of Tea Time
Prior to the introduction of tea into Britain, the English had two main meals, breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was ale, bread, and beef. During the middle of the eighteenth century, dinner for the upper and middle classes had shifted from noontime to an evening meal that was served at a fashionable late hour. Dinner was a long, massive meal at the end of the day.
Afternoon tea may have been started by the French. According to the monthly newsletter called TeaMuse, in the writings of Madame de Sévigné (1626 to 1696), one of history's greatest letter writers on life in 17th Century France:
It's a little known fact, but after its introduction to Europe in the 17th century tea was tremendously popular in France. It first arrived in Paris in 1636 (22 years before it appeared in England!) and quickly became popular among the aristocracy. . . Tea was so popular in Paris that Madame de Sévigné, who chronicled the doings of the Sun King and his cronies in a famous series of gossipy letters to her daughter, often found herself mentioning tea. "Saw the Princesse de Tarente [de Sévigné wrote]... who takes 12 cups of tea every day... which, she says, cures all her ills. She assured me that Monsieur de Landgrave drank 40 cups every morning. 'But Madame, perhaps it is really only 30 or so.' 'No, 40. He was dying, and it brought him back to life before our eyes.' . . . Madame de Sévigné also reported that it was a Frenchwoman, the Marquise de la Sablière, who initiated the fashion of adding milk to tea. "Madame de la Sablière took her tea with milk, as she told me the other day, because it was to her taste." (By the way, the English delighted in this "French touch" and immediately adopted it.)
1600 - Queen Elizabeth l (1533-1603) granted permission for the charter of the British East India Company (1600-1858), also known as the John Company, on December 31, 1600 to establish trade routes, ports, and trading relationships with the Far East, Southeast Asia, and India. Trade in spices was its original focus, but later traded in cottons, silks, indigo, saltpeter, and tea. Due to political and other factors, the tea trade didn't begin until the late 1670s.
1662 - King Charles II (1630-1685) while in exile, married the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza (16381705). Catherine's dowry was the largest ever registered in world history. Portugal gave to England two million golden crusados, Tangier and Morocco in North Africa, Bombay in India, and also permission for the British to use all the ports in the Portuguese colonies in Africa, Asia and the Americas, thus giving England their first direct trading rights to tea.
As Charles had grown up in the Dutch capital, both he and his Portuguese bride were confirmed tea drinkers. When the monarchy was re-established, they brought this foreign tea tradition to England with them. Her influence made tea more popular amongst the wealthier classes of society, as whatever the royals did, everyone else wanted to copy. Soon tea mania spread swept across England, and it became the beverage of choice in English high society, replacing ale as the national drink.
The reign of Charles II was crucial in laying the foundations for the growth of the British tea trade. The East India Company was highly favored by Charles II. Charles confirmed its monopoly, and also extended it to give the Company unprecedented powers to occupy by military force places with which they wished to trade (so long as the people there were not Christians).
1663 - The poet and politician Edmund Waller (1606-1687) wrote a poem in honor of Queen Catherine for her birthday crediting her with making tea a fashionable drink amongst courtiers:
Venus her Myrtle, Phoebus has his bays;
Tea both excels, which she vouchsafes to praise.
The best of Queens, the best of herbs, we owe
To that bold nation which the way did show
To the fair region where the sun doth rise,
Whose rich productions we so justly prize.
The Muse's friend, tea does our fancy aid,
Regress those vapours which the head invade,
And keep the palace of the soul serene,
Fit on her birthday to salute the Queen
By 1700, tea was on sale by more than 500 coffee houses in London. Tea drinking became even more popular when Queen Anne (16651714) chose tea over ale as her regular breakfast drink. Anne's character was once portrayed as a tea-drinking, social nonentity with lesbian tendencies.
During the second half of the Victorian Period, known as the Industrial Revolution, working families would return home tired and exhausted. The table would be set with any manner of meats, bread, butter, pickles, cheese and of course tea. None of the dainty finger sandwiches, scones and pastries of afternoon tea would have been on the menu. Because it was eaten at a high, dining table rather than the low tea tables, it was termed "high" tea.
