You Can Have Your Tea and Enjoy It, Too.

Tea has been a part of my life since childhood. Between being born into an Armenian family and spending my formative years in London, I was surrounded at an early age by dried leaves of splendor. A cuppa (or cupper) was the beverage of choice when my Mum’s friends dropped by for a quick visit. Likewise, we were served tea when we went visiting. I don’t think I can recall anyone ever saying, “No, thank you. I’ll have a coffee instead.” That, in the pre-Starbucks England of the ’70s to mid ’80s was unheard of.

Tea was everywhere. We saw it on the telly on adverts (commercials) and shows, such as EastEnders. The PG Tips monkeys were very popular and the company ran a long campaign with them (1956-2002). You couldn’t get away from the stuff, not that you’d want to, and drinking tea was as much a part of the day’s activities as breathing. 

 

Of course, there was tea time (otherwise known as afternoon tea) and high tea. We would come home from school and our Mum had tea and iced buns or Bakewell tarts waiting for us. We’d slip out of our school uniforms into our comfort clothes, and enjoy the tea as its steam warmed our hands, cheeks, and noses. That was our tea time, usually around 4 p.m., and we held to it for all our England school days. Cream_Tea

Every now and then, we’d have high tea, which is distinguished as more of a meal, something like supper. For high tea, we would have sandwiches, perhaps some fish and vegetables, and, of course, tea with the cosy on the teapot. For us, tea time was almost a daily occurrence; whereas, high tea was occasional. I remember both very fondly.

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Maybe J.R. is enjoying a Long Island Iced Tea?

Less tasty was my first venture with iced tea. My younger sister and I made it on a whim, after viewing an American evening soap opera, perhaps Dallas or Dynasty. In any case, we knew iced tea was an American phenomenon and, thus, it had the allure of glamour. There we were in our kitchen, measuring the water, dropping in the teabag, waiting for it to cool, and adding in a few ice cubes. Maybe we didn’t brew it correctly, or, more likely, our taste buds weren’t used to it, but we were disgusted at the first sip. Everything about it seemed wrong–from pouring tea into a glass instead of a cup or mug to watching the ice cubes bob away. We couldn’t understand how Americans could suffer the stuff. We thought they were as nutty as their behavior on the soap operas indicated. Many years later, I’ve grown to love iced tea and it is my cold (non-alcoholic) beverage of choice.

Nostalgia aside, I like the associations that tea carries with it. Coffee has a place in my household, and its aroma is delicious. However, I find that coffee is almost always linked with caffeine addiction and getting through a tedious workday.

Tea tends to have more positive connotations.

Tea is healthy. When was the last time you heard anyone state, “Yeah, the doctor said I had to give up tea”? Probably never. Tea has proven medicinal benefits, such as protection against heart disease and types of cancer. My Mum would serve us mint tea when our stomachs hurt, and, many years later to this day, the smell of mint tea conjures the same loving feeling that I felt as a child. Beyond my Mum’s herbal remedies is scientific proof in Dr. Oz’s article about the benefits of tea. In fact, “there doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman, Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD. You can read more about the types of teas and their health benefits here.

Another wonderful attribute is that tea is communal and comforting. You offer a cup of tea to soothe shaken nerves or for warmth. People ponder and reflect and commiserate while having a cup. Even young children play tea party, where they mimic the hospitality of serving and sharing tea. Within many countries (China, Japan, India, Afghanistan, for example), the sharing of tea is ritualized. Some rituals are for more formal occasions, such as the Chinese wedding tea ceremony, and others are honor-bound, such as the offering of tea to guests. People share it, and that’s one of the many things that makes tea so lovely.  

Finally, tea has quite the association with another of my favorite subjects, literature. Esteemed writer C.S. Lewis is quoted as having said,”You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  Henry James, acclaimed American author, stated, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” I couldn’t agree more.
Check out this flavorwire article on 25 famous tea drinkers. Most of them are authors, and there’re some musicians and actors in the blend. I especially like Morrissey’s take on tea: “One day I decided to try to have a complete day without tea. I was quite shaken. I was quite disturbed.” I know what you mean, mate! I can’t go a day without a good cup of Earl Grey, Darjeeling, or Irish Breakfast.
So, whether you are of the likes of the Downton Abbey staff or of the Countess Dowager’s ilk, whether you add cream, sugar, lemon, or leave it be, you can have your tea and enjoy it, too.
Downton Abbey staff Dowager Countess
Photos from Google Images.

Men Who Secretly Love Downton Abbey

I greatly enjoy Downton Abbey. The drama, the  formalities, the tea, the fancy clothes, and snarky, witty remarks. Love it. All of it. And, I’m not afraid to admit it. So, here’s the curious thing. I have two male friends who watch the show, but won’t admit it widely. Only a couple of us fellow viewers who have been sworn to secrecy know that they watch it. That’s right, it’s all very hush-hush, just like Edna’s affair with Branson.

“Why the secrecy? ” you ask in incredulous tones. “What could possibly compel them from participating in such rich water-cooler discussions?”

Friend #1 believes that his wider circle of sports-loving, beer-drinking friends will taunt him. (And knowing those guys, he’s probably right.) He can’t bear the idea of such humiliation and its resulting loss of respect. So, he chooses to watch by his lonesome and discuss Lady Mary’s frosty demeanor, Carson and Mrs. Hughes’ unrequited love, and Thomas’ schemings behind closed doors with his chosen few.

Friend #2 is sure that Downton Abbey falls in the same category of “Anglophile pretentiousness” as Dr. Who and Sherlock. That is, Americans who watch these are a bunch of wannabes who quote these shows to demonstrate just how very clever they are. His wife watches, so, of course, he must helplessly watch along with her. Problem is, he really digs Downton Abbey. He just can’t admit it openly because he’s spent so much time dissing it and the people who watch it.

This leads me to the biggest and most important question of all:

Where can I get this dress?! Because it is simply stunning!!!

lady-edith-in-green

Seriously, if you have info on where I can purchase a version of it, let me know!

Okay, back to the topic at hand. I think it’s too bad these dudes are too scared or ashamed to admit they watch and love Downton Abbey. Haven’t we yet  gotten to a place in the good ol’ USA where red-blooded men can hunker down on the couch and turn on the TV to enjoy the love-lives and financial issues of English folks in the 1920s? Are we really so very narrow minded, people?

Should these very manly men come out of the drawing room and admit they watch Masterpiece Theater? Or must they hide forever in the stables like a scullery maid waiting for her tryst with the footman?

Do you know of any closet DA viewers?