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The Day Job Project from Heck has been woefully behind on every aspect of my life. I’m having a hard time catching up.

So, today you get a post from 2010 on tea. Enjoy.

As most of you probably know, the English drink tea. Tea was introduced in England after 1650. I’m sure that most of us have read a historical in which the phrase “a dish” of tea is used rather than the more familiar “cup” of tea.  This site tells us that the first tea cups were Chinese in origin and were shallow saucers, and did not have handles. From the same site:

100  years after the introduction of tea in England, handles were not yet  seen on tea cups, but English potters had introduced saucers to the  bowls. The tea-drinkers thought the saucer was there to pour the tea  into to cool it and then they would sip the tea from the saucer. Later  the saucer was used to hold spillage and the use of the cup and saucer  became the tradition used today with the addition of handles.

Britain Express has a good overview of the history of tea and coffee houses. Tea was taxed by 1676. A hundred years later, we know how that taxation thing worked for the British when they were across the pond. According to this site, the tax rose to 119% and guess what?!  Tea smuggling, that’s what. And guess what else! People put stuff that wasn’t tea in the tea. What’s that thing the French say about change and the same old thing?

Check out The United Kingdom Tea Council for their amazing History of Tea, including the The London Tea Auction
And there’s this from 1826:
My favorite tea ever is Lapsang Souchang. I love the smoky flavor. At work, however, I drink Lipton. It gets my day going.  What about you guys? Do you drink tea? What kind?  If you were a tea smuggler where would you hide your tea?

On this, my alleged writing day, I have important business.

Yesterday morning, the teapot broke.

Fortunately I have some emergency teabags to hold me through until I have bought a new one, but this is a big issue. Particularly after my husband served me a cup of tea made from Earl Gray teabags that are at least ten years old, although I should be grateful he didn’t use the teabags that are so awful I reserve them for cleaning purposes (mainly the kitchen floor).

The shopping process has begun. Its appearance, really, is not important. I mean we’re not talking about a romance hero here. Size, however, is (so I guess we are talking about a romance hero after all). I need a large teapot. To me a cup of tea means not one, but several. It must be resilient. My departed teapot, made of metal and glass (with some very dodgy looking solder that I suspect may have been lead-based, acquired at the Indian grocery store that keeps me in Brooke Bond export tea and mangoes) lasted me a couple of years. So it has to be cheap.

And it has to pour well. I have a vintage Royal Doulton  teapot I bought at a yard sale that I called into use yesterday and it was awful–an  English made teapot that didn’t pour!! I’ll give up the gilding any time (besides, if you do want to throw it into the dishwasher, the decision will be made for you). Sadly, when you buy a teapot you can’t always guess how well it’s going to pour.

So here are my top choices so far:

The UK Tea & Infusions Association (check out that site, there’s  a great section on the history of tea, and a counter for how many cups of tea have been drunk so far today in England, currently at well over 128 million. How do they know??) commissioned Bodum to make teapots. The advantages are that they make a 34 oz size and they seem fairly tough.  Bodum introduced the coffee press concept to tea making. Advantages: tough. Disadvantages: Expensive and do I trust the press method??

$_57A fairly cheap ceramic pot with infuser. Advantages: looks pretty, looks as though it will pour ok. Cheap. Large. Disadvantages: I know that if the infuser is not stainless steel as soon as I receive it I will drop it and break it. It happens every time.

And here are a couple of purely silly items. A shark infuser and (oh I want it so much, but I’ll never use it and I know this shape is pretty much unusable),  a Tardis teapot!!!

Are you a tea drinker and how do you like your tea? Teabags or are you a loose woman? (For which terrible pun I thank Bingley’s Teas).




Posted in Research | Tagged | 10 Replies

Because I am jet-lagged, this post will be weird. I apologize in advance.

I’m having my morning tea right now. This will hopefully help my jet-lag. (I just returned from England, which means an eight-hour time difference). Plus, the night before the flight, I only got about three hours sleep. Why? Tea. I had a lovely afternoon tea at Richoux in London, but I guess the afternoon caffeine was too much for my system. So tea hurteth, and tea cureth. Tea giveth, and tea taketh away.

Did I mention this post will be weird? Yes, it’s a tour of things Cara drank while in England. Or, in some cases, didn’t drink.

When I was in England, I drank a lot of cider. I love hard cider. I don’t know why. I can’t drink wine (it gives me migraines.) I hate beer. I never liked hard liquor. But cider is just beautiful. Cider dances in the brain and on the tongue.

I did say I was weird today, right???

Speaking of things Cara didn’t drink…

On the flight back, for some reason the flight attendants tried to dehydrate me. And this was on Virgin Atlantic, which in that past I’ve always been very impressed by!!! But this time, instead of coming around frequently to give us liquids to drink, they instead came around with food accompanied by NOTHING to drink. No water. No soda. No nothing. And no liquids in between. They did this multiple times. I still have the headache.

So, what gives, Virgin Airlines??? Did you suddenly decide that water costs too much???

