Thursday, September 08, 2011

British Bites: Tea Time!

I can't get very far with my idea of commenting on English food without addressing the most persistent British stereotype: the preoccupation with tea.  While this isn't strictly a food, it is nevertheless a crucial element of English dietary practices.

As far as I have observed, this hackneyed cultural assumption is full of truth.  I often find that English people are obsessed with tea and manage consumption of it at any time of the day while engaging in any number of activities.  They drink it with breakfast, with biscuits, on its own.  Anytime can be tea time!

One of my university tutors from the past year is undoubtedly addicted to this caffeinated hot beverage.  'I have to have a cup of tea every hour or I start twitching.'  I heard these words from her on more than one occasion.  Imagine my delight when she took a break halfway through my first seminar to boil the kettle and offer a steaming mug of tea to each of the students.  She even had milk and sugar on hand in her office.  Every week followed the same pattern: chat about the specified text, break to put on the kettle, more chatting while we sipped on our tea.  It was wonderful!

 The tea-aholic

I've had other tutors offer tea in seminars but only occasionally.  To be honest it's never quite as good.  Nobody makes tea like the tea-aholic.  (I thought about labelling her a tea-ophile, but this sounds very much like pedophile which would be weird). 

I must confess that this English fixation is contagious.  While I previously disliked tea -- and still maintain a firm distaste for coffee -- I have slowly come around to the idea during the years I've spent here.  Now I enjoy drinking a mug of tea on a cold night while reading a book or watching a movie at home.  As we get further into September those evenings are becoming more frequent.

If you stay in England for long you may find yourself leaving with a supply of Earl Grey.  Consider yourself warned. 

Curling up with a cuppa

P.S.  The image at the top of this post is a 1727 painting: 'A Family of Three at Tea' by Richard Collins (via the Victoria and Albert Museum).  More totally amazing stuff can be found on the museum's website.

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