Could this be the best kept secret in Chandler’s Ford?
If I tell you there’s indeed a museum in the heart of Chandler’s Ford, will you believe me?
I had the pleasure of visiting Ahmad Tea a while ago.
Ahmad Tea is located on the Ahmad Tea Estate, just behind the Chandler’s Ford Central Precinct (behind the Social Club, Snooker Club, HSBC Bank and the Fish & Chip shop).
I was astonished to find that there’s a mesmerising Tea Museum inside the multi-cultural company. A delightful informative map of the World of Tea is on the wall.
Alex Keown-Boyd, Assistant General Manager (UK) of Ahmad Tea, kindly gave me a tour of the museum and factory.
I was totally amazed by the calming effect of the little museum and its unusual collection from around the world: traditional tea chests, models of machines such as a Chota Sifter, a tea drier, a roll breaker and a withering trough.
The tour has greatly improved my understanding of the history of tea, thanks to Alex’s passion and insightful knowledge.
I’ll show you a few precious images of the Tea Museum:
A Russian Samovar:
Until recently, samovars were extensively used throughout Russia for brewing tea. The Russians used a large, thick, black, unbroken leaf that could stand being brewed all day without giving a bitter taste. People would help themselves to tea from the Samovar all day long. When the water was used up, new water was added. Old samovars were heated with coal or charcoal.
The model of the Cutty Sark:
The Cutty Sark was one of the fastest tea clippers. Before the Suez Canal was built, tea clippers used to race from Shanghai to London to bring in the first teas of the new season. The first teas always commanded the best price. The fastest journey was done in 99 days, and the fastest boat arrived only 20 minutes ahead of the 2nd boat. The Cutty Sark was built in 1869, and only carried tea for a short time. For most of its life it transported wool from Australia.
Earl Grey Tea Band:
Included in the collection is an interesting tea set made to commemorate the “Earl Grey Tea Band”. The guitar is just so adorable!
I was so charmed by these old-fashioned weighing machines.
Remember Quick Ink? Here is a teapot modeled after Quick Ink. Does it make you feel nostalgic?
An old-fashioned tea chest:
The tea chest was designed to protect the tea leaves from breaking. Tea connoisseurs are extremely careful not to break tea leaves. When a leaf is broken the tannin in the veins of the leaf escapes into the infusion, creating a bitter taste.
An 18th-century tea chest:
Alex recalled the history: “Tea was introduced to England by Catherine of Braganza of Portugal, who married Charles II of England. Portugal was the first European country to drink tea. Once the Queen started drinking tea, it became very fashionable, but was very expensive. Hence it was kept in locked tea chests. Tea was the drink for women, who drank it in the home. The menfolk went out to the coffee shops to drink coffee, a drink considered unsuitable for the delicate feminine frame.”
Lid of a tea caddy for storing the Chinese Pu’er tea （普洱茶）:
Pu’er tea is a type of tea originating in the Six Famous Tea Mountains region of Yunnan Province. It is fermented after being dried and rolled, and is stored in cakes until it is ripe, which may take up to 30 years.
Two lever lid tins:
According to Alex, the tin can was invented to supply Napoleon’s army with food that wouldn’t rot. The level lid is almost air tight.
Jacksons of Piccadilly tea caddy:
Jacksons entered the tea trade in 1815, but was bought out at the end of the 20th century.
Finally, I am standing in front of the stunning World of Tea map in the museum.
I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating, culturally enriching tour of the Tea Museum. I’m pleased to have discovered this gem in the very place that I live in Chandler’s Ford.