Today I am ecstatic to write this blog. Why? Because it's a TEA TIME TALKER post! For all those new to my blog, I first want to say WELCOME 👋🏼 and secondly, if you hit the button above👆🏼 where it says Tea Time Talker, I give a little description of what it is.
With that said, we all know I LOVE tea and LOVE COLLECTING tea (bags and loose). I'm not a tea expert by any means, I just know what I like. Having a Filipino mother, I grew up drinking oolong tea every great now and then, but it never fascinated me. I mean, I was a little girl so in my world it was either coffee or the occasional oolong tea...I stuck to Kool-Aid...or the ever popular breakfast beverage, Tang... Now my dad was and still is an iced tea drinker and I remember having to make him ice tea with the Lipton tea crystals that came in a jar. You just put a couple of heaping spoonfuls of those crystals in a pitcher with another heaping of sugar, turn on the tap water, fill it up, remove the foam that it made (gross...) and serve. Nothing about that even remotely sounds appealing to me today, but again, I was a little girl and that's what we did!
My tastes have changed immensely since then. I honestly don't know what made me a "lover" of tea, but I think it's a mixture of trying flavored black teas and herbal teas, or maybe coffee was just too bitter. Herb teas, being so strong in flavor, reminded me of fun flavored kid drinks, all nice and fruity. Of course in the beginning I added sugar to the herb tea like it was Kool-aid, but I have since learned to appreciate it without so much sugar! I have several teas I favor and sometimes it just depends on the time of year. I'd have to say my year round favorite has to be Twinnings Lady Grey. I'm a fruity girl (in more ways than one I'm sure) and Lady Grey (I like to think I'm 'posh'...see interview below) has a wonderful fruit flavor. In the autumn and winter, I find myself drinking an armload of Spiced Chai, both warm and iced. And the American in me actually adds French Vanilla Coffee Creamer to both of these teas (sugar free of course) which gives that yummy vanilla flavoring and by British standards probably ruins a great cup of tea lol. I even dubbed my Lady Grey with creamer "Dirty French Woman"! ooo-la-la
So, if you haven't figured out by now what my next Tea Time Talker is about...well, it's Tea...ahhh but with a twist. I actually interviewed a pen pal for this learning experience and...where might said pen pal be from you ask...why of course, England! I mean, America is home to Starbucks, not tea, so I wanted to learn the true proper way of taking tea...at least the true proper 2018 way from the motherland! So everyone, I'd like to introduce to you my pen friend, Lesley. Lesley, like a handful of pen pals that I have, is SO MUCH MORE than just a pen pal. I have been incredibly blessed to have made incredible friendships that are beyond a pen pal friendship. Amazing that social networking actually served a good purpose for once lol. I like to tell people I have good friends (like sisters!) from Ireland, England, Spain, Germany, and Scotland. I'm still holding out finding a pen friend in France and Italy!! Anyway, Lesley is one of my very first pen pals I ever started writing to and like my other pen friends, there was just an immediate click and bond. She and her husband Dennis run a beautiful Leisure Park adding their own touches and are true English folk that love to spend time creating memories with their children and grandchildren. Of course, being the die-hard romantic that I am, I also fell in love with their Love Story 💕. (I just love reading and learning other people's Love Stories..😌) If you haven't already read my post on 'pen pal-ing' and want to learn more about how to get started you can read it HERE.
Unfortunately I was unable to fly to England and interview Lesley firsthand, (SOME DAY!) so the interview took place via email. I simply wrote some questions and in true Lesley fashion, she answered adding in her fun humor. So, before we get to it, I just want to personally thank her (she's an avid reader of my blog!) and let her know that as I'm typing my blog, I am actually drinking a cuppa made properly now that I know better!☺️
So, let's begin shall we? Find a nice comfy spot with a soft pillow, prop yourself up and be sure to have a tall glass of Iced Tea at hand! (I'm still praying this stupid humidity will go away for the year by Sunday lol) And while you're reading, imagine the beautiful British accent 😌 (Obviously hers! Trying to imagine me asking questions with a British accent will undoubtedly ruin the moment!)
