tea blend, but it’s also tasty brewed alone as a hot tea with lovely sweet flavor.
Peppermint Herbal: I’m a big mint tea fan and this Peppermint Tea, which is simply cut and sifted peppermint leaves, is fresh and refreshing. It’s the perfect afternoon cuppa. However, be careful, because this tea can be strong. I found if I followed the five-minute brew instructions, the peppermint tea was too strong. For me, less than 30 seconds of brewing made a light and delicious mint tea.
Real Bottom Line: Harney & Sons is a premium tea company that is proving American companies can make terrific tea. We found the Harney & Sons teas we sampled were fresh with distinctive and bright flavors. This is truly tea for tea lovers. We love it. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor; photos by Anne Weaver, RFT Editor