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Tea is the essence of coziness. Cozy isn’t difficult. Tea isn’t difficult. But there are still folks who need some assistance in achieving the state of existence where both are appropriately combined. To that end, I present you with five ways to get cozy with tea.

Golden tea by candlelight by Bannacha on Facebook

Golden tea by candlelight by Bannacha on Facebook

1 The Right Tea

Believe it or not, different teas have different feels in your mouth when you sip them. Some describe it as “buttery,” “creamy,” or “full.” It can also be described as “cozy.” A number of oolong teas have this (let them slightly cool before sipping to get the full effect). Teas from the Dancong area of China, especially those from the Phoenix Mountains, have this quality. Nilgiri black teas are said to have this type of feel to them, also, as long as you remember to steep them lightly to avoid any bitterness. If you like your tea with milk (aka “British style”), then you can’t go wrong with a nice Assam black tea. Just be sure that the tea you choose will warm you all the way through – the essence of coziness.

2 Glass Teawares

Part of the enjoyment of tea is the color of the liquid. It can vary from almost clear to almost as dark as a cup of coffee. Glass teawares like the sipping cup shown above that I saw posted on Facebook can give you a lovely view of that color. Glass teapots can show you those leaves in their “agony” (or as I like to call it, “their dance of joy”) as they spin and twirl and soak up the water around them. Some teas, especially oolongs, can enlarge to many times their dry size.

Nothing like a candle glow to convey coziness. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Nothing like a candle glow to convey coziness. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

3 Candlelight’s Glow

I love candlelight, as I’ve mentioned in a number of previous articles on this blog. The softness, the flickering, the warm yellowish tint – they all create a cozy atmosphere. Colors seem softer, a bit muted, and less brash. Corners of the room in their darkness are mysterious yet enveloping like a warm wool blanket. A cozy atmosphere for tea! (Of course, fireplaces are good for this, too, but not everyone has one.)

4 Comfortable Seating

We can highly recommend a reclining loveseat for the ultimate in cozy and comfortable seating for two. Even if you are having tea all by yourself, the extra space will be great to fill with additional pillows, a warm throw or two, and maybe a stuffed bear. If you don’t have such a loveseat, no problem. Overstuffed armchairs are good, too. Even one of those huge sectional sofas that can seat a throng of relatives during the holidays (or your friends for watching that big football game) can be comfortable and cozy on a chilly evening when it’s just you, the cat, and a good book with that cup of tea.

5 A Peaceful Setting

Plump pillows, a good book, a box of tissues in case the book is a tear-jerker, a cookie, and a good cuppa tea help achieve coziness. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Plump pillows, a good book, a box of tissues in case the book is a tear-jerker, a cookie, and a good cuppa tea help achieve coziness. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

You have the perfect cuppa tea. You selected the perfect book. The candles are lit and casting their magical light. You’re seated comfortably with plenty of pillows and that warm throw tucked around your legs. Time for the final ingredient: mood setting music playing softly and creating that peaceful setting so important to enjoying it all.

May you have many cozy tea times ahead!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I have to admit that I was only vaguely aware of the Seychelles until recently and really only due to its reputation as a vacation destination. For those who also might not be that familiar with it, the Seychelles is a nation off the east coast of Africa that is made up of more than 100 islands. It’s a balmy place with photogenic beaches and, as a matter of fact, tourism is indeed the primary industry there.

The Seychelles are not really the first place you’d think of when you think of tea production, but then again you could say the same thing about the United States or England, two other unlikely places where tea is grown in relatively small quantities. Tea is indeed such a minor part of the economy there that it doesn’t even merit a mention in the country’s Wikipedia entry.

It’s actually not all that improbable that the Seychelles grow tea, given that Africa as a whole is one of the world’s top tea producing regions. Additionally, one Africa’s top tea growing countries – Kenya – is located directly to the west of the Seychelles.

While the population of the Seychelles is relatively small and tea production there is quite modest, it’s interesting to pause for a moment and note that its citizens can hold their own when it comes to tea consumption. On a per capita basis, they rank sixth among the world’s top tea drinkers, just after the United Kingdom, which is no small feat. Per capita tea consumption there averages just over four and a half pounds, which is about a pound less than they drink in the United Kingdom.

