Time for Tea

Tea time

There is nothing more glorious than June – roses, cricket, lawn tennis, the evening glass of chilled white wine on the terrace……….. You can smell and taste the nostalgia, the idyll only disturbed by the sound of hay fever snuffling and sneezing, and a summer storm! Oh well it must be time for tea.

The Chinese may have been drinking tea since the third millennium BC, but here afternoon tea did not become a fashionable social event until the mid 19th century. Whilst upper and middle class ladies adorned in tea gowns, hat and gloves, developed the rituals of afternoon tea, the working class remained firmly in the pub.

afternoon tea

The days of tea parties on the lawn in the perfect English garden are part of the myth perpetuated by television costume dramas. In reality they were enjoyed by a privileged  minority and belonged to a society which was changed forever by the first world war. Afternoon tea is now reserved for high days and holidays, the preserve of genteel tea rooms and posh hotels. It is also part of the ritual of garden visiting as even the smallest “Yellow Book” garden will usually offer tea and cakes and the WI tea tent remains a quintessential part of the village fête.

The world and afternoon tea have changed and many of us now use the tea bag, with or without a tea-pot. Fortunately home baking is enjoying a revival and plain and fancy cakes are one again on the menu. The difference between fine leaf tea and the bag is probably equivalent to the difference between supermarket plonk and a good estate wine. There is room for both, as a fine tea like vintage wine needs time to be appreciated and enjoyed. Whether you drink Iris Orchid Phoenix Oolong, Darjeeling Bannockburn Supreme or supermarket own brand value range, take a little time to enjoy your tea and admire the garden.

So are you a tea bag dipper of leaf tea and strainer, imbiber?

china tea pot and caddy

24 thoughts on “Time for Tea

  1. I’ll put the kettle on….!

  2. I’m not a tea drinker, but am quite taken with the idea of a tea gown… never mind the gloves and hat! Hope you’re getting plenty of summery days and enjoying tea and scones on the lawn.

    • I love the vision of an Edwardian tea party complete with an elegant tea gown and a big flowery hat.
      We are enjoying glorious weather this summer, and sometimes manage to pause for tea and cake, and to enjoy the sea view and song of the larks.

  3. I’m both a tea bag dipper and a leaf tea strainer, it all depends on time and energy! I think a favourite is Dargeeling, something special in there for me.

    • So am I but I also enjoy both Indian and Chinese leaf teas. I think Darjeeling is the perfect afternoon tea, not to strong and without lemon or milk.

  4. Hello C,
    We migrated to just loose tea about 5 years ago. Of course the issues of strength, how long to brew, what sort of milk to use, let alone what tea blends to use then surface… but we find its rare to get a nice cuppa when out and about if tea bags are used. ( we use bodum type pots with built in strainers).
    Love the teapot. Is it cast iron, do you use it often, and does it make a difference to the tea taste? Also those scones look pretty good….that’s a whole other issue. Successful scone making. I stick to bread, and F makes ours,
    Thanks for discussing this critical subject in such detail!

    • Hello Julian & Fiona,
      You noticed I carefully side stepped the minefield of tea making, blends, whether to add milk and if so when and the dangerous area of sugar! The issue of scones is as bad, how you pronounce the word is worth an entire post and the recipes vary from baker to baker never mind from region to region. So a diplomatic silence was imposed.
      The teapot is used several times a day and has no effect an the taste of the tea. It is never washed, just rinsed. It is very beautiful and makes sufficient for two dainty Chinese cups or a small mug (porcelain of course).
      Must be time for morning coffee.

      • Hello C,
        Thanks for that. But I reckon a CG scone recipe in due course would be great.
        Mind you, having just read your next post, when you ever get any chance to drink tea, coffee or bake is beyond me. What a stunning greenhouse. It will clearly become a mecca for all island visitors when planted up, if not before!

        • I’m still wary about the GC scone recipe especially as Cathy the Rambling Gardener has just fired the first shot in the scone wars!

  5. Gerrie Mackey

    We are freezing here in Canberra …. Snow on the mountains …. And there is nothing like a cup of real tea … And looking at your lovely photos …. I feel scone o’clock coming on!

    • How lovely to get a message from another big island. Fortunately tea is not reserved for summer – cosy fireside teatime, hot buttered toast or teacakes or rich fruit cake and a cup of rich red Assam.

  6. I’ve found that myth of afternoon tea is even greater abroad, and everyone assumes I will be sitting on the lawn at 4pm sipping my tea from a china cup. Well, we do often have a cuppa late afternoon, but in a mug, and from a teabag! (Imported English teabags, as the German ones are so weak!) Enjoy your tea and scones and your summer weather!

    • Even if most of us resort to a mug and a tea bag, from time to time it is lovely to indulge in the mythology. Best of all is when friends drop in and share a pot of tea and a plate of scones.

  7. Thanks for our dose of tea etiquette education! Even though I belatedly moved to teabags as loose tea became harder to get I will always make it in a pot – rarely is it a perfect cup if made in a mug, if you see what I mean! – and the milk HAS to go in first. Always tea mid morning and mid afternoon for me, coffee first thing and after meals, quite the opposite to my siblings! I am in the throes of a baking binge ready for mass visitors at the w/e … cakes, cakes, everywhere, but not a crumb to eat… any spare scones…?

    • I’d love to send a box of scones, but it seems all the hens on the island are off-lay. No seriously I can’t get my hands on a local free-range egg for love nor money. This is serious as my last visitors devoured the last crumb of cake!
      Delighted to learn that the milk goes in first.

      • Our chickens have been off laying for months too! But, my Good woman, the nicest scones don’t need egg anyway (I never use egg in mine – not that I am saying they are the nicest, but they certainly don’t need the addition of egg to make them any nicer) – so that is a poor excuse!! 🙂

        • I have been on my best behaviour recently and carefully avoided causing international conflict over tea and now you have opened the scone wars. Now I agree that you don’t have to use egg(s) particularly if you use buttermilk, cheese or follow Delia, but the very best scones require an egg or two according to Mary Berry, Prue Leith and me! I would not dream of sending you anything but the best. How about banana bread instead?

          • International conflict must be avoided at all cost, but you missed my mother and her mother off that list of worthy scone makers….. 😉 Now, I do use a Mary Berry recipe for my banana loaf (in fact my Fast Cakes book has separated into individual pages from frequent usage over the year….) and it has dates and cherries in which you will probably disagree with….

          • My apologies to the ladies of your family and every other scone maker of repute. As for banana loaf with or without dates/cherries/walnuts I don’t actually like it very much, but I make it for others. That was a close thing I would hate to call in the UN over scones!

  8. We’re Yorkshire tea drinkers, in mugs, albeit always from a teapot. For about 90% of the time. However there’s nothing like a cream tea in delicate porcelain cups, either Earl Grey or Ceylon to wash down your little cakes and crust less sandwiches on a summers day

    • I think something as robust as Yorkshire tea requires a mug. I’m a tea wimp and prefer my tea weak and delicate – totally out of character.

  9. There is nothing so enjoyable as a cup of tea in the late afternoon.

    • I couldn’t agree more – so refreshing after an afternoon in the garden.

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