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How Far Around the World Does the British Tea Influence Extend?

Tea with milk and some “biscuits” – that British influence is alive and well around the world. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
Tea with milk and some “biscuits” – that British influence is alive and well around the world. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

The British Empire, on which it was once said that the sun never set, is a thing of the past, but the British influence on tea drinking is still felt in many parts of the world. How far this extends is another matter.

Obviously, tea drinking is still very much alive and well in Britain, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. But other countries that adopted a British style of tea drinking (and accompanying that tea with various foods) still seem to have those customs today.

An example is Hong Kong where “tea” refers to a light meal served between 2 and 6 pm, a practice from the British when Hong Kong was under their jurisdiction. (Hong Kong was turned over to China’s jurisdiction on July 1st, 1997.) Foods served range from light meals and snacks consisting of sandwiches or toast, to more hearty fare with milk tea, coffee, Horlicks, Ovaltine, yuenyeung, lemon tea for Western style food, and Chinese tea for Chinese style food.

In the U.S., the term “high tea” causes a bit of confusion. Some took it to mean a fancy tea instead of the working class dinner that it usually is in the UK and other countries that follow a more British style of tea time. Plus many of us do not add milk into our tea, opting instead for sugar, lemon, or other flavorings.

Some other locations around the world that still serve British-style teas:

  • Japan – Since the 1980s, quite a few British-style tearooms have opened and serve traditional afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, and little cakes and pastries.
  • India – The hotels catering to what one article refers to as the “smarter set” serve Afternoon Tea that includes various delicacies and sweet snacks.
  • Sri Lanka – Many hotels off the same style of Afternoon Tea as found in those Indian hotels, while the locals have a treat called “hoppers” with their tea. Hoppers are pancakes made of rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, salt, and yeast. They are fried in a bowl-shaped pan so that they end up being bowl-shaped and are served with curries and spicy sauces.
  • Dubai – Enjoy a tea time that is the height of opulence, with a seven-course meal that is a wonderful combination of British and Asian influences. Large plates of such treats as fish cakes, savories, and sweets are passed around while you help yourself. And the tea just keeps flowing.
  • South Africa – Mount Nelson hotel in Cape Town has been serving one of the most legendary teas in the world almost since they opened in 1899. Cakes, salmon pastries, scones with clotted cream and jams, and tarts are just some of the treats that accompany those neverending pots of tea.
  • Singapore – Another classic hotel, Raffles, brings yet more class and elegance to tea time while maintaining that British flare. A range of teas, finger sandwiches and various pastries plus small chicken pies are standard fare.

Want to get in on the fun? Just steep up a pot of your favorite tea and serve it with some of your favorite treats. That British tea influence will work its magic!

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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