Thursday, 29 September 2011

Time for a tea party?

Tea. Is any other drink so adept at being acceptable in all walks of life, at any time of day and in so many parts of the world? I'd venture to speculate that tea was the first hot drink ever made by man (or some form of tisane made from leaves, fruit or flowers and hot water). Most houses I know have some form of tea worship paraphernalia. This is my everyday form. A kettle, and several pieces of mismatched crockery, depending on my mood. I do love a cup of tea, especially taken in the company of friends.

The most basic method relies on me dunking the teabag straight into a mug, so bypassing the teapot altogether. We all have our most sluttish...and most stylish way of serving tea. The smartest tea pot I have is an inherited silver one, which I use just for the hell of it, when the fancy takes me.

But receptacles for tea can be very basic indeed. Here are some little clay cups, sometimes still used by tea sellers at railway stations in India. They are the best of throwaway cups, much more ecologically friendly than paper or plastic, and far more elegant.

I'm sure I have read somewhere (to my horror) that sales of tea in the UK are declining, and have been for a while. Coffee, that altogether more sophisticated beverage is in the ascendancy, and soon we poor Brits will have totally turned away from our so called national drink. I don't believe a word of it. Have you seen the tea section in most supermarkets recently?

Besides, a lot of our literature depends on it.

How would the dormouse have fared if the Mad Hatter had dipped it into a coffee pot, and then presumably depressed the plunger? Get rid of tea and you immediately lose one of our finest mealtimes. Rupert Brooke knew that in 1912. Honey for tea, tea and biscuits, tea and sympathy...You can bet your life that in the background of all the Streatfields, Nesbits, Blytons and Cromptons, long suffering parents or guardians were busy drinking a reviving cup, while their offspring got into ever more alarming scrapes.

I suppose all this is why I'm so offended that the words tea party have recently been usurped. A small part of me rages when those most agreeable words are put together to describe political values that are far from my own. To begin with I hoped that the label wouldn't stick, but with the Republicans in the US beginning the long road to choosing a candidate for president, it seems that tea party is going to be used used more and more frequently to describe a certain kind of republicanism. And do any of them even drink the stuff? Surely there must have been a more recent, all American tax event that could have been used, rather than objections to the tea act in 1773?

But I'm not going to react by stamping my foot and behaving badly. No. I'm going to boil the kettle, select an appropriate tea for my mood, and sit it out, preferably at a tea table in an English garden, wearing a hat, with some good friends. So spread the word. A tea party is not an offshoot of a foreign political party. It is a British institution, the most irritating aspect of which might be the occasional visit from a wasp. Reclaim the tea party and put it back where it belongs! Bring cup cakes if you must, but with the weather turning cooler, crumpets would be better. So fetch the cake stands, man the tea tables and repel all usurpers of our wonderful institution, the tea party.


catdownunder said...

I will put the kettle on... :-)

madwippitt said...

What about cream teas? Would be weird with coffee ...

(And I wouldn't get through the day without my mint tea)

Joan Lennon said...

Woman the barricades! (Or something)

Ms. Yingling said...

Tea drinking is a sad and lonely undertaking in the US. Also, it's almost impossible (or at any rate very expensive) to get anything but Maria biscuits. I wish I could come and join your tea party!

Penny Dolan said...

That empty chair is there for me! And nothing like a soothing solitary brew while reading a wonderful book or daydreaming about your plot.

Hmmm. A spot or two on a page doesn't matter but are kindles tea-proof?

Real tea definitely needs a real book!

adele said...

Hear! Hear, Cindy! Quite right too! Am going to have a nice cup of tea this pm and toast you and applaud this sentiment!

Lynda Waterhouse said...

My solitary badge before I was drummed out of the Brownies was for making tea. I still warm the pot even if I'm only chucking in a tea bag.A pot of tea - four words of comfort. But getting the colour/ strength of the brew right can be a challenge. My mother prefers what I call American Tan Tights colour and Frugal Husband like homeopathic tea - Water with the memory of tea.

Susan Price said...

Sorry to spoil things but, while sympathising politically, Cindy, I have to say - I can't stand tea! Always drink coffee (and chocolate occasionally.)
It's genetic. My aunt, back in the 1930s, absolutely detested tea and refused to drink it, and was considered a very strange child. But she took to coffee instantly, as soon as she was introduced to it by the Pole she later married. I take after her. The rest of my family drink tea by the pot-full and pull faces when offered coffee.