Keep calm and drink tea – I could murder a cup of tea.
Total opposites but both sayings of this great tea drinking nation.We drink tea to calm our nerves in emergencies or upsetting times, it’s practically the first thing we turn to.
The national drink in the UK is tea, yet it isn’t grown in this country. Tea is grown mainly in India, China, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Japan and Nepal and is the second most drunk liquid in the world after water.
Tea initially came to Great Britain in the 17th century, introduced to the royal court by tea drinker and wife of King Charles the 2nd Catherine Braganza who had grown up drinking tea in Portugal.
Tea drinking became popular in wealthy homes and in coffee houses. It was so expensive initially that commoners like me couldn’t afford to drink it. Then smugglers started to sneak it into the country and it became more affordable without the high amount of duty placed on it. The coffee houses didn’t like the unfair competition and the duty was dropped making the great British cuppa more affordable for everybody.
There has always been debate about how best to make and drink tea. My mum used to put 1 spoonful of loose tea for each person in the teapot and an extra one for the teapot before adding boiling water. We used to use a tea strainer when pouring it and top up with boiling water once the teapot had run low and we wanted an extra cuppa.
To keep the tea warm for longer you could get tea cosys in colourful padded materials or knitted. Hand knitted tea cosys or loo roll holders were popular gifts back in the 1950s and 60s, now they seem so alien, just like the crazy hen tea cosy in the picture. A present for the mother in law I think!
Today we don’t see much loose tea, it’s all teabags be they round or square or have strings on them. Teapots and china tea sets seem to be a thing of the past too with many of us favouring using a teabag and mug to brew and drink our tea out of.
Do you put the tea in first or the milk? Some say one, some say the other, but I think that putting hot tea on top of milk leaves a scorched milk taste and tea tastes better if you add milk last. Personally I prefer tea black and with one sugar, just how they drank it back in the 17 hundreds.I find it more refreshing and if it goes cold it’s much nicer than cold tea with milk in.
Tea parties began back then with society ladies showing off their wealth. Little girls have tea parties with their dolls and of course there was the Mad Hatter’s tea party from Alice in Wonderland. You can get high tea in quaint cafes and posh hotels. Usually consists of tiny sandwiches, cake, scones and a teapot full of the brew of your choice.
Popular brews are Assam, Earl Gray and Indian Breakfast tea. Growing in popularity are flavoured organic teas such as Camomile, Peppermint, Strawberry, Elderflower, Honey and Ginger and many other flavours. I prefer the old Yorkshire tea, full of flavour and very refreshing.
The oddest thing that I’ve seen was a row of teabags pegged out to dry on a washing line. Never did find out why, or if they were being dried for reuse.
Click here to find out more about the social history of tea, it’s really quite interesting and check out the video below of ‘Paul McCartney’ making a cup of tea.
I Patricia Jones am the author of this article and owner of the site. I live in West Yorkshire in England and work part time in a largish store.
In my spare time I go swimming regularly, draw, make jewellery, socialise and write. Not much time left over but whatever is left is for building this blog.