Fall makes me think of many things. Apple pie, sweaters, pumpkins, leaves turning different shades, fireplaces, books, tea and school. While I miss school and I have pumpkins and leaves all over my house, I want to write today about tea, well, teatime that is. I have several tea influences in my life. My sister Melissa is my best friend and teatime-partner-in-crime. She loves tea and, because I look up to her like a little sister should, I love tea too. Actually, we are passionate about tea. The second person I would attribute to my thriving tea passion would be the mother of my life-long friend; her name is Geri. She has been a second mom to me and now to my husband as he finds himself living thousands of miles away from his own momma. Long story short, everyday when I came into Geri's house to pick her daughters up for school she had tea ready for me because she knew I would have to wait a few minutes for them to get out the door. For Geri, tea was a way to connect with me; she provided love, affection and consolation through her teapot. When I got married, one of the first questions Geri asked was, "Are you getting your teapot and creamer set?" I told her I had registered for the one I wanted but that the pot was out of stock. She hunted around, found me a complete set and made me a tea-cozy to set over the top of my pot while it's brewing. I use it everyday. My third tea influence is
Steve Smith, well really it's my dad bragging on his friend Steve all the time that kindled my tea-flame. Steve is a longtime friend of my fathers and has created three tea lines in his life: Stash Tea, Tazo Tea, and Steven Smith Teamaker. Steve was always gifting our household with tea aplenty and my dad was always praising his entrepreneurship. Good work Steve! So now that you know where my passion for tea comes from, I can tell you about the history of teatime.
Teatime, or afternoon tea as it is called by many, is observed in many British-influenced countries between three and five o'clock in the afternoon. Although, I would encourage you to learn about the traditional tea ceremonies that many other countries have. For this post I am just going to talk about how it is traditionally observed in the United Kingdom.
Tea drinking found its way to English Royalty in 1662 when Charles II married a Portuguese woman named Catherine. Wisely, Catherine had brought a small supply of tealeaves with her from Portugal to brew for those around her. Tea caught on at this point as an upperclass commodity. Teatime originated with the elite as an opportunity for women to host, those whom they desired, in their personal parlors, to have a break from daily duties and relax. The preparation of the drink for teatime was a careful process done solely by the hostess, because tea was a precious item to a family. An empty teapot was used; scoops of loose leaf tea were added, then it was filled with hot water and allowed to steep. After the appropriate time, the leaves were removed and the tea was served in small teacups with cream and sugar. Teacakes, finger sandwiches and scones were served alongside the beverage as an afternoon pick-me-up.
The nostalgia of teatime, for me, blossoms in the picture I painted above about fall and the warmth of a home, welcoming you to enjoy a cup of tea and comfort. Who wouldn't like to take some time every afternoon to sit with a few close friends for good conversation, a cup of tea, and some snacks? Think about your daily life, what are you usually doing between 3 pm and 5 pm everyday? Most days I am doing three things: driving home from work, trying to shake off the afternoon sleepies, and deciding what is for dinner that night. Seriously, those who observe teatime are wise. On the days I have off from work, I often find my way to my sister's living room, or tea parlor as I may have to call it now, to indulge in some healthy afternoon teatime. During this break, which conveniently coincides with her children's nap time, we can discuss life issues, plan meals, or just chatter at each other like we do best. Teatime is bonding time for me and the women I get to share it with; it is our red tent, our connection point, our refreshing hour before the chaos of life consumes us once again. I encourage you to observe teatime twice this week and see it changes the pace of your evening.
Pettigrew, Jane (2004) Afternoon Tea. Andover: Jarrold.