1) So first, tell me, what is the history of tea in England (what you've been told) and how did it become the daily and popular drink? Curiously, it was the London coffee houses that were responsible for introducing tea to England. One of the first coffee house merchants to offer tea was Thomas Garway, who owned an establishment in Exchange Alley. He sold both liquid and dry tea to the public as early as 1657. Three years later he issued a broadsheet advertising tea at six and ten pounds per pound (ouch!), touting its virtues at "making the body active and lusty", and "preserving perfect health until extreme old age".Tea gained popularity quickly in the coffee houses, and by 1700 over 500 coffee houses sold it. This distressed the tavern owners, as tea cut their sales of ale and gin, and it was bad news for the government, who depended upon a steady stream of revenue from taxes on liquor sales.
Afternoon tea is said to have originated with one person, Anna the 7th Duchess of Bedford. (anyone else seeing a connection here lol) In the early 1800s she launched the idea of having tea in the late afternoon to bridge the gap between luncheon and dinner, which in fashionable circles might not be served until 8 o'clock at night. This fashionable custom soon evolved into 'hight tea' among the working classes, where this late afternoon repast became the main meal of the day. The popular pleasure gardens of Ranelagh and Vauxhall in London began serving tea around 1730. An evening of dancing and watching fireworks would be capped by tea. The concept caught on, and soon Tea Gardens opened all over Britain. Usually the gardens were opened on Saturday and Sunday, and an afternoon on entertainment and dancing would be highlighted by serving tea.
2) How old were you when you had your first cup of tea? 'Do you want a cuppa' is the first thing a Yorkshire woman will ask when you enter a home, usually meaning a cup of tea or coffee. I suppose I was about 8 years old when I tried my first cup of tea and I didn't like it at all. This continued right up until I hit my thirties. I was a coffee drinker in my teens which was a little unusual as all my family are tea drinkers; I just didn't like the taste.
3) Watching fancy shows like Downton Abbey, that I LOVE, what is the customary time have tea throughout the day and is it proper to have just one cup or okay to have several? Tea is drunk any time of the day with most tea drinkers starting the day with a cup of tea with breakfast. My sisters are big tea drinkers and when I visit it seems the kettle is never off and they are constantly asking if I would like another cup of tea.
4) Big Question here! What is the proper way to brew and serve tea? Everyday tea is now mostly made from teabags and made in individual cups, a tea bag is placed in the cup and hot water add to the cup, the tea bag is allowed to diffuse for a few seconds and then removed and milk and sugar added to taste, we find it strange when we are given tea in America and they drink it with the bag still in the cup!! To make a ‘pot’ (teapot) of tea my grandma always said first you must warm the pot by pouring some of the hot water from the kettle into the tea pot and swishing it around and then emptying it out, (this helps the tea to stay warmer longer in the teapot), then you add the tea, one spoon of tea for each person and ‘one for the pot’, or as we now use teabags more I tend to use one tea bag per person. Then add the water and allow the tea to brew, a quick stir helps this process along and you have your pot of tea. Officially you should never pour boiling water straight onto the tea, a true aficionado would say the water should be 'just off the boil' but nowadays most people pour the boiling water straight onto the tea.
5) Should the water be brewed in a separate pot and served in a more formal tea pot? Now as for teapots most are made from ceramic and are squat and round, and sturdy not like the cup and saucers, although quite often you will get a metal teapot. This allows the tea leaves of the loose tea to circulate in the teapot and infuse the most flavour, as apposed to the tall elegant coffee pot. You would often see a ‘tea cosy’ on the teapot which is used to keep the pot warm. These can be knitted with different fancy designs.