As for tea production, here’s a page from the government’s official tourism site about a tea factory located in Sans Souci, Mahé. As the description notes, “Established in 1962, this unit is responsible for growing and manufacturing tea in the Seychelles.” For more specifics, take a look at this article from the local press, which focuses on the Seychelles Trading Company and its SeyTe brand of tea, which is a mix of the locally grown product and imports from Sri Lanka. According to the article, tea growing in the Seychelles began relatively recently, in 1960.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The banana is every slapstick comic’s friend, a delight for the chimpanzee set, the foundation of a favorite Summertime treat, an ingredient in numerous delectable desserts, and chock full of nutritious stuff like fiber and potassium – yum! It’s also part of the cliché “going bananas” – a phrase that indicates you’re…uh, well…anyway, you may find yourself going “bananas” at tea time without even realizing it. Here are some signs:

One of the top 10 banana jokes. (screen capture from site)

One of the top 10 banana jokes. (screen capture from site)

1 Vocabulary Morphage

Besides the phrase “going bananas,” some of these might end up finding their way into your tea time conversation:

  • Banana republic (a small, poor country with a weak or dishonest government) – as in “This tea time is looking like a banana republic.” (bad tea and treats being served)
  • Banana skin (British – something which causes, or is very likely to cause, embarrassing problems) – as in “If I drink another cuppa tea, I’ll being steeping on a banana skin.”
  • “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?” (the last line of an infamous knock-knock joke)
  • Yes we have no bananas (a line from a vaudeville song – try to resist bursting out singing the whole thing)
  • I didn’t come down the Clyde in a banana boat (Old Glasgow expression!)
  • Make like a banana and split – said to tea time guests who have overstayed their welcome or stepped on that banana skin.
  • Top banana (the main comic in a burlesque show)
  • He/she bruises like a banana (easily offended)
  • Bananas have a peel (which is why everyone likes them so much)

You also find yourself telling very bad banana jokes, like the one shown above. Just don’t overdo it!

A bit of Ti Kuan Yin to go with those banana goodies. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved.)

A bit of Ti Kuan Yin to go with those banana goodies. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved.)

2 Tea Preference Changes

You can have several teas that go well with items containing bananas:

  • Ceylon Tea – A classic Ceylon tea with a light colored liquid and hints of delicate floral notes. Infuse the leaves in water heated to boiling for 2-5 minutes.
  • Ti Kuan Yin – A distinctive light cup with hints of orchid in the flavor. This is a semi-oxidized tea and so has a little bit more body than a green tea but less than a black tea for a unique flavor twist. Infuse in water that has been brought to a light boil (165-190° F) for 1-3 minutes.
  • Pouchong – Fresh and lively with a light astringent finish. One of the world’s most exceptional teas, with fragrances of flowers and melon, and a rich, yet mild cup. Infuse in water that has been brought to a light boil (165-190° F) for 1-3 minutes.

You can also make various tea smoothies, such as this Green Tea Banana Smoothies (recipe here).

3 Decoration Alteration

Need I say “yellow” here? As in tablecloths, napkins, candles, and so on. They are an indication that you are on your way to going “bananas”, but if you decide to paint the interior of your house yellow and hang yellow drapes on the windows, you are already there.

Banana cream pie with caramel (screen capture from site)

Banana cream pie with caramel (screen capture from site)

4 Banana Tea Time Recipes Dominate

You just gotta have something tasty to serve friends and family at tea time. If you see your usual scones or muffins or cookies being replaced with and of these, you are well on your way to going “bananas” at tea time:

  • Banana Chai Bread – recipe here.
  • Bitter Chocolate, Lavender, and Banana Tea Loaf – recipe here.
  • Banana cream pie – recipe here.
  • Banana pudding (my mom used to add those Nilla Wafers to it).
Deluxe Adult Banana Costume (screen capture from site)

Deluxe Adult Banana Costume (screen capture from site)

5 Tea Time Attire Adjustments

Bright yellow clothing would certainly be expected here. Or even dressing up like a vaudeville comic or a clown might be appropriate. Just don’t forget your rubber banana. And let’s hope no one shows up for tea wearing a banana suit. But if they do, be polite and only snicker behind his/her back, for it means your tea time has truly gone “bananas”!

