Tea and Britain / Columns / The Foreigner

Tea and Britain. It is not uncommon for Britain to be associated with higher tea consumption when compared with other countries. Norway’s is also increasing. While 2015 saw an eight per cent growth in tea-lovers in Norway, the UK Tea & Infusions Association reports that 165 million cups of tea are consumed daily in the UK alone. The first dated reference found relating to tea in Britain is from an announcement in the 23rd September 1658 edition of Mercurius Politicus, a magazine owned by journalist, publisher, and pamphleteer Marchmont Needham (1620-1678).

tea, britain, uk, customs, paywall



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Tea and Britain

Published on Sunday, 28th February, 2016 at 11:42 under the columns category, by Sarah Bostock and Michael Sandelson   .

It is not uncommon for Britain to be associated with higher tea consumption when compared with other countries. Norway’s is also increasing.

Tea Cup
Tea Cup
Photo: Saxon/Flickr


While 2015 saw an eight per cent growth in tea-lovers in Norway, the UK Tea & Infusions Association reports that 165 million cups of tea are consumed daily in the UK alone.

The first dated reference found relating to tea in Britain is from an announcement in the 23rd September 1658 edition of Mercurius Politicus, a magazine owned by journalist, publisher, and pamphleteer Marchmont Needham (1620-1678).

Tea would become a popular import in Britain in connection with the marriage between Portugal’s Princess Catherine of Braganza and England’s Charles II.

The beverage was popular at Court; thus, the British East India Company began importing the tea to Britain, with the first order placed in 1664 for 100Ibs of China tea shipped from Java. A tax on tea in the leaf was brought in in 1689.

In 1773, the British Parliament introduced the Tea Act. Its main objective was to reduce the tea surplus held by the firm, which was in financial trouble at the time, and help it survive.

Tea-taking through time

It wasn’t until the 19th Century that ‘Afternoon tea’ – traditionally served between 4 pm and 6 pm – made its appearance, introduced by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in 1840. She would ask for a tray of tea, bread and butter to starve off the hunger until dinner, as the evening meal was not served until 8 pm.

Tea became an established beverage in the UK and an official one during the First World War. The government took command of the importation of tea allow the drink’s availability and at a less costly price as a result of ships being sunk by German submarines.

Constantly-growing demand for tea, an essential morale-booster, saw it being rationed during the Second World War.

Neville Chamberlain’s government took control of all tea stocks two days after the outbreak of WWII, ordering that the vast reserves that were stored in London at the time must be dispersed to warehouses outside it in case of bombing.

During 1940, the Ministry of Food introduced a ration of 2oz of tea per person per week for people over the age of 5 due to enemy blockades preventing ships from getting through. Rationing on tea remained until October 1952, when the America-invented teabag began to have reverberations regarding British tea-drinking.

96 per cent of tea is now brewed from a tea bag in Britain. The UK Tea & Infusions Association estimates that there are around 1,500 varieties of Camellia sinensis, whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce the product.

Disagreements

The importance of tea drinking in British culture was highlighted by British India-born novelist Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950) in his 1946 essay ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’. George Orwell, as his pen name was, wrote that “tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country.”

Research into the method for the perfect cup of tea has also been conducted – recipe below. Dr Andrew Stapley MA MEng PhD MIFST AMIChemE, senior lecturer at the UK’s Loughborough University, has found that putting milk in after boiling the water is incorrect. This is because it causes the milk to heat unevenly – affecting the taste, and causing skin to form on top of the drink.

18th Century tea drinkers also poured milk into the cup first to prevent the bone china shattering from the heat of the hot water. Modern-day mugs and cups are more resilient.

According to Taylors of Harrogate, a Yorkshire-based company hot on tea (and coffee), people who practice this while brewing tea in a mug are called ‘miffies’ – ‘tiffies’ do the opposite.

The firm advises against adding milk first, however, as it lowers the temperature of the water, and the tea does not brew so well.

“To get the best infusion possible, black tea really needs freshly boiled water (as close to 100°C as possible). When you put milk into infusing tea you lower the temperature of the water so a proper infusion can’t take place. To get the best of your brew in a mug, always make the tea first to your taste and strength and the milk after,” they say.

The same should be done when brewing tea in a teapot before adding it to the mug – although milk is not being added to the infusion here.

Giving etiquette the finger

Whichever way people prefer to have their tea brewed, raising pinkie (the little finger) while drinking it is seen as a faux pas (a no-no). From the land of the Boston Tea Party comes this advice:

“People often think proper tea drinking means sticking your pinkie out. That’s actually rude and connotes elitism. It comes from the fact that cultured people would eat their tea goodies with three fingers and commoners would hold the treats with all five fingers. Thus was born the misguided belief that one should raise their pinky finger to show they were cultured. Tuck that pinkie finger in.”

“First and foremost never hold your cup with your pinkie finger extended. This is improper and in most social settings is considered rude. Place your index finger into the handle of the cup up to the knuckle while placing your thumb on the top of the handle to secure the cup. The bottom of the handle should then rest on your third finger. The fourth and fifth fingers should curve back towards your wrist.”

And as the battle continues over how to pronounce the famous teatime cake called a scone, here is how brew and serve tea properly, according to Dr Andrew Stapley of Loughborough University:

  • Use Assam tea
  • Use a clean, warm china or earthenware pot
  • Add one spoonful of tea (or tea bag) per cup
  • Use freshly drawn water, boiled once only to retain as much oxygen as possible to bind with tea polyphenols
  • Avoid hard water (calcium ions) to prevent tea “scum”
  • Best flavour is achieved using a high temperature, but short time infusion
  • Stir the teapot
  • Leave to brew for 3 minutes
  • Add the tea to the milk – rather than the other way around
  • Add sugar if you like but only use white sugar and not too much
  • Drink tea at 60-65°C.

(Additional sources: Tea Laden, Clise Etiquette)



Published on Sunday, 28th February, 2016 at 11:42 under the columns category, by Sarah Bostock and Michael Sandelson   .

This post has the following tags: tea, britain, uk, customs, paywall.





  
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