The History of Tea

21768138_1711335315544913_7884217196139982769_n“May I have a word?” Is a question the English asked whenever a response was needed; when an enlightenment was forthcoming; when a warning was necessary;  when one’s idea was politely given.  Indeed this attention arresting question was rather a civilized way to invoke a time to meet, a time for tea.  In Mexico today we might politely ask “Te gustaria conocer para el te?” Just like in the past, both men and women like to gather to get to know one another in a private setting of beauty.  It is for this reason that an “Afternoon Tea” has been organized.  You may be surprised to learn that the genesis of a High Tea did not originate in England! The history of people meeting for the simple purpose of conversing freely while sipping tea actually astounded me.  There are many ideas about tea etiquette and the when and how tea was first made popular. The truth is that the fashion of drinking tea came to England in 1662.  73213472_2849586791719754_832582129043898368_nCharles the II of England was first exposed to the custom of drinking tea when he married Catherine of Braganza.  His wife Catherine enjoyed tea immensely as she grew up in Portugal sipping tea.  Her preferred beverage was served with scrumptious sweets.  When Catherine arrived in England to marry Charles II in 1662, she brought with her a casket of tea. She became known as England’s first tea-drinking queen.  In England she invited her female friends into her bedroom chamber to share tea, therefore, the initial custom of tea sipping women began within a lady’s  bedchamber.  The tea itself and the delicate pieces of porcelain for drinking tea were displayed in a special tea closet. Inventories of porcelain and tea during the 17th and 18th centuries were not stored in kitchens or dining rooms but in small private closets or boudoirs. In the 18th century it was custom for highborn ladies to receive male callers with their morning tea while wearing elaborate nightgowns and most comfortably in their private chambers.
21616220_1706222902722821_498807862019296220_n Tea and Coffeehouses became vastly popular in the 18th century and women were forbidden to enter them. Alas, the women of the day chose to meet in their bedchambers instead.  In 1675 members of the government attempted to persuade the king to suppress Coffeehouses as centers of sedition. The governing men were astonished that King Charles II canceled their petty petition.  The Coffeehouses remained open and were referred to as “penny universities,” in reference to the conversation they bred and the penny admittance fee.  Later, in the 18th century tea gardens became widely popular. The whole idea of the garden tea was to welcome ladies and gentlemen to take tea together outdoors surrounded by musical entertainers. Those lavish and beautiful tea times in the garden attracted everybody including Mozart and Handel. Tea gardens made ‘tea’ all the more fashionable to drink, plus they were important places for men and women to meet freely.  Today the world enjoys over 3,000 varieties of tea.  It is the most consumed beverage in the world after water. Tea can be divided into six basic categories: black, dark, oolong, green, and white. Interestingly, it wasn’t until about 1810 that a handle was applied to the Chinese tea bowl and thus the tea cup and saucer was born. Tea sets were cherished by their owners and passed down from mothers, grandmothers and aunts to their daughters and nieces. After World War I it became popular to collect just the cups.  The rich history with gents and ladies enjoying the social value of joining for Tea has nearly been forgotten.  My vote is to promote that this lovely tradition be revived with gusto!  Gents and Ladies let us mingle, giggle and sip together in the garden again.080Queen Catharine of Braganza made drinking of tea a fashionable event. The actual taking of tea in the afternoon developed into a new ‘social event’ in the late 1830’s and early 1840’s. Jane Austen hints of ‘afternoon tea’ as early as 1804.  It is said that the afternoon tea tradition was established by Anne, Duchess of Bedford. She requested that light sandwiches be served in the late afternoon. The Duchess then invited others to join her and the tradition was born.  Invitations went out and the response was shere delight! The first “Afternoon Tea” in Jalisco, Mx  will take place just as the coolness of Fall begins, we will toast our cups and share the tradition with glee in November.

Various Tea Times

  • Cream Tea — A simple tea consisting of scones, real cream, marmalade or lemon cakes, and tea.
  • Low Tea/Afternoon Tea — An afternoon meal including sandwiches, scones, real cream, 2-3 chocolates and tea. Known as “low tea” because guests were seated in low armchairs with low side-tables on which to place their cups and saucers.
  • Elevensies — Morning coffee hour in England
  • Royale Tea — A social tea served with champagne at the beginning.
  • High Tea — invites the idea of elegant splendidness.  Initially an evening meal most often enjoyed around 6 pm. Meat, potatoes as well as tea was served at High Tea and it was adopted by all social groups. Families with servants took high tea at 6pm on Sundays in order to allow the maids and butlers time to go to church. landscape-1459450178-mothers-day-tea-party-ideas30 plus were delighted to experience Tea in my humble, yet welcoming garden. It was an “Afternoon Tea” in San Nicolas de Ibarra, held on a perfect day just before the annual fair which celebrates Mexican artists across Jalisco. Young girls from the local orphanages squealed with excitement to participate as Hope bloomed for the days to come.  We celebrated the arrival of Fall, our victories and one another.

    Feria Maestros del Arte (click pics)

    Two young ladies from La Ola Orphanage joined Jessie, Eva and Dalia from Love in Action to dazzle the audience with their grace, beauty and poise.  Lucy surprised us all by bringing her infant baby also named Sophia. My neighbor Rosa Ena began employing our maid Lucy ever since the Tea Party.  Lorraine Powell, Deena from Dallas, Nancy Mattox, Donna Williams,  Trinity Dutro from the Hope House boys home, Claudia and her daughter, Minna and Marianne Carlson, the founder of the Feria with Daniel the Piano man from Panino’s entertaining us as Le Chef Tina catered.

6 thoughts on “The History of Tea

  1. Pingback: Bed and Breakfast | Living Abroad

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