A nice cup of ambrosia

Sharon Jessup Joyce

blog tea collection

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.

Blog tea with teapotIt 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.
Welcome to our family’s discussion forum on food. If you’d like to submit a post, please consider yourself family, and email us at familyfoodforum@gmail.com.

After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

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8 thoughts on “A nice cup of ambrosia

  1. I was heartbroken to discover that my favourite cheddar cheese crackers have been discontinued…or at least Pete’s doesn’t stock them. In fourth year these bunny crackers were my trademark snack. Every single day I brought a small mason jar of bunnies to school with me. Everyone loved them! Classmates helped me eat them. When Ben came over he’d head directly to the shelf where I stored them. Before starting my internship my friend Emma said to me, “You’re going to keep bringing your bunnies to CBC right? You’re not going to change are you?” I haven’t seen them in stores for a couple months, but this post inspired me to Google them and it appears they sell them online!

  2. I, too, love a good cup of tea. Although Taylors of Harrogate don’t have a Prince of Wales tea, you might try some of their others: http://www.taylorsofharrogate.co.uk/subcattea.asp?catid=119. I enjoy their pure Ceylon, Assam and the Kwazulu is very nice too. The Ottawa Bagel Shop carries some of their line (and if you’re in the neighbourhood, come and say hi!). I hope you find a substitute for your tea of choice!

    • Thanks, Alana, for the suggestions. As Livy said, if my starting point is mild black tea without frills (such as blackberry and the like), I should be able to find some pleasant comparables. I will definitely look at Taylors of Harrogate. We have a couple of reasons to get to Ottawa when we can, and now I have another! Would love to have a tea with you

      • If you have tea with Alana, make sure she makes you some of her famous cookes 😉

        I will check Berne to see if Prince of Wales is in stock. I know Livy bought me a box when she stayed. I had forgotten how good it was until then.

        • Yes! Cycle the Alps, storming teashops in quest of my tea! That’s an even more charming image that HRH blending it at Buck House.

          Okay, just reread your comment. Apparently you’re checking in Berne, not the entire country. I will calm down now.

  3. Girlfriend, I hear you. I’m down here in the US, and I can’t find my beloved Prince of Wales tea at any of the stores that usually carry it! Thinking I may have to stock up from amazon.com just like you did. If you need an American to buy more of it from the US Amazon site, let me know, and I can help you re-stock, assuming a) amazon still has any PoW tea when your own supply is exhausted and b) amazon still has any PoW tea after I buy as much of it as I can afford for myself. 😉

    • Andrea, I’m so sorry that I just saw your comment now! Did you manage to stock up on Prince of Wales tea? I managed to order another 6 boxes from Amazon.ca. I also found another lovely mild black tea: Taylors of Harrogate Afternoon Darjeeling Tea, courtesy of Alana’s suggestion that I look into that company’s products.

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