TEA: such a small word, the sound of which sums up just one letter of the English alphabet. And yet…what thoughts it ignites at certain times…For tea ‘aficionados’ shopping in the rain, they can’t wait for a cup of the reviving drink, or conversely, after gardening in the hot sun and, for the passionate, it is almost the elixir of life! My late dad was an avid consumer, always eager for a second cup. (Hope there’s a generous tea urn up there, Pop!)
As for the folk lore of the humble leaf, it is said that the Chinese emperor, around 2,737 BC, was drinking boiled water when leaves from a nearby tree fell into his drinking vessel. It was, thereafter, consumed by the Chinese and recorded in the Shang dynasty. The popular drink has since been linked, now and then, to a rich, sometimes macabre, heritage of superstition and stories. But they’re tales for another time. (Eerie sounds coming from the wings…)
Tea first appeared in Coffee Houses in London in the late 17th century via its introduction by the Dutch and Portuguese sailors; it was often smuggled from Amsterdam. The first tea shop opened in 1657 and gathered popularity when Charles II married Portuguese Catherine of Braganza and it was introduced to the Court. After the formation of The British East India Trade Company in Macao, tea became more accessible to the hoi poloi, and was accepted as the national drink in 1750.
In most ‘average’ households in the 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s, more tea than coffee was consumed in the United Kingdom. Since then – after ‘Musical Coffee Cafes’ were introduced to the UK in the 50’s and 60’s, by the Americans, coffee too became very ‘in vogue.’ Nevertheless, tea still remained popular in many households. I can recall my dear Grandma Sarah liking quite stewed, dark brown tea which made her burp like thunder rumbling…She’d always apologise and add “That’s better…” My own mother – after a ‘run in’ with Senna Pods…eschewed tea for ever more, didn’t like coffee and only ever drank water, milk, fruit juice and Cocoa. Oh, and the very rationed… Babycham.
Fast forwarding to my own family unit situation, we introduced our three sons to tea, milk, fruit juice and coffee. Now mature, one drinks only coffee and the other two dislike coffee and only drink tea. So it’s all a matter of taste.
Over the years, my other half and I have been lucky enough to indulge in our fondness for both beverages. Indeed, we nearly bought a Tea Shop… ending up with a small hotel instead. (See earlier posts.)
On our previous travels, how could we forget a trip to the delightful and famous ‘Betty’s’ tea rooms in Harrogate, or their delicious pastries! Then there was a special trip to Paris, where we scoffed tea and the yummy offerings in a superb and memorable coffee shop, and a birthday celebration treat for husband in Vienna where – surely – the waitresses had stepped out of the 18th century? The wealth of adjectives expressed for the fare can be imagined! Lucky, lucky us.
Before closing, I must mention two other worthy ‘emporiums’ (although there were many others!). The first was The Ritz (my Welsh gran would have said “There’s posh.”) where one sister-in-law and I took my dear mum to celebrate her birthday. It rose to meet its reputation with finger sandwiches, dainty cakes and tea galore: the silverware dazzling…Very impressive.
A recollection of the other, memorable, café – within the bowels of a famous, expensive, store: Fortnum & Mason – has me feeling ‘uncomfortable’ again…Let me explain. Same sister-in-law as above and I – making the most of our free Travel Passes to London (by then pensioners) – had window-shopped and were thirsty. We decided to treat ourselves as the reputable store was nearby, so had supped and chomped on some delectable, tiny delights, and were – as was our wont – putting the world to rights… Fully sated, we pushed back our chairs and sauntered over to check out the hand-made chocolates on display. Far too expensive for our purses, we walked on. Checking our watches, we then caught our train and were comfortably seated when a light bulb pinged in my grey matter. “Oh no!” I proclaimed – loud enough to wake a sleeping gent and disturb a third of the compartment… plus alarm my sister-in –law. “Whatever’s the matter?’” she said, paling. “We’ve just had afternoon tea in Fortnum & Mason of all places, and didn’t pay the bill.” You should have seen her face! My conscience had never felt so guilty…
PS. As we lived a long distance from London and, soon afterwards, emigrated to Spain – as the waitress hadn’t given us the bill or even approached us once served – I decided to send the equivalent money to Mary’s Meals, a fabulous charity based in Scotland who feed over a million hungry children a DAY. I think I did Fortnum & Mason a favour.