So, how did you do? Have you gone totally “bananas” yet? If so, just give in and enjoy it!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Awhile back I wrote about comfort foods and teas to go with them (see the article here). Some comfort foods are just right for your Autumn tea party. Time to focus on those.

A strong cuppa Assam, a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and a small lit candle make that pumpkin pie even more comforting. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A strong cuppa Assam, a dollop of fresh whipped cream, and a small lit candle make that pumpkin pie even more comforting. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Top of the list: Pumpkin Pie – oh yeah! You can buy one at the grocery or the local bakery, bake your own using a premade crust and canned pumpkin, or go all out with a handmade crust and your own filling made from a pie pumpkin (they tend to be about 8-10 inches in diameter). Teas to have with it: Ceylon black or green, Dragonwell (aka Longjing or Lungching), and Darjeeling.

Bread stuffing – no need for a bird! The best stuffing (as far as I’m concerned) is the kind that has been cooked inside that roasted turkey, but I’ll settle for the kind that is just baked or even the instant stovetop kind! Teas to have with it: Ceylon, Yunnan, Darjeeling, and Oolong (any).

Corn bread, corn pone, corn fritters – whatever form you choose, these corny foods are comforting, tasty, and great with tea. A touch of butter or (surprise!) clotted cream give them an even more comforting appeal. Teas to have with it: Assam, Ceylon, Yunnan, and Kenyan.

Coffee cake – but have it with tea! These baked delights are usually moister than regular cakes and flavored with cinnamon, brown sugar, and other sweet flavorings. They are unhappily misnamed since they go equally well with tea. And the combination can be even more comforting. Teas to have with it: same as for corn bread.

Scrambled eggs – easy, tasty, very comforting, and great with tea! Along with tea, I have noticed more and more the mention of scrambled eggs in movies (even ones from the 1930s and 1940s) as a quick and comforting food to have during time of trouble. Of course, you can also have them during times of calm – which is even better. Teas to have with it: Assam, Ceylon, Keemun, Darjeeling, Kenyan, and Oolong (any).

Baked squash – cousin to the pumpkin. We tend to like Acorn Squash, baked, with butter and garlic. But you can prepare it other ways and sweeten with honey or brown sugar. It all depends on if you want something more savory or dessert-like. Teas to have with it: same as for pumpkin pie.

Don’t forget a little candle to set the mood! Daylight hours are shorter and temperatures are cooler, so that little flame will add a bit of light and warmth.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Café by day. Bar by night. Fun things to do.”

This is how Drink, Shop & Do describes itself, and this London tea spot certainly does offer a wide variety of entertainment. As well as serving food and drink, it hosts a range of events from dancing, to poetry readings, to arts and crafts activities, to live DJ sessions. But it was their food and drink that was my focus on a recent visit—or, to be specific, their tea.

Interior of Drink, Shop & Do - party time! (photo from their web site)

Interior of Drink, Shop & Do – party time! (photo from their web site)

Drink, Shop & Do has a lovely selection of loose teas, which are ordered by the pot. In addition to the unflavoured black teas, several flavoured black teas sit alongside a range of rooibos infusions, a white tea, and a standard (but still tasty) Japanese green tea (they did not specify which one, but my guess is a sencha). I was there with a few friends and since we ordered different teas I was able to sample more than just one of Drink, Shop & Do’s offerings.

I ordered the green tea (the suspected sencha), and it was no more nor less than what I would expect: the slightly sweet, grassy taste of green tea came through clearly, and the presence of an infuser allowed me to steep it to my preferred strength. One tea companion ordered the chai — not a traditional Indian masala chai, but a black tea flavoured with various spices. It was very aromatic, and flavourful to boot; the spices were deliciously strong. However, if you are not partial to strongly spiced teas, this chai may not be one that you would enjoy. The third tea drinker in our party ordered a classic: Earl Grey. This Early Grey blend had a decently strong black base, which meant that, although it was still aromatic, for me this would be a morning brew rather than a light afternoon tea. But since I find it hard to go wrong with an Earl Grey, this tea certainly got my approval.

