Thursday, February 18, 2010

Harney & Sons

On a snowy day, I took first one train, and then another, to travel to Harney & Sons in Connecticut. I have known John Harney for many years. As I was developing Victoria magazine, John was beginning Harney & Sons Fine Teas in a big way. We are talking about the mid-1980's when there seemed to be some kind of magic in the air for rediscovering the tastes and aesthetics of another time.

John Harney is as delightful as the tea he purveys. A firm handshake and a ready laugh are trademarks of the gentleman who is a wonderful blend himself. John is a passionate advocate for tea drinking as well as a very accomplished businessman with a Connecticut Yankee's good common sense. John and I greeted each other as the old compatriots we are in the belief that tea is more than just "a cuppa."

It was Trica Foley who reminded me of the author Edith Wharton"s comment about "the charms o
f tea." That was a perfect heading for the section that would be in issue after issue of Victoria. Many different topics were included over the years--and Harney & Sons was definitely one of them. In addition, John Harney was always willing to speak at Victoria teas and to do anything he could to help us promote the beauty and intimacy of drinking tea.

How very warm to be greeted by John at the door of his factory. It is an amazing place, as Harney & Sons has expanded to purveying over 300 teas that ship all over the world. Teas from Connecticut to Great Britain--John and I had both had to smile about that. But the Brits want the very best teas, and they can count on this master brewer for that to be sure. Today tea is 4 times the business it was in 1990, thanks to the John Harneys of the world.

John, and his son Michael have both been kind to
Victoria and to me-- crediting us for helping them in the tea crusade. If so, from our early and consistent support, Harney & Sons have done just fine on their own. What a pleasure to see both of these men so proud of their product and accomplishment. John couldn't wait to show me the factory--after we all donned little white hair nets. It was like a Willie Wonka chocolate factory experience. Machines that you couldn't imagine how anyone dreamed them up to create packaging and packing. It was somewhat like visiting a vineyard-- interesting as Michael Harney came to tea after his experiences in France.

Walking along the aisles and aisles of boxes of tea, I realized how far we have come from the teas we used to have to choose from: English or Irish breakfast, and perhaps, Earl Grey. To help consumers understand all the teas, where they come from, and how to brew them, Michael has produced the Harney & Sons Guide to Tea. On it's pages you'll be introduced to white teas, for example. I brought home a tin of Chinese white tea with peach flavor. I have used it in the past, especially for summer iced tea. (By the way, John and Michael have recently begun bottling iced teas! I told you there was a smart businessman in John Harney...) There are also sections on black teas, yellow teas, etc.

Harney & Sons were the originators of sachets (a delicate fabric "tea bag"--a term I use reluctantly, as they are nothing like the paper bags we have become accustomed to recently). This afternoon, still under the Harney spell, I made a cup of their Paris tea with a sachet. Oh my, I am in love again.

While the Harneys are proud of sachets and the small round carry-along tins they developed so you can take a small sampling with you wherever you go, Michael does have this to say in the introduction of his book:

I will insist you set aside teabags and try a teapot and loose leaves.

Michael then goes on to give other very specific brewing advice, as he does for every tea he covers in the book. This is a tea bible you won't want to be without if you are serious about the subject. And tea for health is large part of the Harney mission as well as for the pure enjoyment of the experience. How lovely that one can have both in a ritual that is ageless.

Leaving the factory, John took me by his nearby tearoom complete with a tasting room, just like many a vineyard. The snow was getting fierce by now--but the room was warm and welcoming. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had those two trains to catch. My bag was full of tea samples...teas I never could have dreamed of long ago when John Harney and I were younger and our passion for tea was just being fired. On their web site you can experience a world class tour of teas.

Harney & Sons is my February entry for my year of taking tea journal. How could John Harney not be part of this journey? This was not only an education day, but a reunion around tea. How many of those I have had, and how many more I hope to indulge in. I doubt I can sample all 300 Harney teas--but I'm sure going to take Michael's advice and stick my nose into the teapot to savor the aroma of all the beautifully blended flavors of those I do. For today, Ah Paris--a relaxing Earl Grey blend created for me by a master blender and friend.


  1. Had a wonderful time presenting my collection of vintage Valentine's at a local tea room this past Sunday (Valentine's Day) and the selected tea was Paris by your wonderful friend Harney and Sons. At the end of the tea, the check out line had everyone carrying a tin of tea to take home with them. It along with the Valentines was a big hit for a special day!

  2. Now, how delightful is this post, especially as I am enjoying a "sachet" of Harney & Sons Organic Green tea (it's lightly touched with citrus and ginko!)? I loved this post, Nancy, and I love that you've offered a peek into a master tea brewer. I always loved these teas and now, I have more reasons to do so. Many thanks for this charming posting. I'm going to run out and purchase some Paris tea today!

