Sharon Jessup Joyce
The world doesn’t always accommodate those of us who are faithful to what we love best. For example, I’ve changed my perfume only twice in my life. I wasn’t bored with the old perfumes, you understand. It’s just that I couldn’t get them anymore.
But now I’m facing a discontinuation crisis a lot bigger than perfume.
The blow fell one rainy September afternoon, with a message from Caroline at Cooke’s Fine Foods. Caroline was apologetic about delivering the bad news that Twinings had discontinued Prince of Wales tea – my signature beverage, my comfort in troubled times, my oasis in chaos, my companion in relaxation. Ironically, I was working at the computer at the time, a mug of that very tea at my elbow. I sent anxious messages to Olivia and Jesse, who responded with suitable concern. Livy checked Pete’s in Halifax, and found the Prince of Wales section of the tea shelf bare. Jesse sent me a link to Amazon, which still had the tea in stock.
The hunt was on. Amazon in the United States had plenty, but I couldn’t have it shipped to a Canadian address. (“Do we know anyone living in the States anymore?” I called to Bob one evening. He responded in a wary voice, “I have some clients there…why are you asking?”) In the end, I was able to order from Amazon Canada. They didn’t have as much of the tea as their American counterpart, and the price wasn’t as good, but I checked with other merchants, who kept saying, Sorry, no, out of stock; we don’t expect more. I reminded myself that she who hesitates is thirsty, and I bought everything Amazon Canada had.
I now have 28 boxes of teabags (20 to a box) and eight tins of loose tea. If I am careful, it will probably be sufficient for 2 to 3 years, which is roughly the shelf life for packaged tea. I’ve researched best storage practices (cool, dark, dry, leave cellophane on boxes, don’t store with other food products in case of odour or flavour transfer). As Olivia said, now I have time to find a replacement.
I’d like to think Twinings is engaging in a New Coke scheme, and it’s all a marketing ploy to boost interest and sales in an ageing product. In a few weeks or months they will announce that Prince of Wales tea is back by popular demand. But I fear that’s a faint hope: the company’s websites in various English-speaking and tea-drinking nations contain nearly a year of posts from customers bemoaning the dwindling availability of their favourite tea, coupled with vague and regretful statements from Twinings that don’t make any promises about future supply. International tea gossip (or whatever it’s really called) suggests that Twinings has two issues with Prince of Wales tea: availability of the teas used in the blend; and a restricted marketplace, since Prince of Wales is a darling of speciality food shops, but has not found a home in large supermarket chains.
Why do I think Prince of Wales tea is so special? For one thing, it has the traditional scent and taste of a classic black tea, but is very mild. For people like me, who find most black teas too intensely tannic, it’s the tea’s greatest asset. But while it’s mild, it doesn’t taste weak or watered-down. It is fragrant and clean, with a nice depth of flavour.
It has a charming back story, too. It is reputed to have been the favourite tea of the Duke of Windsor, formerly a Prince of Wales and, briefly, King Edward VIII, the man who famously gave up his throne for the twice-divorced Wallis Warfield Simpson. It is said the tea, which came on the market in the early 1920s, was the Prince’s own blend, but it is unclear if it was blended on his behalf, if his own preferences were considered, or if he actually came up with the blend himself. I like picturing him in the kitchen at Buckingham Palace, his sleeves rolled to his elbows, with a pert kitchen maid at his side, handing him various tins of black China tea for his careful consideration.
Twinings says Prince of Wales tea is best enjoyed in the afternoon — though they have recently extended the ideal enjoyment time back to late morning — and suggests the tea is very nice accompanied by a scone or biscuit. I have a fine biscuit recipe that often pleases, but I think I’ll save it for another day, and let this post stand simply as homage to my favourite beverage.
Thank you, Your Highness.
Do you have a favourite beverage? What about a favourite food or beverage that has been discontinued?
|Sharon lives in Kingston, Ontario where she dabbles in the domestic arts, eats very well, and appreciates every sip of her beloved Twining Prince of Wales tea.|
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