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Food and Drink
Tea has been an important drink in Great Britain for hundreds of years, and is drunk throughout the day in most British households. Last year the British population as a whole drank more than 200,000,000 cups of tea every day!
The "afternoon tea" often associated with the English first became popular around 1840. Legend has it that the Duchess of Bedford - one of Queen Victoria's Ladies in Waiting - came up with the idea of a late afternoon meal to overcome the "sinking feeling" she felt. The idea caught on, with Queen Victoria's enthusiastic support. Indeed, Queen Victoria, a notorious tea fanatic, was given to flinging her tea cup across the room if she found the tea not up to her standards! Afternoon tea is traditionally served around 4:00 p.m. This is a light meal - a satisfying "snack" between lunch and dinner - that will include scones, sandwiches (sometimes with the bread crusts trimmed away), biscuits, and assorted cakes.
The first tea imported into Great Britain in the 16th century was 'green'. But since the nineteenth century 'black' tea is by far the most widely drunk tea. The tea most suited to British tastes is grown in India or Ceylon (Sri Lanka).The most popular brand-name blends in Britain are: Tetley, PG Tips, and Brooke Bond. Whilst the highest quality blends are generally believed to be produced by the company 'Twinings'. Nowadays most people use tea-bags, but traditionalists still favour loose tea.
Making a proper cup of tea is easy. You need some loose black tea (of a blend of your choice), a teapot, and boiling hot water. A traditional British cup of tea is certain to have bits of tea leaves in the bottom of the cup. (These are the tealeaves that can be "read" to predict the future!) Here's how to make one:
Put one teaspoon of tea per cup (plus one extra for the pot!) into a warmed teapot. Fill with freshly boiled water and stir a few seconds with a tall spoon to "elevate" the tea. Allow the tea to steep for 2-5 minutes. The tea will get stronger (and perhaps more bitter) the longer it steeps. Stir again before pouring. Most Britons add milk to their tea. A habit which began when tea was thought to be bad for your health; so milk was added, in an attempt to make it "healthier". Hardly anyone adds lemon! Shortbread Biscuits make a wonderful accompliment to a cup of tea.
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO SOME OF THE BLACK TEA BLENDS PRODUCED:
A tea from Assam, North-East India. Assam tea is full bodied with a rich and malty flavour. An invigorating drink that is ideal for the early morning. It takes milk and sugar nicely, if you so wish.
Known as the champagne of teas, Darjeeling is grown many thousands of feet above sea-level in the foot hills of the Himalayan mountains. Darjeeling is a very light and delicate tea characterised by a muscatel flavour. It is an ideal tea to drink with a large meal. Best without milk.
Ceylon Orange tea is delicate, light, and bright with a distinct flavour and a golden colour. It is perfect without milk or sugar and ideal for those who prefer light tea. A slice of lemon enhances the tea and is very refreshing.
English Breakfast tea should be a blend of Indian and Ceylon tea, and is a balanced and stronger full-bodied tea with an elegant flavour. Avoid any blends with China tea included as the tea will be bitter and not a genuine English breakfast blend.
The traditional English Afternoon tea is a blend of Darjeeling, Assam, and Ceylon teas. Although recommended mainly for afternoon or evenings, this is an excellent tea with a subtle fragrant flavour, appropriate at any time of the day. It is best taken without milk, but, is of course usaully drunk with milk in England!
Earl Grey is a blend of Indian and Ceylon teas, flavoured with the citrus oil of bergamot. It is the oil that gives the blend its characteristic 'scented' aroma and flavour. This is one of the most popular speciality teas and is usually an afternoon drink. Those that prefer a milder tea with less scent often drink 'Lady Grey' tea instead. Milk should NEVER be added to either blend.
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