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable things about Drink, Shop & Do is its décor. The furniture is charmingly mismatched, and the colourful interior gives the café a fun vibe. The mismatched theme continues in their teawares, and it is always a lovely surprise to see what style of teacup and teapot your tea will arrive in. And, significantly for this tea drinker, most of their teapots are very generously sized. One of our party actually found himself unable to finish his pot—not a common occurrence, I can assure you! But fear not, the unwanted tea did not stay unwanted for long.

All in all, Drink, Shop & Do is a lovely place to stop off for a (large) pot of tea. And, if you are up for something a little more extravagant, or if you fancy a bite to eat, they also do a traditional Afternoon Tea, along with several variations on the theme (such as “Boozy Afternoon Tea” and “Man’s Afternoon Tea”)…

Tempting. Perhaps I’ll sample some of those on my next visit.

Can’t get to London? Shop for the same tasty teas here.

See more of Elise Nuding’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Is the United States a nation of tea drinkers? Most people who know anything about the topic would probably say that we are not. While we drink quite a bit of iced tea, at least relative to the hot kind, our overall consumption doesn’t rank us among the world’s great tea-drinking nations. In fact, our twelve ounces a year only places us near the bottom end of the top seventy of tea-drinking nations, in a tie with those voracious tea drinkers in Somalia.

But that’s all changing – if we’re to believe a recent article in none other than the Washington Post, titled “America is Slowly—But Surely—Becoming a Nation of Tea Drinkers.” Their claim is that “There’s a quiet, and lightly caffeinated, trend brewing in America.” Which I won’t quibble with. As we’ve noted many times in these very pages, tea has been on the upswing here in the United States in past decades.

The post quantifies this by noting that in just over two decades there’s been a five-fold increase to $10 billion dollars annually, according to numbers provided by the US Tea Association. If that’s not enough to convince you then consider the USDA’s estimate that tea imports to the US have jumped by more than 700 percent in the last 50 years.

The article goes on to note that we like iced tea best and prefer black over any other type but also notes that green tea drinking is on the rise. Oh, and coffee consumption has largely remained stagnant for about the last 40 years. Nor will I quibble with any of this.

But while I can’t really argue with any of the above I’d stop short of saying that we’ve become or are becoming a nation of tea drinkers, as much as I’d like that. The article claims that “Tea has infiltrated most Americans’ everyday routine,” but I’d venture to say that for many of the people I know – with a rare exception now and then – tea still is a subject that barely comes up on their radar. Which is anecdotal evidence at best but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

It’s amazing the memories that a cuppa tea can evoke. This time it was when I got caught playing a computer game at the office. I must have turned 10 shades of red. But it’s not all you would think it is. I’d better start at the beginning.

Caught in the act! Hey, it helps me be creative! (Screen capture from PC)

Caught in the act! Hey, it helps me be creative! (Screen capture from PC)

Once upon a time, I was able to find gainful employment writing very boring yet clearly understandable translations to normal English of computer geek jargonese. It was sort of like going from some obscure language from some remote corner of the world to a more commonly known language (English, Spanish, Mandarin, etc.). Often, these positions would be on a contract basis, that is, I’d sweep in, bestow my “genius” on them, and then sweep back out. Sort of like some tidal wave washing in a bunch of flotsam and then taking off and leaving it littering the beach. Ha! Actually, my efforts were more useful than that for the most part. I hope.

These days many companies have their computers set to block game playing on them. The amount of productive time wasted by employees on playing games, cruising the internet, and even online shopping is a big expense to companies and government agencies alike, so I guess it’s not surprising that such things get blocked by their Information Technology (IT) departments. Clever folks can figure ways to get around the blocks, though, and I did just that. Why? Because in my case playing a bit of Solitaire or Minesweeper helped me sort out issues and get a clearer perspective. Honest!

