Tea Time in England
Tea is often called the national drink, and for good reason. Most people start their day with "a cuppa," have tea breaks in the afternoon, and a cup after dinner. Join in by lifting a cup, or try a cream tea with a scone or a fancier formal afternoon tea.
It's hard to imagine a time when tea wasn't part of English culture. But there was no tea in Europe until the 1600s, when Portuguese and Dutch traders began introducing it. Charles II and his wife, Catherine of Braganza, were tea drinkers. When coffeehouses in London began serving the drink in the mid-17th century, it was seen as an expensive curiosity. By the early 18th century tea was sold in coffeehouses all over the country, and consumed by all classes. The duchess of Bedford is credited with popularizing formal afternoon tea in the early 1800s. Dinner in those days was often not served until after 8 pm, so a light meal in late afternoon was welcome. The tradition faded when more people began working in offices in the 20th century—though the love of tea remains.
England's most popular tea is English Breakfast tea, a full-bodied blend of black teas. Second in line is Earl Grey: oil of bergamot orange creates an elegant perfume, but it's an acquired taste. Assam is one of the major teas blended into English Breakfast, and it tastes similar, if a bit more brisk. By contrast, Darjeeling is light and delicate; it's perfect for afternoons.
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