Time for Tea?

“The Servant Girl” Emil Brack, 1860-1920

How do you like it? Tea made in a Teapot or with a tea bag? 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 choices to consider. One thing for sure is, we all have our favourite way of enjoying tea, our own unique customs and rituals that we guard like secrets and repeat on a daily basis. Every tea drinker is particular about what is the perfect, and in their minds the only way, to partake in the ultimate cup of tea.

Not only are tea drinkers like myself “Fussy” about how to make tea, we are also known to be pedantic about what to enjoy a cup of tea from. Do you like a small traditional Japanese teacup, a modern boldly coloured mug, a thermo mug or a glass cup and saucer. Or are vintage petite fine bone china cups and saucers your thing? Or perhaps an oversize large breakfast cup reminiscent of the cafe in Friends? Do you insist on a tea in a silver teapot to pour?

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 add the tea bag afterwards as they do in the United States cafes? What an atrocity it is to drink tea in the US?

Taking Tea in Downton Abbey

I will admit I am fussy about tea and teacups and I have my special way I like to enjoy this delightful drink 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!

I also like to take my Wedgwood countryware ,white china mug, everywhere with me when I travel. It has been with me whenever I stay in motels, guest houses or even family overnight stays, hotels or anywhere unless of course I know the people and know that they have lovely fine china cups or mugs.
It occurred to me recently that I’m definitely not alone in my particular rituals around tea.

I have a friend who has a tea centre in his kitchen and I might add the exact same tea centre in his holiday house. This is complete with state of the art electric kettle, 2 ‘The Perfect Teapot by Robur’ silver tea pots, 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 kitchen and 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, tea and serve it with unhomogenised thick full cream milk. The teapot is left to draw with the timer on for a minimum of 6 minutes.

Also, my mother always had a tea centre in her kitchen set up in readiness on a beautiful 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 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 or porcelain. The patterns, the history and the finesse of china that has sadly been lost now with the closure of so many fine porcelain companies in the UK.

There is no doubt drinking tea is a charming pastime full of  ritual and tradition, 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 the 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 in the day that helps with clarity of thought, problem solving, times of strife, or catch up, to ponder the next move, or a quick break and is always there to sit and sip by my chef bench, studio or computer. 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 a bunch of girlfriends 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.

Morning tea as a child I recall was always called ‘elevenses’ by my mother who had an English friend that popped in regularly for morning tea at 11am. 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.

“There is always time for tea.”

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