Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hobbit Tea from Mennonites

So, thanks to friend Steve (hi Stan!), I recently learned that someone had started selling HOBBIT TEAS OF THE SHIRE. And, naturally, I immediately decided to order some -- as someone else pointed out (hi Ed), it's almost as if there were a market made up just of people like me.* I had trouble making the online ordering work** and so eventually just called them up and ordered over the phone. The goods arrived yesterday, and today I've been sampling. Not bad.

There are three favors, each in its own nicely decorated box (which can serve as nice little keepers long after the teabags within are returned to the dust):
(1) Gandalf the Gray Tea
(2) Hobbiton Meadow Mint, &
(3) Bilbo Baggins Breakfast Blend.

The first isn't really tea at all but a chamomile/rooibis blend. I like the idea of chamomile tea but have never really been a fan of the taste, which reminds me of warm grassy water, but it turns out adding the rooibis makes it a little more flavorful. The accompanying text on its box reads Chamomile has for many years grown beside the road leading to Hobbiton from Brandywine Bridge. The flowers are harvested for a soothing tea. While most of the South Farthing has been taken up with the growing of pipeweed, meadows of the red bush still remain, and are much prized as a tea throughout the Shire. Chamomile & red bush tea has been enjoyed by Wood Elves, Hobbits, and even the old wandering wizard dressed in gray.

The second is minty indeed, being a mix of spearmint and peppermint. I prefer black teas with mint in them to straight herbal blends, but think this wd be a gd brew mixed about one-to-two with some black teabags. Have to try that tomorrow and see. The boxtext reads The low places surrounding Bywater supply patches of mint, which are harvested by nearly every Hobbit in the Shire. Some, like the Gamgees, have taken to cultivating the herb in their garden plots, and have come up with a long list of medical benefits for the tea it produces. Hobbiton Meadow Mint is a popular drink in the Shire at weddings and parties.

The third, which I liked best of the three, contains actual tea (definitely a point in its favor in my book), along w. some orange peel, red clover, and cinnamon. The back of the box reads Bilbo Baggins Breakfast Blend did not originate in the Shire. The mixture of tea, orange, and cinnamon was first blended by Bandobras Took during one of his adventures far from home. Young Belladonna Took brought the recipe with her Under the Hill. Her son Bilbo shared the brew with Thorin & Company in the morning as they started off for the Lonely Mountain, and from that morning on, as far and wide as the members of the Company traveled, the brew was known as Bilbo Baggins Breakfast Blend.

Tolkien trivia question #1: can you spot the slip in the name of one of these three teas?

Tolkien trivia question #2: can you spot the slip in the fictional backstory provided for one of these teas?

Tolkien trivia question #3: can you find any surprising feature on the Shire map (see below) appearing on the boxes?

--all of which just goes to show that they're tea-merchants, a small family business, and not Tolkien scholars.

For more on their story, wh. is quite interesting (and where the Mennonite/Amish angle comes in), see the following, wh. I first found reported on The One

One nice little touch is that the article names the three student artists from the Cleveland Institute of Art responsible for the project's art, which I rather like: Yusef Abonamah (who did the Gandalf box), Albert McClelland, & Daniel Farruggia (who I assume were each responsible for one of the other boxes, but I don't know who did which one). Although it doesn't leap out at first, each box also has an attractive folksy map of the Shire that I haven't seen before, although not everything appearing on the map is actually there on Tolkien's original (at least not in the same place!).

For more about the tea, or to order, see their website: (click on the image of Bilbo's round green door to enter the site)

For more on the history of the company involved, and how a family dairy farmer decided to go grow organic mint instead, see

All in all, given that this is an officially licensed product from Tolkien Enterprises (The Saul Zaentz Company), I think that as movie merchandising tie-ins it rivals the Lord of the Nazgul piggybank from the Bakshi horror as Most Unexpected.

*Ed's actual words were "It's like they decided upon a demographic by drawing a circle around John".
**My wife's comment: "Mennonites cdn't make a website work? Go figure!"


N.E. Brigand said...

#1: Can you spot the slip in the name of one of these three teas?
"Gray" should be "Grey".

#2: Can you spot the slip in the fictional backstory provided for one of these teas?
The Dwarves had left for Bywater before Bilbo awoke, on the day they set off, so he couldn't have served them a breakfast tea.

#3: Can you find any surprising feature on the Shire map (see below) appearing on the boxes?
Gamgee Meadows, perhaps? Not a name in Tolkien, to be sure, but one that might be supposed to exist in the Fourth Age. The somewhat stylized map is very hard to make out.

In the site's description of Tolkien, they have "Anglo-Saxton" for "Anglo-Saxon".

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi NEB. Sorry for the delay in replying; I didn't have the teaboxes with me in California.

#1: right!

#2: right!

#3: multiple answers on this one. too bad the map's so hard to make out (being printed as screened background behind text). There's Gamgee Meadows, as you say, next to Bywater Pool, which turns out to be half-way between Bag End and the Brandywine. Tuckborough being directly south of The Hill is also a bit off, as is the Old Forest being north of the East Road.

That said, I like the mapper's casual style, wh. strikes me as rather hobbit-like, intentionally or not. I wish they'd make the whole map available on their website.

--John R.