Whilst it has been UK coffee week all week, my favourite day had to be National Tea Day on the 21st. I can’t go a day without tea. It’s just so comforting and, unlike its stronger counterpart, can easily be enjoyed before bed.
A Brief History of Teatime
Although tea and coffee were both introduced into the UK in the seventeenth century, tea is the drink that is seen as being quintessentially British, mostly due to the practice of having afternoon tea. This tasty tradition was introduced by the Duchess of Bedford who got hungry long before the evening meal was ready at 8 pm. A few small sandwiches and cakes served with a good pot of tea quickly became the thing for society ladies to be taking in the drawing-room or on the terrace.
For many of us, afternoon tea is probably more like a biscuit with our brew these days. Either that or it is the alternative name for the evening meal, merely because of the time of day it is eaten. Dinner is much later.
We are, of course, newbies to tea drinking. The Chinese have long been proponents of tea drinking, with the first known book about tea drinking being produced in the eighth century BC. Yes, that is right. We’re talking twenty-eight centuries ago when Master Lu Yu of the Tang Dynasty wrote the ‘Cha Jing’, an instruction on the proper way to pick, serve and drink tea. Many of those traditions have survived to this tea, with the tea ceremony being a particular example of how this has lasted into the modern world.
Although the British ways may be different to those of the Chinese, one thing to agree on is that tea is a thing to be savoured.
Types of Tea
Whilst the traditional cup of British tea is rarely likely to be described as anything more than black (or favoured brand) there are many types of tea. I’d defy anyone to say they can’t find one they like. The types of tea are categorised based on the amount of processing they go through.
A delicate tea that is taken from the first two young leaves and then allowed to dry naturally in the sun. I’ve tried a Chinese white tea and found it to be a very enjoyable brew. I usually take a drop of milk in my tea as I mostly drink black but it was definitely enjoyable to drink without. If you want to reduce caffeine intake, this is a good option as it has a much lower caffeine content.
Green tea is steamed after picking the younger leaves rather than being allowed to dry and can vary in taste. I’ve tried a few and I’m not keen on most as many can be bitter but there are some out there that have a lovely smooth taste.
Is somewhere between green and black, and processed similarly to black tea, but with a lesser amount of oxidisation. It’s also known as blue tea, but disappointingly doesn’t look blue. I think that would be pretty cool.
Definitely a western world favourite with the most amount of oxidization through rolling to bring out the deepest flavours. The leaves chosen are the more mature leaves. Most of what we find in the shops in our supermarket brands is Assam tea from India but there are others from China and Sri Lanka that are worth grabbing a cup of. Ceylon Orange Pekoe is one that comes to mind.
This is a fermented and aged tea and stored as cakes (Lu Yu would approve). This isn’t one I’ve tasted so I’m going to be on the look out for a taster option.
There are many other types of tea, such as herbal and fruit infusions, but these are the five true teas. Some of these teas may also be infused with fruit or herbs, such as Earl Grey, a black tea infused with bergamot, or Jasmine tea, a green tea infused with jasmine blossoms during the drying process.
If you’re looking to try different teas, then you will usually find a taster set on most sites that sell tea. I can recommend this one from UK site Leaf.
Subscribe to receive updates on new posts.
Health Benefits of Tea
There are lots of reported health benefits of tea with green tea, in particular, said to be most beneficial. With numerous studies done on the benefits of green tea if you’re looking to lower cholesterol, fight diseases and burn fat, green tea is your best option. However, all pure teas have some kind of anti-oxidant properties.
At the end of the day, I just drink it for the pleasure and anything can be bad if you overdo it. You can find out more about the benefits at the links below.
Music About Tea
Talking of pleasure, it’s amazing how many songs there are about tea and they cover a range of music genres. From pleasant little ditties like ‘Tea for Two’ by Doris Day to bluesy ‘Tea for One’ by Led Zeppelin and on to the macabre ‘Tea’ by King Diamond. Like steampunk style? Emilie Autumn has you covered with ‘Time for Tea’. Ska more your thing? Madness also decided it was ‘Time for Tea’. If you’re fancying a good hot cup of tea with a reggae twist, go for The Police’s “Tea in the Sahara’. However, today’s earworm is ‘Afternoon Tea’ by the Kinks, because who can resist afternoon tea and a bit of sixties rock?
As I have used a few different sources for this post, it only seems fair to credit them for their work so here’s where you can find out more:
- The history of afternoon tea – a great British tradition (historic-uk.com)
- Types of Teas and Their Health Benefits (webmd.com)
- Guide to tea types – BBC Good Food
- 27 Types of Tea: Profiles, Potential Benefits, Side Effects (nutritionadvance.com)
- A Guide to Tea Types | Tea Tips | Whittard’s Wisdom | Whittard of Chelsea
Whether you choose black or green, tea bags or loose leaf, pure tea or herbal infusions, tea can bring calm and simplicity. Could tea be the answer to everything? Feeling
Think coffee, think frenzy. Think tea, think calm. Feeling stressed? Have a cup of tea. Feeling hot? Have a cup of tea. Feeling thirsty? Have a cup of tea. Got a problem? Talk it over whilst drinking tea. Yes. I’m glad I have tea in my life.
Take time to savour a cup and enjoy the simple things in life.
Are you a tea drinker or do you prefer coffee? What’s your favourite tea? What would convert you to being a tea drinker? Share in the comments below.
If you liked this post, let me know by hitting the like button, sharing on your favourite social site or signing up to receive an alert about the next post by clicking here.
Until next time, remember, if the excess baggage is weighing you down, you can always leave it in lost luggage.