Is there a better excuse to sip tea and nibble scones than Afternoon Tea Week? It is the perfect way to celebrate the tradition which has graced British afternoons since the 1840’s. To honour our favourite week of the year, our Brew Boffins are bringing you 10 exquisite facts about this favoured British beverage
1. Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, is the founder of Afternoon Tea as we know it today. She complained of a “sinking feeling” between lunch and dinner and requested that some light food and a pot of tea (usually Darjeeling) was brought to her private living quarters to ward off her mid-afternoon hunger. The idea proved so successful that Afternoon Tea soon became routine and the Duchess decided to invite her friends along. Thus, a new social event was born.
2. Catherine of Braganza is credited with introducing tea to England. A Portugese princess married to King Charless II and a tea addict, Catherine made tea very fashionable in the high court and amongst the wealthy. In fact, it became so popular that the East India Trading Company began important tea. The first order was placed just two years after Catherine married King Charles and became Queen of England.
3. The four tea types are black tea, white tea, green tea and oolong tea. Each of them come from a plant called Camellia Sinensis. Most herbal or fruit teas are, in fact, not teas at all but tisanes or infusions.
Pepperment tea? Nope, it’s a peppermint infusion.
Rooibos tea? Nope, that’s an infusion too.
Ginger tea? Also an infusion!
4. Seventy percent of the tea consumed globally is black tea. It is the most common type of tea in the world but what you tend to find in most teabags are “dust and fannings” which are the particles from broken tea leaves; and the lowest quality grade of tea. If you are a true tea lover, you should make the switch to the mighty loose leaf.
5. In 1946, George Orwell published “A Nice Cup of Tea”. It contained detailed instructions on how to make the perfect brew. Orwell said that tea should be drunk without sugar and the milk should be added last. If George Orwell said it, it must be true!
6. Roast chicken can be given a delicious albeit gentle lift with tea leaves. Put a sheet of tin foil on the bottom of a roasting tin, sprinkle it with tea leaves and sugar, and put the chicken on top. Roast the chicken until the skin is brown and crispy. Smoking it over the tea produces a wonderfully fragrant meal!
7. Used and cooled tea bags can be laid on the eyes to rest them and smooth out wrinkles. It is also reported to be an effective treatment for removing styes and treating other eye infections. (But perhaps see your doctor just in case!)
8. The terms “low tea” and “high tea” were coined according to whether tea was taken at low coffee-style tables or high dinner tables. English High Tea began life as a necessary meal in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It included bread, veggies, cheese and sometimes meat. However, the upper class adopted the term “high tea” which is why the term is often confused with “afternoon tea”.
9. The world’s biggest tea drinkers are not actually the English. According to an article published in The Telegraph earlier this year, Paraguay is the country which consumes the most tea. The United Kingdom is down in 12th place and Ireland is in 16th place.
10. Indian legend recounts tales of Prince Bodhi-Dharma, who left India to preach Buddhism in China. The prince vowed to meditate for nine years without sleeping. However, towards the end of these nine years, the prince slept. When he awoke, he was distraught by his own weakness and cut off his own eyelids and cast them away. A tea plant grew from the place where his eyelids hit the ground and that is how tea was born.