This is a tea cosy Lesley sent to me! I love that it's sunflower season right now, too!!🌻
6) Do British prefer loose tea over tea bags? When I was a young girl the older relatives wouldn’t have dreamed of using teabags, it wasn’t the way to make a proper cup of tea. For them, it was loose tea in a teapot with the tea strainer that caught most of the loose tea as you poured it, I say MOST as you would always find the last mouth full has some tea leaves in it but by the late 70’s convenience and practicality had started to take over and teabags were the way most people chose to make there tea. (Side note: I remember a scene in Outlander where Frank and Claire were having breakfast in America and he referred to the tea bags as 'little diapers'😂 and now I can't forget that reference!)
7) Is there a popular tea brand in England? Popular brands of tea, well there are a few big labels sold nationwide, PG tips; which ran and ad campaign with chimpanzees drinking tea ( check out the PG tips monkey adverts on youtube. They became a national treasure), Tetley tea, they ran and ad with Tetley tea folk, which reminds me that on both the advertising campaigns the characters had Yorkshire accents!! Yorkshire tea and Brook Bond-these are probably the leading sellers. Earl grey, Darjeeling and Lap-sang Souchong are more a specialist tea that posh folk have and you get at hotels and tearooms.
8) What is your favorite tea and how do you take it? Personally I like a specialty tea (80 tea bags-it's twice as dear as a normal box of tea, but it's worth it!) that I buy from a famous tearoom called ‘Bettys’. Bettys tearooms are located in York, Harrogate and North Allerton in North Yorkshire or now with the modern era, online. I usually ask family and friends if they are going into York to buy me a box of tea as it takes me about an hour and half to drive into York from where I live. This tea is a blend of tea from Kenyan and Rowandan plantations and Assam in India, I find this particular blend is full of flavour and very refreshing. Now, as for how I take my tea, I like mine in a china cup and saucer, I never drink tea from a mug; to me it has to be a china cup and saucer and not too much milk. The debate on what colour tea should be can be as volatile as discussing your politics but for me a weak cup of tea with lots of milk is just insipid looking and quite frankly what's the point!?! My mother in law takes her tea this way and it makes me cringe when I see it. Of course you can take your tea with lemon instead of milk which makes for a refreshing change in the summer months.
9) Do you like herbal tea and is that popular in England as well? Herbal teas are popular and my favourite is a red berry tea.
10) With my love of tea sandwiches and 'biscuits', should tea be served with food? Tea can be taken just as a beverage or with a meal. Different teas can be used for different meal times but most people will buy a black tea mix in a teabag for from the local supermarket and usually stick with the same brand.
11) Do different parts of your country practice different tea times and/or customs? Bettys tearoom is a lovely place to take tea, its keeps to the old traditions. The staff wear white shirts and black skirts/trousers for the men, with white frilled aprons and there is a pianist that plays most afternoons. It is always full and quite often you have to wait around the block to get in. It's some where to go as a special treat. If I want to go to a nice local tearoom I would be quite spoilt in my area, one of my favourite is the Station Tearoom which is a converted disused railway station with a beautiful garden to sit and take tea in.
Where ever you are in England you will be able to get a cup of tea at any time, tea is drank at work, at home, as a social drink to sit and enjoy with friends and have a gossip over or as a reviving drink in times of shock or distress. I remember my grandmother making me a strong cup of tea with lots of sugar when my mother died. It is meant to revive you and to be honest it really does. Even at a time when I never drank tea it gave me comfort. When you stay in hospital they have a tea trolley that goes around all the wards offering you a cup of tea and after I had my babies the midwives offered to make me a cup of tea!!
