Putting the “British” into a British Product

PG Tips — still very British! (ETS image)
PG Tips — still very British! (ETS image)

The U.S. is thought of as a melting pot of cultures, but they are not alone in this worldwide, at least not in recent years. Great Britain influenced so much of the world and was in turn influenced by it, and so qualifies as a melting pot. Tea, foods, spices, and much more from the “far corners of the world” join together there. So, what we think of as “British” may not even be from Britain. This is even more so in a world where many manufacturers in Britain, the U.S., Europe, etc., have migrated their manufacturing facilities, most notably to China and other Asian countries. The Barbour waxed cotton jacket line is an example. So, how do you put the “British” into a British product under these circumstances?

First and foremost, being “British” is somewhat of a state of mind, a certain way of seeing the world and certain cultural preferences. Watching football (soccer in the U.S.), having tea time on a fairly regular basis (at our house, that means about five times a day), traveling to England at least once in your lifetime and visiting the key national landmarks like Buckingham Palace and a tea room or two, celebrating certain holidays common in Britain (like Boxing Day), and having British commemoratives around the house, including wall posters — these are all indicators that you definitely have that “British” state of mind.

Wanting to have true “British” products around is part of this mindset. These days, though, what this means is more a matter of history and association. Ceramic teapots and the Brown Betty earthenware teapot along with quilted cozies, bone china, and certain brands all reinforce that “British” state of mind. PG Tips remains a top British tea brand even though they, along with a top American brand tea, are now owned by Unilever and no longer “manufactured” in Britain. The fact that PG Tips still steeps up a cuppa that suits the British palate shows that something doesn’t have to be made in Britain to be “British.”

In the heyday of British pottery making the factories at Stoke-on-Trent and elsewhere were alive with workers mixing and shaping the clays into teawares and dishes and other items, glazing and firing them, and finally decorating them. Those days have waned as labor costs have soared and production was moved offshore. It doesn’t stop those teapots seeming “British” as they are steeping the Typhoo, PG Tips, Taylors of Harrogate, and other popular British tea brands. Ditto for other traditionally British items now made outside of the UK. Adhering to the traditional styles and production standards as much as practically can be is the key here.

Of course, throwing in some British phrases like “I’ll knock you up in the morning” and “Fine weather we’re having for this time of year” can’t hurt.


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

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