    Steeping in joy,
    Karen Marline

  3. I want some Paris tea too!!!! I learned about tea from my grandmother who was never without a pot. I have an embarrassing tea moment however. My chi chi inlaws belonged to an exclusinve ski lodge and at lunch one day I grabbed a tea bag from a basket always off to the side (the regular tea bags were missing). It was absolutely delicious so I went back and read the bag. It was Earl Grey which my grandmother never drank and being only 22 and unworldly in every way having been raised as American Yankee, I made a fuss over it. The chi chi snow bunnies who had skiied in Chile in the summer and Switzerland in the winter looked at me askance and I think I read their thoughts: "What a dumb ordinary girl!" No matter, I still love Earl Grey and many other global teas as well!


  4. Also, I believe Victoria did a piece on a tea cookbook one year. From a "tea" family of purveyors.


  5. Forgive me, my comment is not about tea. I am sitting in the midst of a snowfall, and browsing the premier issue of Victoria and the whole first two years and stepping back in a wonderful time and just wondered--where in the world is Nancy Lindemeyer now and why is she not making magazines to nurture my spirit and casually picked up the computer and asked the magic machine--Where is Nancy Lindemeyer now and magically she appears with her poetic wisdom and beautiful finds to make my life softer and quietly elegant again. Thank you so much Nancy for imparting messages that only you can share. In your spirit, Nancy

  6. I savored every word of this post. How I would love to be able to get to Harney & Sons. We have a local tea room where loose teas are blended and sold, and traditional English teas are served each day with a different selection of flavors. It is wonderful to have places near me to find those very special blends. But how I would love to visit Harney & Sons. I have a tea ball for loose tea. I wonder if the flavor from pouring over loose tea similar to that of using a tea ball with loose tea? I was the only one in my family of five who even drank hot tea for a long time (being from the South, it's all about the iced tea here.) But, I have finally influenced both my husband and my 12 y-o daughter to enjoy having tea with me. Thank you so much for continuing to give us these beautiful word pictures of such interesting sights, people, and places. It heartens me to hear that a business just starting out in early Victoria days is solidly holding its own in the market today.


  7. One of my students just brought Paris tea to my office for me to try. Although I've had Harney's Earl Grey before, I had never tried Paris and it was lovely.

  8. Speaking of Paris - the city, I mean - I highly recommend a visit to Damman Frere in the Place des Vosges. The interior is rich with deep color and redolent with the scent of tea, delicate and layered. For a very reasonable price, I purchased a sampler box as well as some small packets for gifts. I became enamored with a low, crimson tea pot, but frugality got the better of me. Tomorrow I'll brew a pot of Jardin Bleu in my Yixing tea pot, which is jade green. Thank you for the inspiration. Tea does have a calming effect on me, as do the trappings of tea.

  9. A wonderful post regarding a man that has made his love of the perfect cup of tea his lifetime passion.
    Paris tea sounds delightful...

  10. I am now on the lookout for Paris tea and expect pure bliss when I encounter my first cup. What a fine little jaunt you had to Connecticut. I appreciated being taken along for the ride to Harney and Sons via this post. Thank you for another lovely and engaging post.

  11. Thank you, Nancy, for this lovely post about a very wonderful man who has done so much to promote the tradition of Afternoon Tea and has been a significant influence in my life.
    I attended the Harney Tea Conference in Rye, New York in May of 1998 and it was there that I found the inspiration that was the impetus for my going forward with my plan to open my tea room, The Amherst Rose. John Harney is indeed delightful and always willing to share his knowledge and insights into the tea business with aspiring tea business owners. He has a unique way of answering a question and leading you to draw your own conclusions and follow your own instincts. He is a gentleman in the true sense of the word and his infectious laugh and twinkling eyes will make any conversation with him a memorable one.

    It was also at that Harney Tea Conference, Nancy, that you signed my issue of Victoria for me. I keep it in the tea room along with several other issues of Victoria for my guests to enjoy if they happen to come to tea by themselves and want a little company as they enjoy their Afternoon Tea celebration. I was also inspired by the thoughts you shared with me and the other tea lovers about finding your own bliss. For me, it was a true Victoria moment and the start of a very rewarding journey. Thank you to you, Nancy, and to John Harney for your inspiration and encouragement and for promoting the celebration that is tea.

    Mary Jane
    Sipping a lovely cup of Harney Winter White Earl Grey

  12. Dear Nancy (and Mary Jane)...Please do share where your tea room is, Mary Jane, as I'd love to visit it. And Nancy, I went on the Harney website and, not too surprisingly, Paris tea is sold out. Oh, the power of Victoria's founding editor to promote a product is still there! I'm going to order some as soon as it becomes available, in the meantime, I'll curl up with some chamomile and sip, dreaming deep, tea-scented thoughts.
    Karen Marline, with hugs

  13. John Harney is indeed a treasure and his hugs are wonderful too. I have met John on many occasions and always love his twinkle in the eye, laughter, and love of tea.

