Workers from Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate are on a one-van mission in the US to teach Americans the pleasures of a cup of Yorkshire Tea. Reporter Jack Blanchard hitches a ride with them.
WE'RE cruising west down the freeway at a cool 45mph, and it's fair to say the open road never felt so good.
Behind us sits the vast concrete sprawl of Los Angeles. Ahead, just beyond the setting sun, lies the endless open space of the Nevada desert.
Our progress so far can best be described as slow and steady – but then we are travelling in what is basically a souped-up ice cream van, emblazoned with the familiar Yorkshire Tea logos and now laden down further with crates of cups, teapots and box upon box of tea.
On board Little Urn – as the van is affectionately known to one and all – the sense of relief to even be chugging along in the slow lane is palpable. For this great Yorkshire adventure very nearly didn't make it out of the starting blocks.
Having been shipped nearly 6,000 miles from its North Yorkshire home, traversing both the Atlantic Ocean and the Panama Canal along a journey of truly epic proportions, Little Urn finally arrived safe and sound in Los Angeles last week – only to be instantly impounded by the charming folk at US customs.
Their concern, it seems, was that a motorised tea wagon might not live up to the suddenly stringent emissions regulations governing vehicles entering the US.
That's right – one of the world's most polluting nations, where every other vehicle seems to be a gleaming oversized four-wheel drive or ludicrous Humvee-style, petrol-bingeing monstrosity, is worried that a little ice cream van from Harrogate might not have the correct eco-credentials.
For the past seven days and seven nights, then, Little Urn has remained locked away in a vehicle pound in Los Angeles while a crack team of lawyers, mechanics and – presumably – tea ladies have worked round the clock to secure its release.
Finally, just as this rolling six-week tea party looked in danger of becoming little more than a quick brew break, the call comes through – Little Urn has passed its final 'smog test' and we can finally get on the road.
Under dazzling blue skies we cruise through the wide boulevards and tree-lined avenues of LA, turning heads on every street. Teenage basketball players enjoying a weekend game in the park look bemused as the tea truck trundles past, Tea for Two clanging from its chimes.
It's 26C in LA, and the freezing English winter we left behind already seems a lifetime away. Being British, of course, we feel obliged to talk incessantly about the weather to everyone we meet.
"This is not hot," grins Sean, a Californian who works for a local film production company in downtown LA. "In the summer we had literally the hottest day here ever – it was like 45C."
Still, 26C doesn't seem too bad for the middle of January, and perhaps goes some way to explaining why those ex-pats who have moved out here seem so infuriatingly happy.
"I love it here, absolutely love it," says Eileen Lee, a 38-year-old English exile now celebrating her 14th year living in Hollywood.
Mrs Lee organises regular meetings of ex-pat Brits living in LA. "The main things I really miss are Marmite and proper tea – tea from Yorkshire," she says. "They're the things we always want people to bring out to us."
With this is mind, she has agreed to organise a tea party for her 3,000-strong ex-pat membership on Santa Monica beach when the Yorkshire Tea crew return to Los Angeles later in the month.