I’m English so I drink tea

“Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company.”  ~Author Unknown

Growing up it seemed that the adults were always drinking tea and the little brown teapot above is exactly the same as the one my Mother had, the one my Grandmother had and from this distance, it seemed that each of my aunts had the same teapot.

During and immediately after the Second World War tea was rationed and so they didn’t just make another pot of tea when the pot was empty they added hot water.  The tea was left to ‘steep’ for a long time so that the dark brown color could come through.  And of course, it was leaf tea – no tea bags available then. And there was a ritual to making tea.

First the water always taken from the cold tap, was brought to the boil  It had to be watched because usually the kettle sat on the stove and there was no automatic turn off.  Whistling kettleOur kettle was a whistling kettle – the noise when the water came to the boil was enough to frighten anybody. Then  the pot was rinsed in hot water.  Note here from Mother – ‘always take the pot to the kettle, never the kettle to the pot’.  All these years later I don’t know why; I do know we just did it that way.  Then when the pot was rinsed out the tea leaves would be measured into it from the tea box, water was added and then the tea cosy was put on the pot, the pot on the tray and tea was ready to be served. If you don’t know what a tea cosy is click here.  You will even get instructions on how to make one.

Tea cup and saucerCups of tea were offered and drunk at every opportunity it seemed.  But we children were never offered any.  I think I was probably about 13 before I got my first taste of tea and I remember that I didn’t like it!

Tea has a different taste wherever you happen to be in the world.  London water is so hard that tea is almost bitter, while tea made in Glasgow is sweet.  Glasgow’s water (at least when I lived there 40 years ago) was among the purest in the world.

As children we eagerly looked forward to afternoon tea after school.

Victoria sponge cakeIt always seemed to have a Victoria sponge cake on offer – perhaps that is all Mother could make with the rationed ingredients.


Here’s a potted history on tea:

  • According to legend, tea was first discovered by Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2737 BC when some tea leaves floated into a pot of boiling water. It wasn’t until the mid-1600s, however, that tea finally reached England. Due to its sale being controlled by trade monopolies, and that it had to be imported from China via boat traveling around the Cape of Africa and then north to England, it was a rather costly commodity.
  • The first known record of tea being imported into England was the charter granted by Elizabeth I to The East India Company.
  • The first merchant to sell tea was Thomas Garway who offered it in both a dry and liquid form at his coffeehouse in Exchange Alley in London. The coffee houses proved very popular and by 1700 and there were more than 500 in London.  By the middle of the 18th century, tea replaced ale and gin as the nation’s drink.
  • As with most customs in England, when having tea became an accepted practice of the Royals, it then spread down to the working classes.

Because it was so expensive the loose tea was kept in a locked box to stop Victorian tea caddyservants from stealing it.  In some instances these were very elaborate.

On a hunt to purchase a Christmas present for my late husband I came across a delightful Victorian silver tea caddy.  (Picture will come later when I have renewed the batteries in the camera.)

So now I am off to have breakfast – 8.30 am on Saturday morning here in New Zealand – and am about to make myself a pot of tea to have with my toast.

Tea pot

Toast and marmalade






Tea! thou soft, thou sober, sage, and venerable liquid,… thou female tongue-running, smile-smoothing, heart-opening, wind-tippling cordial, to whose glorious insipidity I owe the happiest moment of my life, let me fall prostrate.
~Colley Cibber,
1671  1757) English actor-manager, playwright

and Poet Laureate.

And from Lu Tong,  790–835  Chinese poet of Tang Dynasty known for his lifelong study of the “Tea Culture“.

The first cup caresses my dry lips and throat,
The second shatters the walls of my loneliness,

The third explores the dry rivulets of my soul
Searching for legends of five thousand scrolls.

With the fourth the pain of past injustice vanishes through my pores.

The fifth purifies my flesh and bone.
With the sixth I commune with the immortals.
The seventh conveys such pleasure I am overcome.

The fresh wind blows through my wings

As I make my way to Penglai.

LU TONG, Thanks to Imperial Censor Meng for His Gift of Freshly Picked Tea

And I make no apologies for the fact that there are two quotes in ending today.  I could not choose between them.