    Your shared story of Harney & Sons was a true delight this morning. What a wonderful tea infused life shared with over a cup of tea. The book is also great and sits now on my tea bookshelf.

    BTW, Mary Jane's tearoom is in Masillon, Ohio and I know would be sheer delight to visit. You would just love Mary Jane. She carries my tea infused jams on her shelves from

    Delights of the Heart

  14. Have you had the chance to visit Edith Wharton's mansion in western Massachusetts, Nancy? I live very close to there and it is a marvelous place to visit. Nice post! Sincerely, Susan from

  15. It was in Victoria that I found the information for the first large Harney Tea Conference in 1997. There had been a smaller one in Salisbury before, but seeing the 1997 one mentioned in your magazine sent me straight to the phone and a reservation. Thank you so much, for my meeting this man who has become a dear friend and turned my life direction more toward tea and new beginnings in that "Find your Bliss" area.

    By the '98 Harney conference I was invited to be a presenter along with the likes of Elizabeth Knight, Norwood Pratt. Bruce Richardson and others. Nancy, you gave the Keynote, if I remember, and I treasure a picture of you along side my daughter and me on the last day.

    It was also at that conference that I met Mary Jane of the Amherst Rose Tearoom, which didn't exist yet, and so many other wonderful tea people who are in my life today. John and I just chatted by phone on Friday and he is still the same man full of joy and humor as he was back then when the two of you were starting in your business paths.

    Thank you for featuring that entrepreneur extraordinaire, John Harney and bringing back wonderful memories.

    Eve Hill, contributing editor, "Tea magazine"

  16. Interesting post- as always Nancy!--I guess I have a long way to go with learning about Teas.- I fill a crystal Canister with a selection of Herbal Tea Bags from Celestial brand.-I discovered the benefits of the various kinds about a year ago- esp the Peppermint kind for a tummy ache,slippery elm for a cold, & wild Blueberry ,an idea from a friend on our "Timeless Bliss"group.-I also had purchased a large assortment box of Teas last year after Xmas on sale-{pretty mahogany box too}-- & this year found another with a different variety of Teas in it--the Orange-Peco-Spice is especially good!There was a delicious one out called "Star Anise" I also liked,-{because of the Licorice flavor}-- but it was recently taken off the market-"Star anise" I guess can be or is dangerous?!--

    Really I am a coffee Drinker, more then Tea- I love all of the different blends and making Cappichino etc.with my Krupps -Coffee, expresso,machine.}--I have a book on Coffee's,too that I really enjoy- I think it was Authored by"Calvert"a writer for Victoria-{not under the "Victoria"name}- but could have been.

    Not about Tea}- but still wondering,- Did you ever watch "The Young Victoria" movie at the theatre?I am just so curious as to what you thought of it?-I just loved it!- I also am anxious to read your new book ,it will be out soon-I am looking so forward to it!-Love,Valery

  17. My favorite tea at the moment is Harney's "Hot Cinnamon Spice (or Sunset)" and it's wonderful for those cold Winter days, or when you're sick.
    I met John at my first tea conference in Las Vegas a few years ago, and when he asked me where I was from, I said, no one knows where my town is, so I just say San Diego. He then started singing to me, "I'm an Okie from Okennofree". This has been a sweet memory to me for years.
    Nancy, you have many readers who talk of your praises on our AfternoonTeaAcrossAmerica Yahoo Group. I still have my entire collection of Victoria from it's first years and they are jewels to read over and over.

  18. Tricia Foley and I celebrate our December birthdays, usually together and very near the dates the week before Christmas. We plan to have lunch and go to a play or a film. Well, this year there was just too much going on in both our lives, so we postponed the festivity until The Young Victoria debuted. We actually went on opening day in New York, feeling very proud of ourselves.

    I have been reluctant to review the film until I see it again--or maybe a couple of more times. I was so captivated by all the details--oh, those incredible ribbons and bonnets--that I may miss the
    "big" picture. At first blush, I loved the actors. Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend are perfectly cast, except, of course, the principals were not such beautiful people. I thought there was a lot of political intrigue to follow, and I wanted to go back to my history books and understand it better. Any artistic creation is a good one that gives you such impetus. But on the down side, I thought the wedding and Victoria's subsequent relationship with Albert were not as full-blown as I would have liked them to be. I suspect producing the royal wedding might have broken the budget of the film. They did get her bouquet right, which included orange blossoms. I was on the lookout for that!

