Video: Taking Yorkshire tea to the natives... of the USA

FROM the sparkling prose of Jack Kerouac to the doomed romance of Thelma and Louise, the great American road trip holds a special place in modern popular culture.

But there can have been few journeys across the wide open spaces of the United States as unusual as that being planned by one of Yorkshire's most iconic firms this week.

Driving an old ice cream van - lovingly converted into a four-wheeled Yorkshire Tea urn - a collection of workers from Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate will today begin an epic journey to bring the simple pleasure of a "proper brew" to the unsuspecting people of America.

Stopping off at famous cities including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Miami and New York along their six-week road trip, the self-styled 'Brew Crew' will be handing out free cups of Yorkshire Tea wherever they go.

Their aim is to educate the vast nation of coffee-lovers about the pleasures of a decent cup of tea.

"There are some odd things that go on over there when it comes to making tea," said Yorkshire Tea brand manager James Prentice, who dreamed up the idea as a way of raising the product's profile at home and abroad.

"Often if you ask for a cup of tea, you will be handed a cup of warm water and a dodgy tea bag. They don't use milk, sometimes they brew it up in a microwave... Most people really haven't got any idea about making a decent cuppa. You tend to get this thin, lukewarm, greyish drink that nobody really likes."

Mr Prentice and his team will thus be taking on the role of tea evangelists, trying to spread the word about their favourite drink in a nation where the phrase 'Tea Party' comes with rather different connotations.

The travelling team are also making arrangements to meet up with hundreds of British ex-pats currently living in the US who are missing the comforting taste of a good cup of tea.

The Yorkshire Post will be joining the Yorkshire Tea crew on board Little Urn for the first leg of their American adventure this week

Our correspondent Jack Blanchard and photographer Mike Cowling will be squeezing into the converted ice cream van for the 500-mile trip between Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon in Nevada, calling in at famous landmarks including the Mojave desert and Las Vegas along the way.

All next week they will be filing daily reports from the American west, keeping readers updated on the progress of the tour and the reaction of the American public to their first cups of proper Yorkshire Tea.

They will also be meeting a selection of unusual ex-pats living out in the States who enjoy a good cup of Yorkshire's finest, ranging from singing celebrities to vintage motorcycle enthusiasts.

Impromptu tea parties will be held with Brits right the way across America, from celebrities and Morris dancing groups to classic motorcycle clubs and holiday-makers.

"Time and time again we get people writing to us, or chatting to us on Facebook about the fact they live in the US and they really miss a proper cup of tea," Mr Prentice said. "So it does seem a logical place for us to go and try to solve this problem."

A quick glance at the Yorkshire Tea Facebook page - which has nearly 20,000 fans - shows this is not just marketing bluff.

"Please come to Richmond, Virginia!" writes US citizen Shawn Morton. "We have a group of ex-pats, including a couple of pubs where people would love a good brew! My husband and I are not ex-pats, but he has just gained his British citizenship. Our favourite area in the world is North Yorkshire. Our first stop when we go is normally a tea shop..."

Another fan, Heather Elder, pleads: "Please come to Spokane, Washington. I may be the only one in town who drinks Yorkshire every day - most around here have no clue about it!"

Bettys and Taylors have selected an 11-strong team of employees to make the long journey across the Atlantic and drive the tea van - known affectionately as ‘Little Urn' - through the states.

The lucky workers from the family-run firm include a tea buyer, the company painter and decorator, a factory manager, two marketing assistants, a production engineer and the head of HR.

They will be flown out in pairs over the six-week period to take turns driving and manning Little Urn.

Tea buyer Suzy Garraghan, who normally spends her days tasting hundreds of different teas at the firm's headquarters in Harrogate, said: "I can't quite believe we're actually going - it's all very exciting.

"I think the Americans will love Little Urn. There's not a lot of good tea in America, so people can't turn down the chance of a good brew. "

The company will also be filming parts of the trip to use in television and online adverts later in the year - so making potential stars of the employees involved.

Production manager John Hennighan, another member of staff to have been chosen for the trip, said: "In America they are very good at doing iced tea - all sweet and flavoured with peach.

"But when it comes to hot tea, I don't think they're really educated about what a proper brew actually is. Yorkshire tea has a reputation for a being a top quality tea, and we want to spread that reputation beyond our shores."

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