The English novelist, Henry Fielding wrote “Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea". At first this Celtic attitude seems a far field from the Japanese sense of the tea ritual, but it isn’t as unlike as it first appears. Henry James said “Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” The pleasing aspects of these dedicated moments are more important to all persons of all nationalities and are more than just the chatter and gossip associated with them.
England is second only to China and Japan a propos the influence of tea on a country’s culture. The English regard the pleasures of tea as that which elevates us above the crude and rude. Afternoon tea, originally confined to the aristocracy, was a light, elegant little repast served between a light lunch and a late dinner. In today’s England it is said that at 4 o’clock in the afternoon everything stops while England has its tea.
Puttin' On the Ritz
Afternoon tea , in its formal English settings, unlike the simplicity of Japan, is resplendent with ceremony, beautiful linens, Staffordshire china and small tables set at the proper angle, laden with delicious sandwiches and scones, lemon tarts, devonshire cream and lemon curd. For generations, the epitome of the English tea has been served at the Ritz Hotel in London. It is the arbitor of English tea taste, serving tiers of dainty sandwiches, scones and delicate candies. One has to remember Winnie the Pooh’s words - that when having a smackeral of something with a friend, try not to eat so much that you get stuck in the doorway.
Although complete with more chatter and humor than the Japanese ceremony, we can all learn to view tea as a time to cherish the moment – to delight in old friends and to concentrate on what is, forgetting for a time what was and what will be For whatever reason you decide to have tea and for whatever way you decide to celebrate it - to spend a moment with a friend, a good book, or one’s self - taking tea is a time to transcend cliché and remains, in Pooh’s words, “A very good thing to do.
The Perfect Cup of Tea
...Use the best quality of tea you can find. The best teas contain more leaf and less stalk.
...Use a teapot and scald it by pouring in boiling water to warm it.
...Empty the hot water and place one teabag or one teaspoon for each cup and one for the pot.
...Add boiling water and allow tea to steep without stirring for three to five minutes.
...Remove tea after steeping without squeezing the bags.
...Pour hot tea from pot into the cup and enjoy.
...One can have a spot of milk in the cup when the tea is added, but never use cream. Cream is too fat for the delicate flavor of tea.
You may add milk, milk and sugar, or lemon to taste. And if you are anything like Pooh, and love your honey, serve it with any delicacy that pleases you Today's Wild Apple suggestion for the future!