Food and Drink

The ‘Great’ British Tea-Time

Vintage Tea Cup, Lewes

Vintage Tea Cup, Lewes

So many beautiful independent cafés seem to be popping up all over the place, specialising in more rare and flavoured teas and home-made cakes – and they’re doing really well. Take one of my favourites in York, for example. Usually more of a coffee drinker myself, I thought I’d give these teas a try and see what all the fuss is about.

I was recently given a selection of loose-leaf tea from The Tea House, Covent Garden – one of which was Strawberry and Cream flavoured black tea. Strawberry and cream flavoured tea – what a quintessentially British idea – and, smelling the packet, it really does smell like strawberries and cream – it’s like I’ve stepped into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory!

The Tea House specialises in a huge variety of teas

The Tea House specialises in a huge variety of teas

There are, apparently, very strict rules for what temperature and for how long you brew how much tea at a time: so, after 3-5 minutes of 2 scoops of tea at 100°C, I poured the tea through my newly-acquired tea-strainer and added some milk. Again, there seem to be many different opinions regarding whether or not to add milk to black tea, though in the UK it seems to be fairly widespread to drink black tea with milk. Granted, the strawberry and cream flavour was slightly weakened by adding milk, but you could still definitely taste it coming through. It was a lovely, if unique, taste. And, a few cups later, I would indeed drink it again – though maybe not every day.

Strawberries and Cream TeaBut what is this obsession with drinking these exotic tea flavours? And why the resurrection of loose-leaf tea? It definitely seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon; and rather appropriate alongside the huge popularity of vintage crockery and tea cups and TV programmes such as The Great British Bake Off . It leads me to wonder whether, during a troubled economic time and the decline of Britain as a world power, this is a comforting look back to Britain’s past, a grappling for some sense of unified identity and belonging in a time of great change.

Whether or not this is the case though, I can’t help but love a bit of tea and cake.

10 thoughts on “The ‘Great’ British Tea-Time

  1. It is an interesting idea that we seek refuge in our past when times are troubled. As a child who grew up in the 60s I can say there was much that was better then but equally many aspects we would not want to revisit. A good cup of tea is about as safe a refuge as I can imagine. But I don’t think we ever drank strawberry and cream leaf tea in the 60s. Probably Typhoo or PG Tips.

    • Definitely think that we like to idealise the past in times of economic trouble – consider the popularity of downtown abbey now or brideshead revisited in the 80s! Good old PG tips is my regular choice of brew.

  2. When I was growing up we always had a pot of freshly brewed black tea on the dinner table – with a Chinese father and American mother tea was the blending point between east and west. A hot cup of tea will forever be a soul soothing part of life for me. With or without milk and sugar!

    • Thinking of tea as something that unites east and west is a lovely idea! and I find it interesting that for so many of us we can find that home comfort in a hot beverage. My first reaction to many a situation (good or bad) is to put the kettle on! Thanks for taking the time to comment on my post, I’ve had a look at your blog too and it looks fascinating (:

  3. The rise of the tea shop is paralleled – or rather, preceded by – the increased emphasis in society on healthy living. Lots of people now drink only infusions; peppermint, lime, and the potent sounding lemon, ginger and ginseng. Being caffeine free, these infusions are said to aid digestion, help you sleep, and not stain your teeth. Even the Tea House at Covent Garden has dipped a very big toe into these waters.

    • Thanks for adding another element to my musings – I hadn’t considered that one! Perhaps I shall have to consider these alternatives as I am usually a high caffeine consumer. Do you have a particular favourite tea?

    • I can’t say I’ve tried peppermint tea, but I should probably give it a go! A different one I’ve enjoyed (though only occasionally) is Lapsang souchong, there are so many out there!

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