So one day I’m in my Dilbert-like cubicle and running a good game of solitaire while the latest issue of how to lay out the upgrade plan for the Marketing Department was working its way through my brain when along came the manager of the IT section I was assigned to and her second in command. (As they would say on Star Trek: Voyager, Captain Janeway and Number One had arrived.) Blushing ten shades of red, I quickly minimized the game and hoped they hadn’t seen. A quick slurp of tea from the cup at my side helped restore my equilibrium a bit.

How to explain my process to them? I didn’t bother. Most people don’t understand how the creative mind often works. We need stimuli and time to arrange and rearrange them mentally. Games can give us that rearrangement time we need. Whether writing articles like this one, creating jewelry designs,  painting still lifes, or writing poems, the creator needs that mental space that a game can provide for excelling at that creative endeavor. Of course, taking a break and steeping some tea works, too! Enjoy!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
― C.S. Lewis

The great works of literature are the ones that withstand the test of time. They have probably done so for a reason, but that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t stand some improvement – if I dare say so. Such as adding more tea. While tea is a topic the crops up now and then in great literary works, it’s rarely the focus of the story. If you’ve ever found yourself wishing such works were more tea-centric, here are a few suggestions.

A Christmas Carol
On Christmas Eve, four ghosts teach Scrooge, an elderly miser and tea merchant, who actually doesn’t like tea, that love and friendship are much more important than amassing a fortune. The ghosts reveal to Scrooge scenes from his past, present and future. After witnessing these scenes, Scrooge is a changed man and celebrates with an elaborate Christmas tea for each and every one.

Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad’s famous story concerns the journey of the narrator up the Congo River on behalf of a Belgian trading company. Far upriver, he encounters the mysterious Kurtz, a tea trader who exercises an almost godlike sway over the inhabitants of the region. Both repelled and fascinated by the man, Marlow is brought face to face with the corruption and despair that Conrad saw at the heart of human existence. In the end, however, Kurtz turns to be a very nice fellow and the latter part of the book chronicles the fascinating chats the pair have over many excellent cups of tea.

On The Road
A fictional telling of Jack Kerouac’s years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady. As Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience and most importantly – the perfect cup of tea.

Ulysses
James Joyce’s also fictional chronicle of a day in the life of Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, as they criss-cross Dublin on June 4, 1904, in search of…what else – the perfect cup of tea.

The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
Perhaps the most tragic tale in all of literature, Daniel DeFoe’s novel chronicles the adventures of the title character, who is shipwrecked on an island with no tea in sight. Read it if you dare.

Dracula
“I never drink…tea.”

Gone With the Wind
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn about anything but a good cup of tea.”

Moby Dick
“Call me Ishmael. If you want. Just don’t forget to call me when the tea is ready.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The other day (or month) hubby came home with an amazing book: Lord Peter: A Collection of All the Lord Peter Wimsey Stories by Dorothy L. Sayers. I pounced. Literally. Snatching the book from his hands I exclaimed “Lord Peter Wimsey! Where did you find this?” It had been donated to the local book drop and he had chanced to see it. Thinking immediately of me and my disappointment with a recent more modern mystery series (I won’t name the author here, but she’s pretty popular right now), he thought this might be better, despite not being familiar with the author. I knew her name immediately, though (thus the pounce). What a treasure! And what a great time to put the kettle on to steep some tea to enjoy while reading!

A good book, a shortbread cookie, and a tasty cuppa! That’s living! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A good book, a shortbread cookie, and a tasty cuppa! That’s living! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Sayers is one of three female British mystery authors I love. Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, and P.D. James have several things in common: they write/wrote world-renowned murder mysteries, are/were British, and look like they could/did bake up a nice batch of cookies…uh, I mean “biscuits” as they’re called in the UK. Their mysteries are hardly the soft-boiled grandmotherly kind. James is especially adept at creating visual images of victims in her novels. Sayers’ are a bit more toned down. In any event, these three rule the roost for British murder mysteries. At least as far as I’m concerned. Wimsey, Poirot, and D’Algliesh have their personal eccentricities, which seem to make them more adept at solving crimes. Humdrum folks seem too placid, too accepting of the obvious, too unable to “think outside the box.” A monocle, an excessively neat moustache, and a penchant for writing poetry aid each of these sleuthers in their sleuthing.