    Have been meaning to get back to see the film before it leaves the theaters. Of course, I will buy the DVD and watch it any number of times, savoring all those details of dress and set. I was inspired to go back to Queen V. book shelf and reread parts of her Journal in the Highlands--actually More Leaves from the Journal of a Life in the Highlands (1862-1882). It was from this book, a gift from Bryan McCay, Victoria's art director, that I gleaned the inspiration for the "Leaves" section of Victoria. Amazingly, I had forgotten the inscription on the book, written in 1903. It was gift to Anne Macintosh on her marriage. It was done in a mastered calligraphy from a friend, who represented a whole group of members and friends in a group to which she had belonged for 20 years.

    Queen Victoria dedicated the book to: My Loyal Highlanders and especially to the memory of my devoted personal attendant and faithful friend, John Brown. She went on to detail her widowed life in Scotland.

    Here is a passage to show her devastation at her husband's death:

    And here at the top of the foundation of the cairn--forty feet wide--to be erected to my precious Albert, which will be seen all down the valley. I and my poor six orphans all placed stones on it; and our initials, as well those of the three absent ones, are to be carved on stones all around it. I felt very shaky and nervous.

    A queen, yes. A bereaved widow and a mother, too. Perhaps this is why Victoria was, in the end, so beloved and understood by her people.

  19. Thanks Nancy!--I really enjoyed the movie too, but also need to watch the DVD a couple times when it is released. I was so excited when I finally got to view this movie-- that-LOL well it was just so beautiful the costumes and the scenery-& {I had a bit of a cold too,when I went}- It was just overwhelming for me-- so much to see at one time!-

    I have one of the movie posters here, where she is wearing a white gown and a garland of flowers in her hair- Albert is in his Royal attire,with the Swaraski crystals etc.{the main movie poster with the Red.}--anyway- after I came home from the movie & I stared again at that beautiful image & reminising about the Movie-I could not remember seeing the same outfits as on the movie poster scene.?!-- It looked wedding like to me- & I did ask a group I am in -dedicated to this movie-"Where in the movie is the wedding attire,scene as on the poster?" I honestly do not remember it."The group then told me that "unfortunately there wasn't much of the wedding scene in the movie".

    I agree with you- I would have loved to see The royal wedding with the same outfits on as shown on the movie's Poster. I guess it would have blown the budget for the movie. I am anxious to see the dvd , just to see all I missed,& find that brief scene.--

    It really is a beautiful movie though,& I thought Emily Blunt did a fantastic job portraying the Young Victoria. I wish it was longer in length to show more with the couple after they married and had children. Maybe they will make a sequel of this movie,I hope so.I guess there is a movie out called"Mrs Brown" with Judy Dench{sp} as Queen Victoria that tells more of the couple with their children and also after Albert had passed away. I am now more interested than ever in learning more about Queen victorias life.Thanks, --Valery

  20. Dear Nancy,

    I just had to come back again to this post and tell you about my delightful and serendipitous morning. My mother took me to a belated birthday lunch at our local tearoom (which I mentioned in my comment above.) As we were ordering our meal of tomato basil quiche and crabmeat crepes, we looked down the list of special teas to accompany the meal. My mother spotted one called Parisian Lights, a blend of black tea, oil of bergamot, black currant and caramel, and citrus. The waitress brought some over so that we could sample the aroma, and I must tell you that it was heavenly... love at first whiff. We chose to share a pot, and it was so wonderful I decided I had to take home a tin. Later as the proprietress of the tearoom passed by our table, my curiousity got the better of me. Having read and loved your post (and the subsequent comments), I couldn't help but wonder if she knew of Harney & Sons teas. So I asked her, and to my surprise she not only knew of them she said, "Oh yes, I get a lot of my teas from them." My next question to her naturally was, "Is your 'Parisian Lights' their 'Paris' tea?" I'm sure you've guessed that her answer was, "Yes, that's exactly what it is." What a fun and quite Victoria moment it was for me and for my mother, (who was also a Victoria subscriber and still has most of her original collection.) Like mother, like daughter! I then shared with my mother about having read your post about Harney & Sons and the fact that you were actually having a cup of Paris upon writing. It was a very serendipitous moment... the perfect way for us to celebrate my birthday and made such a happy occasion of it. She actually gifted me with the tin of tea, and we were all smiles and hugs when we parted. It will be a lovely memory for us.


  21. Finally, this morning, I was brought under the spell of the Paris tea. At long last I found, quite by surprise, looking for a shower gift at Williams and Sonoma. A gift for the bride, and a gift for me. In fact, I may go back and purchase a tin for the bride as well to go along with her registry gift.

    One of my favorites at tea time is the Tasha Tudor Tea found at the family's website. Paris will be a nice alternative. . . and so it goes with such a comment almost two months from your original posting. Likely not quite expected for a post's ongoing discussion, but, I like to eventually see things through. Thank you for making the pursuit of Paris a goal for me.