I must admit, being Italian, I never used to drink tea. I grew up on lattes, cappuccinos and as I got older, espressos and to be even fancier, espresso macchiato. But after a recent trip to London, I do have a newfound appreciation for tea - there really is an ‘experience’ to it all that I truly enjoy.
Taking tea is a quintessential British ritual and a tradition that dates back for centuries. Afternoon tea was introduced in the mid 1840’s by the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna, who often found herself hungry in the afternoon. Back then, there were only two meals in the day – breakfast and dinner. Her request was for a pot of tea and a small snack, thus introducing this ritual. As time went on, she would begin inviting friends to join her and the formality grew.
As an Italian, we have a wonderful expression called, la pausa (so does Chanel, but that’s another story). It’s a moment, where you slow down, take a breath and pause. With as many as 165 million cups of tea being drunk in a day, according to U.K. Tea and Infusions Association, I equate English ‘tea-time’ to “la pausa.” It’s a wonderful excuse to simply relax. As the saying goes, “tea fixes everything.”
Being a novice to tea, I was extremely fortunate to have been introduced to two amazing ‘tea’ experiences by my friend and tutor from The English Manner, William Hanson. The first of these experience was taking afternoon tea at The Goring Hotel (www.thegoring.com). The hotel is famous for being the Queen’s favourite hotel (a short car ride from Buckingham Palace). It’s also the hotel where the Duchess of Cambridge spent the night before her wedding in the royal suite. I mean, wow! If there is anywhere worth doing afternoon tea…this certainly makes the list.
The selection of teas offered at the Goring, were as sophisticated to me as what a wine list offered in Borolo would be to visitors in Piedmont. Accompanied with the tea was a gorgeous display of both savory and sweet items – a fine selection of fingers sandwiches, freshly baked, warm homemade scones with Devonshire clotted cream and jam (debate on that will be shared in another post!), cakes, bakes, fancies and tarts. Decadence at its finest.
The second ‘tea’ experience was visiting Fortnum and Mason (www.fortunumandmason.com) which is the ultimate tea buying destination in London. At first, I thought I was walking into a Tiffany’s boutique…that blue…swoon! I am a HUGE foodie at heart and this store did not disappoint! Whilst a tea-destination, one could find anything from jams, curds, marmalades, fresh foods, wine and spirits, teaware and accessories and so much more! It’s not a trip to London without a visit to F&M.
Fun Facts and Etiquette
Tea arrived in England 22 years after it was first introduced in Paris
Afternoon Tea – served between 2:00 – 5:00 (smaller, more delicate offerings)
High Tea – served between 5:00 – 7:00 (heavier and more substantial offerings) Scones – pronounced “skon” not “scOne” like tOne
Scone – broken with hands in half, never with a knife
Finger Sandwiches – eaten with fingers as it implies
Tea should be served in a tea cup and saucer not a mug
Always stir in a 6-12, 6-12 direction, never in a circular motion
Do not hit the tea spoon on the edge of the cup, simply shake it (slightly) and rest away from you.
Tea is full of antioxidants, a natural digestive, is slimming and gives you strong bones