Time for Tea?

“The Servant Girl” Emil Brack, 1860-1920

How do you like your Tea, made in a Teapot or with a teabag? A cup or a mug? Do you fancy a glass, china, earthenware or ceramic cup? Green or Black Tea, oolong or china Tea, White Tea or herbal, there are many considerations. One thing for sure is, we all have our favourite way of enjoying Tea, our unique customs and rituals that we guard like secrets and repeat daily. Every tea drinker is particular about the perfect, and in their mind, the only way, to partake in Tea’s ultimate cup.

Not only are tea drinkers like myself “Fussy” about how to make tea, but we are also pedantic about what type of vessel to use to enjoy a cup of tea. Do you like a small traditional Japanese teacup, modern boldly coloured mug, or a personalised mug, a Thermo mug or a glass cup and saucer. Or are vintage petite, bone china cups and saucers your thing? Or perhaps an oversize large breakfast cup or stone, earthenware pottery mug? Do you insist on tea in a silver teapot to pour or an enamel one?

Do you pour boiling water over a tea bag in a mug or cup or ‘horrieur of horrors ‘ do you pour hot water into a cup and leave the tea bag on the side as in American restaurants. There are a myriad of ways we all create our own Tea rituals, and thousands of options both for cups and mugs, teapots and tea infusers or favourite recipes for tisanes and chai. There are no rules and we can design our daily tea rituals exactly as we please.

Taking Tea in Downton Abbey

I will admit I am choosy about tea and teacups and I have my special way to enjoy Tea. But before I tell you my secrets, I’ll admit that I always travel with tea bags in my bag- just in case. This came about after a trip on a small ship around the Dalmation Coast in Croatia where we were told after a few days that they had run out of tea. Imagine!

“There is always time for tea.”

I also like to take my Wedgwood countryware white china mug, everywhere with me when I travel and I’m definitely not alone in my particular rituals around tea.

I have a friend who has a tea centre in the kitchen and the same tea centre in his holiday house, complete with state of the art, electric kettles. Two, ‘The Perfect Teapot by Robur’ silver teapots, and a selection of teas in a multitude of canisters with proper tea caddy spoons, silver tea strainers and a timer. It is the hub of the house where no-one would dare pour, touch or attend to any aspect of this carefully engineered ritual. His method is to make strong, robust, put hairs on your chest type tea and serve it always with thick full cream milk. The teapot is left to draw with the timer on for a minimum of 6 minutes.

My mother always had a tea centre in her kitchen beautifully set up in readiness on a tray with starched linen cloth and pretty cups and saucers. Displayed on top of each cup and saucer was a selection of various teas. To complete the display were teapots, tea caddies and Tea tins, tea strainers and mugs all ready to pop the kettle on and make a cup of tea for guests as they dropped in to visit her in the Blue Mountains. The tea daintiness was replicated in the loungeroom on a wooden tray mobile complete with silver tea service and a range of more delicate cups and saucers all ready for high tea. This is where I learnt to love fine vintage bone china and porcelain. The patterns, the history and the finesse of china that has to a degree been lost in recent times due to the closure of so many fine bone china and porcelain companies in the UK and Europe.

There is no doubt drinking tea is a charming pastime full of rituals and traditions, it wards off ills, makes us feel better when sick, is a perfect antidote in times of stress, or shock, warms us when cold, and is a cosy and lovely way to make a friend feel welcome.

Tea drinking does not have to be all about dainty fireside clinking of china cups. There is much enjoyment to be had with a cup of tea, out in the garden first thing in the morning, when even the insects and birds are not up. The sun peaking through the trees and all is quiet and settled. The sipping of tea a welcome start to the day and not a bad way to end the day either.

“Summer Afternoon” Theo van Rysselberghe, 1901

A cup of tea at work is a lifesaver and something that should never be missed. In my work life, drinking tea is my inspiration and go to moment that helps with clarity of thought, problem solving, times of strife, or catch up, to ponder the next move, or a just quick break. Tea in a cup is a welcome addition to any desk or chef’s bench, studio, kitchen or couch. Weekends too, who doesn’t love the chance for a tea with a friend in a cafe or bookstore. A lavish High Tea in town with girlfriends or family is even better.

There are many Tea stories to share and one that made me laugh is the story of shearing day recently on the farm where I now live. The shearers stopped for what used to be called ‘a smoko’ that was traditionally back in the day, made by boiling the Billy and having real beaut Aussie tea. Or if there was no time for making a fire then a thermos was considered a blessing. Not today though, the electric kettle sits pride of place in the shearing shed and no quick tea bag in a cup either. They bring their own special teapot! Surprisingly in the morning chat over tea it became apparent that they didn’t like Earl Grey anymore but were clearly smitten with another Twinings – Lady Grey. A far cry from the legends of shearers of old.

As a child, Morning tea was always called ‘elevenses’ by my mother, who had an English friend that popped in regularly for morning tea at 11 am. So, whether we call it elevenses, recess, tea break, morning tea, time for tea, smoko, spell, let up, breather, tea time or time off, it is always welcome. And from the factory floor to the farm or stock route, the boardroom, shop, apartment, home or office. Plus the millions of cafes, tea shops and restaurants we visit to drink tea the way we like to enjoy it every day. There is no right or wrong way, so pop the kettle on anytime you want and let’s sit down for a cuppa and a chat sometime soon.

Title Quote by Seanan McGuire, 

All content Di Baker 2020

Title quote by Saki HH Munro

Images courtesy of Wikimedia, Victoria magazine, Unsplash and Pixabay