Time for tea.
The British and tea are inseparable. 8 out of 10 people in Britain drink tea every day and Britain imports about 20% of all the world's tea. Tea makes up about half of all that a British person drinks. Tea has even played a part in British literature and history.
Do you remember the Mad Hatter's tea party in Alice in Wonderland? And there was the "Boston Tea Party" when a group of Americans threw a delivery of tea from the ships into the waters of Boston harbour because the ruling British government wanted to tax it. This particular tea party marks the beginning of the movement to make America independent.
Tea didn't come to Europe until 1610 and was introduced to Britain in 1657 by Catherine of Braganza, King Charles II's wife. But by the 1800s, the exotic drink became so popular that special ships ("clippers") were designed to bring it quickly from China.
Most people in Britain drink tea with black leaves although now herbal teas which do not contain caffeine are becoming more popular.
The taste of teas can be very different even if they are from the same farm and expert tea-tasters have to blend them to ensure that packets of tea which have the same label taste the same when you buy them in a shop.
The British are very fussy about how their tea is made. The teapot must be warmed before the tea is put in, the water must be boiling properly, the right quantity of tea — "one spoon for each person and one for the pot" — must be used and the tea must be brewed for three minutes. They see the drinking of tea as the opportunity to relax for a few minutes. It's also regarded as a great comforter. If you've just suffered a misfortune in Britain and you call on a friend, you're likely to be told, "Oh well, just sit down and I'll make you a nice cup of tea"!

Last Updated (Friday, 19 February 2010 16:10)