Time(s) For Tea

The British way of drinking tea can mean lots of different things. You have the every day warming caffeine fix that gets you through your working day – but then there’s afternoon tea, tea parties, cream teas, pots of tea and those times you need tea as a social crutch. Quite seriously, tea can be a great leveller – I had a conversation with a nurse last week who is writing an article on how tea can help the nurse-patient relationship and other human connections. I’ll be sure to tell you about it when she finishes it but, for now, here are my top five occasions where life would not be the same without tea. Enjoy!

A Mug Of Tea At Work
Most of the tea I drink is at my office day job. Thankfully, I am far from being the only one who enjoys a good brew, and we’re a friendly bunch so we tend to make tea in rounds. There’s too many of us to make it in a tea pot – it’s a good ol’ one-teabag-per-mug situation. The best way to make tea from a bag is to pop the bag (and the milk – see last week’s post for more on the milk issue!) in a mug and add boiling water. Wait around two minutes then gently take out the teabag – do not squeeze. Stir once the teabag has been removed. Repeat half an hour later, or as soon as someone else from the office gets nominated to make the next round – more fool the person who doesn’t make their fair share!

To Be Polite – Or Diffuse Awkward Situations
I find that the offer of tea can cure almost any potentially awkward social situation. What’s more, it’s expected that a cup of tea should be offered any time someone stops anywhere for more than a couple of minutes. Got the electrician in? Offer him a cuppa. Builders working on your house for the week? Better stock up on sugar and practice not grimacing when they ask for four teaspoons of it.

A Special Occasion
Going out for a cream tea is a way of organising a (usually) inexpensive event, whether it’s a way of entertaining your gran or spending a pleasant hour or two with girl friends. Cream tea is usually traditionally brewed English Breakfast tea served with scones, cream and jam; where the tea is shared from a teapot. Cream tea is not to be confused with afternoon tea, which is more of a meal with sandwiches as well as the tea and cake. The epitome of afternoon tea is at the Ritz in London – absolutely the place to go for an elegant social occasion with family or friends. They have several different afternoon tea menus – have a look at their website for more information and if you want to book a trip for me as I have never been there! Henry James got it right when he wrote “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as an afternoon tea” – it is indeed a ceremony, and most certainly an agreeable one.

A Traditional Tea Party
Some chums and I threw a traditional tea party for a dear friend’s hen ‘do last year. We baked (with mixed results), made cucumber sandwiches and served tea from beautiful mismatched vintage china. We got to wear our best tea dresses and the bride-to-be was surprised and overjoyed that we’d organised such an elegant occasion rather than subjecting her to a raucous night out. Tea parties are usually held in the afternoon, and the food is usually prepared in advance and presented nicely on plates on a tablecloth. The food is then eaten buffet-style, and the host will refill the teapot as often as needed!

A Pot Of Tea Between Friends
We all joke about the cliche, but it happens. A friend comes to you for help, advice or just a good old fashioned natter and the first thing you say is “I’ll put the kettle on”. Sometimes even just saying/hearing those words can break the ice and bring you down to earth if you’re upset. Sharing a proper teapot of tea means making the experience last – a simple mug each will just not do. When making tea in a pot, first make sure it’s china. Warm the pot up first, perhaps by swilling some hot water around inside and emptying. Add loose tea to the pot and let it brew (in a cosy, of course!) before pouring through a strainer into your cup or mug – cups are undoubtedly cuter, but mugs are better for heat retention. Making tea with loose leaves and a strainer means you can even read your fortunes from the tea leaves left in the strainer – if you don’t already have enough to natter about, that is!

Gorgeous teapot image from Gifts and More – where it’s also available to personalise and buy.