© Copyright Joy Lennick 2020
Heartwarming Joy, thanks for such a nice post!
Thank you, Little Miss. Safe and happy travelling. Cheers! x
Lol, you wild child, you 🙂
We have a fancy tea place in Victoria, as well. It’s called The Empress Hotel and serves high tea in the same manner as The Ritz. Way to posh for this kid!
I had high tea at the Empress, it was fabulous. A once in a lifetime treat! (We did pay for ours though)
Lol, I imagine it was pricey!
We had afternoon tea at The Empress years ago on our honeymoon!
Oh, lovely! Did it lie up to your expectations?
Yeeha…Hardly a wild child… Jacquie. Thanks for reading. x
My four favorite beverages, in order of preference: beer, coffee, flavored seltzer water, tea.
Hi Joy. Bye till next time.
Thanks for reading, Neil. It’s my favourite, with coffee second. Happy walking. Cheers x
I love the simplicity of tea. It’s one of the most calming beverages for me…warms the soul! My daughter is now fond of it as well! Take care, Joy!
Gracias for reading. I do enjoy a cup of tea.Know the feeling! Cheers. x
I can just imagine how mortified you must have been upon realizing that you’d not paid the bill! I drink tea every day, but I’ve never had a decent cup of tea in a restaurant. Ever. (I think it’s because they don’t use boiling water.)
Hi Liz, Normally, I drink mostly coffee here in Spain when dining out for the same reason, but find that proper Tea Rooms do make acceptable tea. Cheers! x
My mom always made a thermos full of tea and another, hot water. That was what we drank all day long. I only developed the taste of coffee after I came to the US 40+ years ago. I still drink the kind of tea my mom made. My husband remember his grandma in London served afternoon tea with pastries to the kids.
I’m sensitive to caffeine now so I only drink hot water after a certain hour. Many servers at the restaurants don’t quite believe that and always ask if I want a tea bag.
Hi Miriam, Thanks for reading. It’s interesting what quirky habits we all have. I have one sister-in-law who only drinks boiled, cooled water. x
You’re right, Joy. My husband drinks cool water (no ice), but for a while with unknown reason, he choked on food. I think it was stress related. I gave him my hot water and his esophagus relaxed and he was okay. Warm or hot drink agree with my stomach in many ways. ❤
You scofflaw! Lol. I’m sure the charity needed the cash more than Fortnum & Mason, but what a story. In our household, we drink coffee in the morning and tea (or tisane) in the afternoon and evening – the best of both worlds. My daughter is a tea-connoisseur and took me to a tea-tasting. What a delightful and interesting experience – almost a ritual.
Hope you are doing well, Joy. Thanks for the fun post.
