I recieved a lovely tea-toned cyanotype from hermit in the last postcard exchange. I was inspired to try teatoning again. Previously my tonal range tended to be from dark chocolate to mud. Same results this time - highlights gone completely. I tried different strengths - I had started with 8 teabags in 2 liters of water. Too strong? How about 1 teabag in 1 liter, not letting it steep - dunking in the photo with the brew still hot, the colour quite pale, and only a couple of minutes to soak - still got mud. A little lighter, perhaps, but still very little range between highlights and shadows. Dang! What's the secret?

A couple of days ago I had a print I wasn't happy with (big thread across it), and thought I'd try teatoning again. Took the cold dregs from the teapot, added twice as much water, dunked the photo for a few minutes and got a result I liked. Highlights slightly toned, but still very distinct, and shading nicely into the dark brown of the shadows.

What was different? The tea. I'd been doing my toning with a cheap no-name brand. CZ Anderson's book "Alternative Processes Condensed" suggests that cheap nasty tea is better for toning as it has more tannins.

Last night I went through the cupboards and pulled out all the black teas, and the ancient jar of instant coffee kept for guests that gotta have java.

So the verdict - Red Rose (my husband's everyday tea) was hands down the best for toning. The coffee was pitiful - very pale - but then instant isn't really coffee is it? Two "fancy" teas (Yorkshire Gold and Murchie's Golden Jubilee) were not bad. The others (one a special blend, the other, er, a box with ?Sanskrit? writing and no English) were muddy.

So what do you use for tea-toning? Got a favorite flavour?