24 responses to “I’m English so I drink tea

  1. Lovely. And when I was in Edinburgh a couple of years ago it was still known to have some of the worlds purest water!


  2. Christine in Los Angeles

    Each year, I “give up” something, for Lent, and this year it was tea. Coffee is no substitute, in my opinion, and one of my celebrations on the 24th will be a cuppa.
    God bless, Christine


  3. Well I think you will like tomorrow’s blog. It will be on afternoon tea. Do you remember Sundays at Grandma Levy’s house? Going to make a cup of tea.


  4. Just having a nice hot cup of tea for supper:-)


  5. Do you know, I hadn’t thought til I read this, about how tea tastes different with hard and soft water. No wonder I like it better where I live now. We have soft water here, before it was London’s very hard water. Yes, as you say, it tasted bitter there.

    My parents liked to add more tea to the pot than was usual. Dad particularly liked strong tea and when tea bags arrived, the ‘one per person and one for the pot’ was never enough for him!


    • Well here in Wellington the water is quite soft and I notice the difference even 45 kms up the coast where the water comes mainly from bores. Peaty tasting tea – although where’s the peat?
      Where do you live now?


      • We moved to Wales a few years ago, and now live in a rural area.
        By the way, the comment you received from ‘Lani Pharmer’ is spam. It probably escaped your Akismet spam filter. The easiest way to check is to put your cursor over the name (without clicking it) to find out the web address, jot down the web address and enter it into google search then see what comes up. Usually it’s junk.


      • Thanks for that tip. It was spam and so I have trashed it and my reply. Will be on the lookout in future although Akismet is usually good at sorting out the junk – this one must have slipped through.

        I have a cousin who moved to Wales from the East End many years ago. I don’t know if she is in the rural area or not. She is somewhere near Powys if that means anything to you.

        Hope you are feeling better. Your artwork and photography as well sas your words are all amazing. Congratulations.


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  7. I love tea pots and tea! (as well as coffee, thus lacafetiere). I have quite a collection growing. I really like this post. Its fun and informative! Thanks for sharing and thanks for stopping by my blog.


  8. I had eight ess pee ay em comments in my inbox today, so I think Akismet must be having an off week. I hope it’s just that. Either that or it’s cos I spelled the word properly here for a change when I commented last! I usually call them ‘oinky meatbots’!

    I live in Powys, it’s a huge county or shire that covers quite a bit of mid wales.

    By the way, I mentioned your blog (this post, in fact) in my current post so you should get a few people surfing in or at least looking. It’s a good way to get people to visit. You’ll have a ‘pingback’ from me, here.


  9. Thanks for the assist Val.


  10. Hi Judith,

    I’m one of those people surfing over from Val’s link. I enjoyed reading your tea treatise. 🙂 I’m a coffee drinker but, when there’s nothing else, I’ll enjoy a cup of tea. I weaned my taste buds off the sugar, same as with coffee, so that I can enjoy the actual flavors – and save my waistline!




    • Thanks Mitch. New to this blogging world and so am finding my way around to other people’s posts. I love your morphodesign post. I learn something new every day for instance Zeppole. Never heard of them but from/through you I learn that they are served on my birthday – March 19. so now I have to find a recipe for them. Not that I can bake them but surely one of my friends will. May I please use your photo with acknowledgments etc for sending to the friend I decide can be the baker?


    • Me asgain – I meant to say that I have two sisters one a confirmed tea drinker and the who absolutely detests tea. So what can you say?


  11. Hi Judith,

    Welcome to the wonderful world of blogs. I think you’ll have a grand time! Tea affinity seems to be as diverse as any beverage. I’m not mad about it but, I do have a preference for Earl Grey, while absolutely abhoring the Chai flavor (at least as it’s served in Starbucks, whose coffee tastes to me like burnt shoe leather.)

    That photo of the zeppola is from Wikipedia. The credit should be to the photographer.




  12. Thanks. I drink different kinds of tea. When I am out if I order tea it is always Earl Grey and I absolutely hate Chai. Don’t go to Starbucks too often so cant comment on their tea but their coffee is just so so.


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  14. I have read a lot of your posts and this is the first time I have posted a reply. I just wanted to say thanks for your articles.


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