Everything stops for tea in Britain, or so it seems. The tea break is to our country what the siesta is to Spain. When us Brits need time out or are troubling over anything our first instinct is to put the kettle on. Tea is the national drink that gets us through the day. Without it we wouldn't have the dogged fighting spirit to win the 2nd World War, say some.
If the line 'Everything stops for tea' sounds familiar it comes from a wartime hit sung by Jack Buchanan from the film Come Out Of The Pantry that opens with:
Every nation in creation has its favourite drinkCapitalising on our fondness for the cuppa, one of Britain's leading tea brands, Yorkshire Tea, samples the hit in its current advertising campaign. To stir up national pride it crams in as many traditional English stereotypes as it can: a jolly brass band, cricket, ice-cream van, red arrows display tea and a village fete.
France is famous for its wine
It’s beer in Germany
Turkey has its coffee and they serve it blacker than ink
Russians go for vodka
And England loves its tea
Oh, the fact’ry may be roaring
With a Boom-a-lacka, Zoom-a-lacka, Whee!
But there isn’t any roar when the clock strikes four
Everything stops for tea!
Afternoon tea - modern style
|Fusing tradition with modern: Afternoon Tea at Coombe Abbey Hotel, near Coventry|
Spot the cut-off bread crusts (very English)
Out would come a pot of tea (kept warm by a knitted tea cosy if you were slightly common), your best bone china cups, served with dainty cucumber sandwiches (made from white bread with the crusts removed) and perhaps slices of fruit cake. But that caricature of quintessential Britishness has long gone.
In our homes and workplaces, tea breaks are common and have been with us for some 200 years. Our hectic pace of modern life dictates that these occur whenever we have the urge; usually mid morning or mid afternoon.
Taking tea is no longer a ritual we took pride in it once was but a habit (brought on by caffeine and Hobnob addiction).
How we drink our tea
Ninety six percent of Britons use a tea bag, 98% take tea with milk and just 30% add milk (according to the UK Tea & Infusions Association).
As for traditional afternoon tea all may not be lost. In some parts of high society it has always lingered on, enjoyed by grey-haired gentile middle/upper-class folk and tourists at the likes of London's Fortnum and Mason, London Ritz hotel and the Waldorf Hilton Hotel. But nationally, during the last 10 years or so, afternoon tea has seen a unexpected resurgence. Now in every town even the most humble of cafes is marketing the 'afternoon tea experience'.
Who would have thought it when coffee chains are colonising every high street up and down the land? For the rise of afternoon tea, we have the trend for all things vintage and the recent recession to thank.
Austeri-tea BritainAmidst a recession, dining out with a full-blown three-course meal has been a luxury we've had to cut back on. But us Brits not wishing to forgo our luxuries have taken to afternoon tea as an occasional treat. Afternoon tea is the comfort blanket, again as in wartime Britain, we reach for in times of austerity.
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