Sunday, December 07, 2008


The cuppa is the true English icon.

Yes, tea is more important than beer, curry, or even the Queen. (*gasp*) Although these factor into ordinary English lives some days, tea is a constant. I only know one English person who doesn't drink it. Some people over here are progressive and drink coffee as well, but in a crisis their true nature emerges and they find themselves nursing a lovely cup of tea. There's even a UK Tea Council.

So why tea? I think it's a necessity in light of the climate here. Although I know it's a relatively recent addition to English culture, I can't imagine life here without it. (Side note: Many people here say the same thing about curry.) Coffee seems too bitter and strong for the English. Most prefer weak tea, white, i.e. with milk. The amount of sugar depends on the person, though K takes 2 and is often mocked for it. Really strong tea is referred to as builder's tea. However it's prepared, though, it is a part of life. My favorite thing about visiting an English house is being asked if I'd like a cup of tea, and the question is invariably one of the first things out of the owner's mouth. I assume this is because tea is inherently relaxing. It's smooth and warm, and that can only raise a mood. I guess tea is, like alcohol, a social lubricant. I can say from personal experience that it is much easier to talk to a stranger while holding a steaming mug of tea than in most other situations. I wish I could do it in the States, where I'm at a huge social disadvantage as a non-coffee and minimum-alcohol drinker. Because tea is so ingrained in English culture, it also provides conversational topics. How do you take your tea? Have you had a traditional afternoon tea? Favorite type of tea? Is milk added before or after the tea? How much do you drink a day? The answer to the last question is usually 3 or 4. Tea breaks are a part of work as well as play. I saw a Bob the Builder mug in a charity shop, and it said, "Time for a tea break." My two-hour choir rehearsal always breaks for tea, which someone kindly brings in along with biscuits. I've been volunteering at a couple of bookshops, and at both of them I'm regularly asked if I'd like a cuppa. I was also show where the tea, cups, and biscuits were kept. I find it all quite charming. I'll miss English tea when I leave.

Apologies for the incoherency of this post.



At 12:18 PM, Blogger Stevi said...

I understand being the weird one with the cup of tea instead of coffee. Tea is one of my comfort foods. My grandma raised me on tea. Before I was old enough to drink from my own cup, she was feeding it to me by teaspoon from her own cup. Even after she got a microwave, she kept a kettle on the stove all day for easy tea preparation at a moment's notice. She buys cookies based on how well they dunk :-). She still buys me variety packs, special flavors, and keeps me well in stock of my favorites.


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