If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you – Gladstone, 1865
Starting with the tea gardens and tea dances that took England by storm in the 1800’s, the humble cup of tea has been a favourite of the nation. But it’s not what it used to be, and it’s not consumed the way the rest of the world assumes it is.
I like to keep a lot of different teas at hand; Green, Green with Lemon, Green with Jasmine, Camomile, Raspberry, Earl Grey… all sorts. When I visit London, I always make sure to pop into the gift shop at Harrods and get myself a metal tin of Earl Grey. Not because it taste better than the Earl Grey that I buy in the shops but because… well, I’m sad.
I have several tea-pots, too, which I never use. They sit in the cupboard, filling with dust; but when I’m out and about and I spy a nice teapot I cannot help but feel that *urge* within me that screams ‘Buy it! Buy it!’
I recently started drinking another type of tea, called ‘Pukka Tea’ which has flavours of Cardamon and Aniseed. It’s a lovely, subtle tea, very refreshing. My wife hates it because it makes the cupboard smell of liquorice and curry.
There is an image of the English as refined tea-drinkers, taking ‘afternoon tea’ etc in a highly civilised fashion. The reality in fact, is that we are a very busy nation with very little time for the refined habits of the past. You will rarely see something like a teapot used in a household. You have to warm the pot, put in a tea bag for everyone having a cup, plus one for the pot, you have to pour in the water and let it stew… it’s too long-a-process.
The norm over here is what’s called a cup of builders. You boil the kettle. You fill a mug with the tea bag and the sugar – if you take it. Pour in the water, dunk the teabag up and down until it’s bled into the water, discard the tea bag. Then add your milk, as much as you like, depending on if you like a dark tea or a milky one. The whole process, from pouring in the water to adding the milk takes probably two minutes. It’s significantly quicker than the traditional methods of making tea, and you know what? We brits thrive on it. I couldn’t imagine waking up in the morning and not having a cup of tea. It’s the first thing I do; flick the kettle on.
The same goes for herbal and fruit teas, the process for which is more or less the same without the milk. And you often see commuters ordering them from coffee stands before they hop onto the train.
The tea infuses whilst they go through the barriers, and after sitting down they have a perfectly stewed paper cup of camomile to enjoy on their way to work.
I guess I could drink about four or five cups of regular tea a day, sometimes more than that if I’m at home and consumed with something. The tea keeps you going through the day.
The image of people in England drinking tea like they did two hundred years ago needs to go. It is a cliche. We drink builder’s, and by the bucket load. We are a true nation of tea-slurpers – and more often than not it’s drunk out of a chipped mug, not a tea cup.