Tea, And the English - by Muriel Wells
Banburyshire Family History

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and the English

Hi Everyone,

Carole asked why tea should be associated with the English?
And Dawn says that she has no idea!

We---e--e--e--ll, it is like this-------

We must realise that the world has changed so very much over the years and this was markedly accelerated in the 20thcentury.

Now think back to a time when travel wasn't extensive or rapid. When village communities or suburbs were tight little entities. Exotic imports were few and far between and certainly beyond the means of most of the working class. Foodstuff was limited to the basics, and with these the housewife produced the meals; according to her skills.

The kettle was on the hob, simmering, or slung over the fire in the coalrange. The beverage was TEA in most households; that is, apart from beer fetched in a jug from the "Outdoor Beershop" or partaken at the local pub. ( All too often the household finances were severely depleted by this). More often, though, the womenfolk were sustained during their hard working days by a cup of tea.

Harken back to tales of the war told by soldiers. What did they do as soon as things quietened down? Why they brewed up some tea! What sustained the firewatchers and ARP workers during their duties during a raid? Why, tea of course! Mobile vans toured the devastated areas serving tea and sandwiches to the rescue workers and injured, alike.

We who are older can hardly recall those times now, with our shops and supermarkets full of produce from all over the world. Our cuisine has adopted an international flavour. Varieties and types of coffee, affordable wines from everywhere, Mediterranean, Spanish, Mexican, Indian, Thai dishes. You name them and they will be there!

Gone are the days of "meat and two veg.", a pudding and a cup of tea to follow. That was still the norm in working class cafes when I was at Training College circa 1950. I broke my journey at Putney Bridge Station, and dined at the little cafe over the road on such a menu---and all for 2 shillings and sixpence. And it was very good!

When I came to NZ in 1960 the fare was similarly very limited. Most cafes served roast meat, (usually lamb or hogget*), with vegetables. Or being an island nation, delicious fish and chips with a (small) salad. Tea was offered as the drink. The contrast could not be more marked, today.

We have got used to variety of both choice and preparation, and to choose our beverages from a wide selection. No wonder you younger ladies were mystified about tea and the English!

But old "mores" die hard, and it will be awhile before the image of Britain as a tea-drinking nation dies out.

Have you noticed the different terms used? I discovered this when mingling with students from all over England. Some "made" tea, some "brewed" it and in my Midlands home area, we "mashed" it! There were differing terms for all sorts of things! It was fascinating --- we virtually became multi-lingual!

Time to step off my soapbox, now.

Muriel, NZ

PS. *"Hogget" is teenage sheep! Nicer than mutton, and of course, dearer!

Contributed by Muriel Wells