According to legend, one of Queen Victoria's (1819-1901) ladies-in-waiting, Anna Maria Stanhope (1783-1857), known as the Duchess of Bedford, is credited as the creator of afternoon teatime. Because the noon meal had become skimpier, the Duchess suffered from "a sinking feeling" at about four o'clock in the afternoon.
At first the Duchess had her servants sneak her a pot of tea and a few breadstuffs. Adopting the European tea service format, she invited friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o'clock in her rooms at Belvoir Castle. The menu centered around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea. This summer practice proved so popular, the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for "tea and a walking the fields." The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses.
In order for one not to spill the hot liquid onto oneself, the proper way to hold the vessel of a cup with no handle is to place one's thumb at the six o'clock position and one's index and middle fingers at the twelve o'clock position, while gently raising one's pinkie up for balance.
Tea cups with a handle are held by placing one's fingers to the front and back of the handle with one's pinkie up again allows balance. Pinkie up does mean straight up in the air, but slightly tilted. It is not an affectation, but a graceful way to avoid spills. Never loop your fingers through the handle, nor grasp the vessel bowl with the palm of your hand.
Do not stir your tea, with your tea spoon, in sweeping circular motions. Place your tea spoon at the six o'clock position and softly fold the liquid towards the twelve o'clock position two or three times. Never leave your tea spoon in your tea cup. When not in use, place your tea spoon on the right side of the tea saucer. Never wave or hold your tea cup in the air. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer. If you are at a buffet tea hold the tea saucer in your lap with your left hand and hold the tea cup in your right hand. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer and hold in your lap. The only time a saucer is raised together with the teacup is when one is at a standing reception.
Milk is served with tea, not cream. Cream is too heavy and masks the taste of the tea. Although some pour their milk in the cup first, it is probably better to pour the milk in the tea after it is in the cup in order to get the correct amount.
When serving lemon with tea, lemon slices are preferable, not wedges. Either provide a small fork or lemon fork for your guests, or have the tea server can neatly place a slice in the tea cup after the tea has been poured. Be sure never to add lemon with milk since the lemon's citric acid will cause the proteins in the milk to curdle.
From Sean Paajanen
If you've decided to take the next step in getting fresh coffee each morning, you'll be in the market for a good grinder for your coffee beans. Don't grab the first cheap grinder you find. Learn about grinders before making your choice.
Blade or Burr
There are 2 basic types of coffee grinder, ones with metal blades and ones with burrs. The blade style grinders are usually cheaper, but will allow much less control over your fineness levels. Understanding the differences can help you make your choice.
How much control do you want to have over the fineness of your finished ground coffee? If you always use one particular brewing method, then you may not need much range for your grinder. But anyone who likes to experiment with different brewing styles will also want to be able to grind their coffee to different coarseness levels. Some machines offer no specific control, and you just have to judge by eye when your grind is done. Some offer only 3 or 4 specific levels, and higher end machines have up to 30 or more different settings for fineness.
The power or strength of a grinder motor is measured in Watts, and can range from around 150 to nearly 300 for the more expensive models. Less powerful grinders are more likely to jam or may burn out sooner with frequent use.
If you only grind enough for one pot of coffee at a time, then you don't need to worry about having a large bean capacity. But if you prefer to grind several days worth of coffee at one time, then make sure to check the size of the hopper. Some grinders will only hold a few ounces of beans, whereas some will hold a quarter pound or more.
Cannister or Not
Most grinders will have a cannister for the finished ground coffee to be deposited in. Don't make any assumptions and take a peek before you buy. You don't want your fresh coffee to be poured out onto the counter because you didn't know you needed to place a container to catch the grounds.
Auto Off Feature
A very minor feature, but an important one. For small hand-held models, its not relevant, but its nice to be able to leave a larger countertop grinder alone while it's working, knowing that the burrs or blades won't keep spinning aimlessly once the beans are ground. Saves wear and tear on the parts and motor.
Check Out Some Models
Now that you know what to look for, you can see more about the most popular grinder models or browse through the growing collection of profiles on different models.