Dorothy L. Sayers – a cookie-baker if I ever saw one! (via Yahoo! Images)

Dorothy L. Sayers – a cookie-baker if I ever saw one! (via Yahoo! Images)

Maybe Sayers, Christie, and James thought up some of their plots while baking those cookies (biscuits). Maybe while waiting for the kettle to boil and the tea to steep. Whatever the case, it was certainly time well spent. And the novels and short stories also give us a view of British life during the time each author was writing (the career of each spanned decades).

The best thing is that they are all perfect tea time reading. Wimsey is especially so (quite whimsical, which might be why Sayers gave her character that name), guaranteed to keep you enthralled but not grossed out. So, put the kettle on, prep that teapot, and get ready for a lovely sitdown with Lord Peter Wimsey. Bunter, his man servant, will cater to your every whimsy as Wimsey solves one baffling case after another, each sure to leave you saying, “How clever! Another cuppa, Bunter.”

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The infusing of those magic leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush has been going on for a long time – over 5,000 years according to some historical records and archeological digs. They were not only capable of transforming water into a cup of flavorful aromatic liquid, but they brought folks together in a very social way. Long before social media sites like Twitter and long before there were hashtags, there were regular gatherings, tea ceremonies, and special occasions celebrated with tea. These very often took place in tea rooms. The original social media (as stated by the author of an inspiring article I saw online recently)!

The Tea Dance – very social! (From Yahoo! Images)

The Tea Dance – very social! (From Yahoo! Images)

An Historic Chinese Tea Room

The Heming Teahouse is part of the history and culture of China and remains a favorite with locals even now, serving only locally grown green teas that are made with hot water poured from special long-spouted copper pots. The Chinese game of mahjong, very popular also here in the U.S. these days, and open conversation (tea houses have always been one of the few places in China where people could speak freely, making them targets of shutdowns during times of unrest) are still ongoing in this teahouse that has been around well over a century. It has seen the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, a Cultural Revolution, and rioting in 1989. Chats while sipping tea were and are often their only way of exchanging opinions on life around them. No Twitter. No Facebook. This teahouse and others remain unchanged as the world around them changes faster and faster. And that is another aspect of their continuing appeal.

Tea Rooms Take Over Europe

Tea came to The Netherlands and France in the 1600s and shortly thereafter to England. But tea rooms didn’t begin their take-over as a social venue until the late 1880s. Tea was still too expensive for casual consumption until the early 1800s and having tea at home was considered more normal. People would also take turns hosting afternoon tea for their neighbors who would come to call and partake in the front parlor, set up especially to receive guests (see my article here).

As tea prices came down, however, a change occurred. Hotels began setting up special tea rooms and offering tea service there, usually in the late afternoon. It was a way to build up business by offering a social venue for many single and even married women to gather in a public place in a respectable manner. Elegance was the byword. Good manners and polite conversation were expected. But a bit of gossip, sharing of domestic information (servant problems, recipes, issues with the male elements of their lives, etc.), and even daring to discuss politics, foreign relations, and other matters about which they were not supposed to “worry their pretty little heads” were also spoken of. Again, no Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc., for such exchanges. Just lots of “face time.” Add in some dancing as men began attending these tea functions (hey, they go wherever female companionship can be found), and the social aspect was complete.

These days tea rooms dominate Europe, with France being a top country for such gathering places. The U.S. picked up on the trend at places like The Ritz in Boston and The Plaza in New York back in the late 1880s to early 1900s, but today the country lags behind in tea room numbers. People are too busy tweeting and skyping to sit still long enough for a nice cuppa and a chat.

You can still toss aside that laptop, iPhone, computer tablet, etc., and go to a physical tea room to enjoy the real thing. Time to get social!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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