12) Are tea rooms/shops very popular? The oh so British establishment, the tea shop, can be traced to one person. In 1864 the female manager of the Aerated Bread Company began the custom of serving food and drink to her customers. Her best customers were favoured with tea. Soon everyone was asking for the same treatment. The concept of tea shops spread throughout Britain like wildfire, mainly because tea shops provided a place where an unchaperoned woman could meet her friends and socialize without damage to her reputation...🤭 Where ever you go in England you can usually find a tearoom, and now ‘Afternoon tea’ has become a popular treat a lot of restaurants and even pubs have started to offer its customers the chance to enjoy this leisurely pass time. Some afternoon teas can be swapped up to afternoon tea with prosecco!! Nice for a special treat but I still think I would prefer the tea.
13) Do you think, compared to when you were a young girl, the practicing tea traditions are changing? Children would often drink tea from a real early age, even when my children where young my sister in laws would put cooled tea in babies bottles, a practice I hadn't been brought up with so I would never have thought to do and of course it would be frowned upon now. I have noticed a difference with my children. You could die of thirst before they offer you a ‘cuppa’ when we visit, where my generation hardly let you get through the door before we have put the kettle on. Even if we have just had a drink we will make another so you are not drinking alone. So maybe mine will be the last tea drinking generation.
14) Do you personally have tea at certain times of the day and does you husband Dennis enjoy tea as well? I don't have a particular time when I stop to have a cup of tea, but when I think about it, I start having a cup of black coffee for my first drink of the day then I like a cup of tea with my toast. I will then have a couple more cups in the afternoon/early evening. Dennis has never drank tea and I can't give him a cup even if he was dying of thirst😆. He hates it and he couldn't make a good cup of tea if his life depended on it😂.
15) Is tea served as an "on the go" beverage (like coffee at Starbucks here in the US)? You can get a cup of tea at most places just like coffee although the quality can vary drastically. Starbucks does serve tea as does Macdonalds. Often I choose tea when I am out for a meal because you have more chance of getting a good pot of tea than you do a good cup of coffee.
16) Do you like "American" iced tea? I do like American Iced tea but I have to say as a rule when I ask for a pot of tea in America it tends to be quite weak and tasteless. I find that I am offered a brand of tea that refuses to have any strength to it no matter how much you stir it or even when I try to add an extra teabag it still doesn’t resemble the tea we have back home. I think it's the Lipton tea brand with a yellow label!!
17) What are some fond memories of taking tea? When I was a child Ringtons, tea vans used to deliver tea to your door. I remember my grandma having the van call every week. Their loose tea came in metal caddies and they also sold biscuits, and at Christmas you could buy a Christmas hamper with tea related goodies. My grandma kept old buttons in a Ringtons Tea caddy for years. As a child my grandma used to take afternoon tea everyday when I got in from school, we would have cream cakes and she would have a pot of tea while I had a glass of milk and talk over my day. None of my grandchildren drink tea or coffee on a regular basis that’s why taking Phoebe (grand daughter) for afternoon tea is a special treat.
This is Phoebe!! Love the freckles and look at those tea sandwiches!
18) What are some "no-nos" when having tea? A big no-no when making tea is never ever put the milk in the cup with the tea bag, just so wrong on all levels! And don’t serve the teabag in the cup, squeeze it out and remove it. If the tea is too strong you can always add more hot water or too weak pop the tea bags back in for a few seconds but we never serve it with the tea bag still in the cup. Tea is often served in mugs and that’s fine for friends you know and family but company should be offered tea from a teapot with a cup and saucer, unless its me of course who is a bit of a fuss pot about what I drink tea from! 😊
19) So, I'm no Gordon Ramsay, but I like to think I'm a little handy around the kitchen. For whatever reason, why can't I seem to make my tea sandwiches turn out the way I've had them at a local tea room, all light and perfect? My bread always seems to be squished and smashed!
When i make sandwiches for afternoon tea I use fresh white or brown thinly sliced bread. Now i know that the American sliced loaf is a lot sweeter than the English bread so we usually have to buy several brands before we find one that we like. I always use butter, we use the brand 'Lurpak' spreadable which makes it easier to butter. For the fillings the most common one is cucumber. The cucumber is sliced so you can see the knife through the slices as