Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tea Time with Bob
Tea time is an English tradition. In preparation for any future visits to Britain, I decided to have high tea at The White House in Waterdown, Ontario. I probably should have worn something a little more fancy but I still felt like a very sophisticated rubber chicken.
Most people think that the custom of tea time came from Britain but it really began in France. People were drinking tea in Paris in 1636…that’s 22 years before it arrived in England! Tea quickly became a big hit with the rich French people. As a matter of fact, it was the French who started adding milk to their tea.
Before tea came to Britain, the English only had two main meals a day; breakfast and dinner. Dinner was eaten in the middle of the day, often with a glass of ale.
Over time, the upper and middle class moved dinner to the evening when they would eat lots and lots of food over an hour or two. They felt it was more fashionable to eat at the end of the day.
Like many people of that time, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting, named Anna, The Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861) found that she was really hungry by 4pm. She would have her servants sneak her a pot of tea and some nibbles to tide her over until dinner.
Soon she started inviting her hungry friends over to her rooms at 5pm for small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, sweets and tea. She would send them cards inviting them to come for “tea and a walking in the fields.” Other social hostesses caught on to this trend and that’s how the custom of afternoon tea began.
Personally, I find the whole tea time, dinner time, breakfast time, lunch time thing rather confusing. Things would be so much easier if people were like chickens and pecked pieces of grain off the ground whenever they felt like it.