As a Brit growing up in Scotland I was raised on tea, of course. We always had a pot of tea, not with teabags, the real loose tea leaves put directly in the pot: “One teaspoon per person and one for the pot” was the correct amount to use. You warmed the pot first while the kettle was heating the water. Then, after the water boiled, you poured it into the teapot on top of the tea. Usually you filled the pot, because lots of people would be drinking tea, or at least several people would be having several cups of tea! After everyone had been poured their first cup, you added more water so there would be plenty for everyone to have a second cup. There was a tea cosy to put on the teapot to keep it warm. No-one ever complained about the tea getting cold.
We had teacups and saucers, not mugs. Best china for visitors; regular for just the family. Teacups with saucers were better than mugs really, as you could put your spoon on the saucer. There was also a sugar spoon in the sugar bowl for public use, and it never got wet by being used to stir the tea because everyone had their own spoon which they put back on their saucer. We had a little tea strainer that went on the cup to catch the leaves so they didn’t go in and mess up the tea. Oh, and we poured milk into the cup first, before the tea.
Tea was served on pretty much every occasion. When visitors came my mother would ask one of us to put the kettle on to make the tea. She’d be busy greeting them of course. The tray would be prepared ahead of time (if we knew they were coming) with the teapot, cups, milk, sugar, and plates for cake and biscuits, but the tea wouldn’t be made until they arrived. Then, as soon as they left she’d say, clean up and someone put the kettle on so we can all have tea! Fortunately we had enough cups so we didn’t actually have to wash cups to have more tea. Kind of like the Mad Hatters Tea Party, you just moved on to the next set of clean dishes!
When we got home from school the first thing was to put the kettle on for tea, and light the fire. We had electricity of course, but not central heating so we had a real fire in the fireplace in the living room. We loved it, but it took time for the fire to get going and warm the room, so we kept our coats on in the winter till we’d had our tea. The tea was nice and warm though.
I remember we used to bring a thermos flask of hot tea to the beach! If we went swimming it was really nice to drink tea afterwards to warm up. Yes, the North Sea tends to be a bit cold even in summer, and summer in Scotland is not that warm at the best of times, at least when I was a child. According to my aunt, my sister and I would stay in the water till we were shivering and our lips went blue, and then come out and drink hot tea in the beach hut. Good times!
Whenever there was something to celebrate we’d have some nice cake and a pot of tea, of course. I can’t imagine eating cake without a cup of tea. It never took much to decide we needed a “cuppa,” any excuse would do, although that didn’t apply to the cake! And when something bad happened, it was “let’s make a pot of tea, that’ll make us feel better.” True, it did. If someone had a really bad shock, like they fell out of a tree or something, tea with lots of milk and sugar was prescribed. Funny, I gave up using sugar in my tea in my student days, but if I feel really shocked about something I have some tea with sugar and it helps.
Now I live in the States and the summers are really hot, but I still enjoy my tea. Of course I drink iced tea here, but a cup of hot tea is always welcome too. It’s so refreshing even on a hot day! Tea is just so versatile, warms you up on a cold day and cools you off when it’s hot. Amazing! It’s the drink that’s good for all occasions. Who would have thought that the humble, “regular” black tea was so wonderful!
For more of my reflections on Tea, check out my blog Teas and Coffees.