Tea was forbiden to the young Princess Victoria. Her governess refused her to take tea at all. When she became Queen in 1837, one of the first things she did was to order a cup of tea.
Before tea came to England, they had only two meals, breakfast an dinner. With the introduction of tea, it debates arose. The Clergy was convinced it must be a sin since it came from a heathen country. Doctors opinioned it was undoubtedly unhealthy, which gave the government an excuse to tax it to the tune of 5 shillings a pound on dry leaf in 1689, causing prices to soar. Brewers were afraid it would replace ale as a breakfast drink.
In 1717 Thomas Twining turned his coffee house into a tea shop. A lady would never enter a coffee house, but ladies flocked to the new tea room. There ladies were permitted to go with or without the constant chaperones. The high price of tea was still a problem. Only the aristocracy could aford the high prices. In 1784 Richard Twining, chairman of the tea dealers' guild, persuaded the government to reduce the import tax on tea, making it much more affordable to the masses and making it the drink of choice of Britian.
The first tea is credited to Anna, the 7th Dutchess of Bedford, who instituded the afternoon tea early in the 19th century when she decided to take tea to asuage the hunger of afternoon between lunch and dinner. Soon she was inviting friends to join her for her tea, around 4:00 or 5:00, and served a light luncheon of tea, sandwiches, small cakes and sweets.
In time, the afternoon teas became more elaboate, as did the tea service. Ladies doned their finest gowns for daytime wear, traveled by carriage to friends homes, to dine on an aray of light refreshments and discuss the topics of the day. Tea services grew to encompas cake stands, side plates,
butter plates, spoon rests, serving plates, and container imaginable. Of course, one had to have the right container for each different food! Local custom decreed when the tea actually started, anywhere from 4 till 5. So important was the social implications of tea, etiquette books were full of advice on everything from how to remove the spoon to propper conversation topics.
Afternoon tea became so popular, soon Tea Gardens popped up everywhere. The Tea garden was one of the few places ladies could enter a mixed gathering in public without criticism. It was one place where people from all social classeswere welcome. It is said that Lord Nelson, who defeated Napoleon at sea, met his wife, Emma, at a tea garden. The Tea Gardens were open air resturants where ladies and gentlement could walk along flowered walkways with lovely floral entwined arbours. Many had bowling greens, concerts, gambling, concerts, and fireworks.
Tables in Tea Gardens were often well away from the kitchen, and oftenthe tea was cold by the time it reached some tables. Small locked boxes were placed on tables in the Gardens. Inscribed on each box were the letters T.I.P.S. which stood for "To Insure Prompt Service". If patrons wished their waiter to hurry, insuring their tea would be hot, they dropped a coin into the box.
Because tea was such a dear comodity, early tea pots were extremely small. As it became cheaper, pots became larger. Elaborate tea caddies were made and were kept under lock and key. They had two compartments, one for green tea, and one for black. Sugar, another expensive item, was often kept there also where it could be safely locked up. Ladies of the house usually kept the key to the tea caddy on their belt, on a chatelain. It was an expensive treat only offered to the most important visitors..
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