I did complain. The flight attendants took this as a personal criticism (which I found very odd) and just told me that there was water in the galley. They told me this eight hours into the flight. Telling me this earlier would have been nice. And they never did tell me where the galley was. Or explain the logic behind giving one a tray full of food, and then expecting one to somehow get up (which is impossible with the tray table down, of course — and where am I supposed to put the food???) and get water from the galley. And if we all did this, think of the chaos!!! No, not a workable system.

And so I say again: what gives, Virgin Atlantic??? Are you trying to make me switch my loyalties to British Airways or American Airlines, despite your cool seatback entertainment systems with twenty movies to choose from??? Because it’s working. Watching movies is cool, but having no headache is still cooler.

Cara (who had a very good time in England, actually)

Posted in Research | Tagged , | 10 Replies

On Saturday, I partook of your charming American custom of “Mother’s Day” by attending tea at a lovely little tea shop with my hostess, her mother, and various other ladies. (My own dear, departed mother would have loved this holiday, I think–she was always in need of more face paint and bottles of scent!). It was not the same as the tea I served in my house, which my friends always declared to be superlative, but it was adequate. They had an extensive selection of fine teas (which surprised me, I must say. I deplore this “Lipton” business!), some nice little sandwiches, and a few iced cakes. In honor of this occasion, I will pass on some of my own tea wisdom, mostly gained from my own mother (who adored a lapsang souchong).

Tea was introduced to Europe during Elizabethan times, but as people then had no sense of what was good for them, it did not reach England until 1657-60. Even the barbaric Russians had it before us, and it was a Venetian named Gian Battista Ramusio who was the first European to write about the drink. (Very surprising, if you know the Venetians at all). It was at first a hard sell, until that most deplorable of monarchs (lovely taste, though) Charles II took up the habit of drinking tea all day long. It was among the least objectionable of his many habits, I fear. It was also very popular here in your own country until that unfortunate occurence called the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

Afternoon tea was not a fixed tradition in my own time (though I enjoy cakes and a refreshing sip at four o’clock as much as anyone!). Slightly later than that, or so I read now on this Intra-Net compooter, the Duchess of Bedford started ordering a tray of bread-and-butter in the afternoons, as she could not wait for the fashionable dining hour before getting a bit peckish. It worked out well for her, and she began inviting friends to join her. The bread-and-butter was soon supplemented by pastries, sandwiches, and scones. “High tea” is a different thing altogther, a full meal served around six for the lower classes, consisting of meats, fish, cheese, bread and butter, cakes (and tea!).

Here are a few of my favorite recipes, which I experimented with while my hostess was away at her “work.” Her food cooling apparatus is always quite low on the staples of life, so I made do with what little I could find.

Cucumber Sandwiches:
1 large cuccumber
White wine vinegar
Butter (soft)

Peel and slice cucumber. Sprinkle the slices with vinegar and let sit for half an hour, drain and pat dry. Make the sandwich with 1 or 2 layers of cucumber slices, on thin bread spread with butter. Slice neatly into quarters (remove crusts!) and serve.

Devonshire Clotted Cream (warning! This is not a true clotted cream. I devised this with the use of that wondrous blender)

8 oz cream cheese
12 oz sour cream
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
(Blend all until smooth)

Rose Butter (a most elegant spread for toast, sandwiches, scones)

4 oz butter
Fresh rose petals (pink is lovely)

Line the bottom of a covered dish with a thick layer of petals. Wrap butter with waxed paper and place in dish. Cover with more petals. Put lid on dish and let sit in cool space overnight.

William Cobbett, round about 1821, wrote:

The drink, which has come to supply the place of beer has, in general, been tea. It is notorious, that tea has no useful strength in it; that it contains nothing nutricious; that it, besides being good for nothing, has badness in it, because it is well known to produce want of sleep in many cases, and in all cases to shake and weaken the nerves.

Okay, so far, I slightly agree with Cobbett. Lack of sleep — yeah, if you drink more than you’re used to, or you drink late in the day, it can cause insomnia! But “shake and weaken the nerves”?

Cobbett continues:

It is, in fact, a weaker kind of laudanum, which enlivens for a moment and deadens afterwards.

Laudanum, which is opium dissolved in alcohol, being compared to tea??? Dude, what have YOU been drinking???

It is impossible to make a fire, boil water, make the tea, drink it, wash up the things, sweep up the fire-place and put all to rights again in a less space of time, upon an average, than two hours. . . . Needs there any thing more to make us cease to wonder at seeing labourers’ children with dirty linen and holes in the heels of their stockings?

There you have it, kiddies! The poor are wretched not for any of the commonly held reasons (e.g. because they are poor, or because they are lazy, or because no one who labours in the fields from dawn to dusk has time or energy to darn stockings) but because they drink too much TEA!!!!

You heard it here first.

Cara King, Tea Drinker Extraordinaire
for more weird period details, see

Posted in Regency, Research | Tagged , | 7 Replies
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