A great post, Joy. My Britsih hubby introduced me to tea which we drink at home. He prefers coffee when we are out though. I love herbal, green and rooibos tea especially. Tea does fix everything. Since we are now expected to stay in, I think I’ll bake some muffins and have a cup of tea! Take care, both of you. xo
Hi Darlene. Many thanks. I too prefer coffee out, but it’s definitely tea at home first thing and in the afternoon. Like you, I also enjoy green and mint tea with a grain or two of ginger and a touch of honey. Great for upset stomachs too. But ‘regular’ tea’s fine and a great comfort when you’re tired, too cold or too hot! Cheers. xx
Thanks for reading, Diana. My routine is tea first thing, coffee at 11 am, then tea at 4 pm. Lately, ,I’ve been trying green and mint teas, both good with a grain or two of ginger and a touch of honey.Very good for upset stomachs too. Re virus, it’s a bit like a war with silent bombs…We’re house-bound, so it’s writing, reading and lots of music and TV watching. Not exactly hard labour! I expect the same applies to you? Take care.Hugs x
Loved this fun and informative post Joy. I too am a tea lover – Russian Earl Grey for me! ❤ Stay safe!!! xxxx
Hi, Thanks Debs, Russian Earl Grey sounds very elite to me…Little pinky raised, pearl choker and cashmere cardigan… The strains of classical music drifting in from the next room scenario , etc.,(I’ve been reading Ana Karenina again..) Hope you’re completely well now. Take care!! Hugs xxx
Lol woman! Loved having tea with you in the royal room! Please stay safe Joy and don’t go out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ❤ xxxx
Lovely post Joy and it brought back memories for me to of Betty’s in Harrogate and David took me for tea at the Ritz for my 40th..I drink green tea now with a couple of cups of coffee a week..Lovely post and I will share tomorrow evening…hugsx
Many thanks, Sally. Betty’s and the Ritz for your 40th, sounds like two memories for the rocking chair…Hugs xx
I love Betty’s Tea Rooms. I laughed at your exit from Fortnums! I make my tea in a pot with tea leaves and have bone china mugs, but we have to have tea bags for Cyberspouse and anyone else passing through the kitchen who can’t be bothered.
Thanks Tidalscribe! One lump or two? I love Cyberspouse as a nickname. Brilliant.
So love reading your vibrant, informative and witty pieces! An absolute joy to read Joy!!!!
Bless you, Georgia! So pleased you enjoyed it. Do hope your excellent books are selling well, They deserve to. Upwards and onwards. x
Now, i understand the Britains great addiction to tea, much more better. Thank you for this wonderful posting, Joy! Hope you are well, sending best wishes, and “Stay save!”. Michael
I don’t recall replying, so thank you for reading, Michaell! We Brits seem to think that tea is the panacea for all ills. If only! Keep well. Cheers!
No wonder things are so expensive at Fortnum & Mason; the paying customers have to make up for thieves like you! 🙂
In Singapore they serve something called the; in its basic form it is tea with sweetened condensed milk. I became addicted to it. I hope I can find something like it back here in the States.
I hope you are enjoying your afternoon tea as you read this!
Our tea was served at 4 pm, Jim. Cheers! It is 7.30 pm now (in Spain) and my lovely chef: ‘im indoors’ is making dinner. I can imagine that the Singapore tea is very sweet! Take care.
Lovely story, Joy!
Thanks, Jennie. You’re a dear x.
Joy, just came over from #SeniSal. So very pleased to “meet” you! I’m a huge tea fan and it gets a lot of ink on my food blog. Glad two out of your three sons are tea drinkers.
Thanks for reading, Jean. I cooked up a storm when our three lads were at home. Now my husband does the cooking, but we both did when we ran a small hotel in Bournemouth many years ago What a fascinating subject.. Best wishes.
I remember floppy disks. 🙂
I’m sure the money went to a much better use.
My partner and I peeked into the Fortnum and Mason’s tea room and were too intimidated to go in. We bought some tea to give a dear friend for Christmas, though, and she liked it so much that it’s become a yearly tradition.
Thanks for reading, Ellen. I just read your post – really like your ‘style.’ You don’t come across as a person who would be ‘intimidated’….I worked in the West End of London for several years, so though shy when young, grew more comfortable with such places when older. Not that I could afford too many ‘afternoon teas’ in the old days!
Hi Joy. I’m a huge tea enthusiast. We have a lovely tea place near us in Ely – Samovar Tea Rooms that I’m really missing at the moment. There’s a massive tea menu plus fabulous food too. Can’t wait until this lockdown is over and we can go. I do miss our teas and coffees out. Lovely post. 🙂
Thanks Marje. I’m a great lover of tea/coffee mornings or afternoons…The Samovar Tea Rooms sounds inviting! We usually meet friends every Saturday morning for breakfast by the Med. and really miss that…Do hope this evil virus goes sooner rather than later. Take care Salud! x
A wonderful post on tea. Thank you Joy, for sharing!
Thank you for reading. Sharon and your kind comments. xx
hahah. Loved that!!
Thank you,Pamela! x