Ordinary tea

Old Feb 14th, 2002, 12:49 AM
  #1  
Ben Haines
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Ordinary tea

Ms Hackney asked me about ordinary tea in London, not grand hotel tea, and I thought my reply might be useful to others.

Tea, you say. You might try the cafe Flo on the first floor of the Royal Institute of British Architects, in Portland Place south of Regents Park and Great Portland Street tube stations. It's open to the public. Almost the last place in London with real tea, meaning tea made with loose leaf, not depressed tea bags, is an Italian cafe just beside Temple tube station, pleasantly set amidst a clutch of barrows, complete with calling barrow-boys. Their mincemeat slice is good, but too big: I usually order half on my plate and the other half neatly wrapped in a paper towel ready for supper. Absolutely correct tea is served, as you would expect, at Brahmah?s Tea and Coffee Museum, 200 yards downstream of the Kentish end of Tower Bridge, but it comes without cake. Instead, you have a paper to take home to tell you how to make tea properly. Which reminds me, time for my second cup.

Pause. Ah, that was good: just that touch of extra tannin.

If anything takes you up to Hampstead, you?ll find five doors or so downhill from the tube station is a coffee house on the Viennese model, which serves decent tea and splendid cakes. And so it should: the intellectuals, scientists, and academics that came from Hitler?s Europe to enrich my city have had more than half a century to learn civilised five o?clock behaviour. Not that they have all learnt: you?ll catch some fine old figures drinking coffee, as they did in Budapest those decades ago.
In good weather, unlikely in February, there?s a good setting for tea at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens, north of Kensington Palace, nearest tube Queensway.

Please write if I can help further.

Ben Haines
 
Old Feb 14th, 2002, 08:58 AM
  #2  
MaryC
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Ahhh - Mr. Haines - fantastic to hear from you!!!

Thank you for the tea info!! : )
 
Old Feb 14th, 2002, 09:52 AM
  #3  
r
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Thank you for that Mr. Haines; it is not only wonderful information but charmingly written. It took me away....
 
Old Feb 14th, 2002, 11:07 AM
  #4  
greg
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Mr. Haines, now that you have whetted our appetite, can you share us how we are to partake in this ritual? I doubt that they are to be done the way Americans drink coffee and eat donuts?
 
Old Feb 14th, 2002, 01:55 PM
  #5  
Ben Haines
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If you?ll enter http://www.bramahmuseum.co.uk/, then click on ?Authentic British Leaf Tea? you?ll find a careful essay by a loving expert on the making of tea.

As to the drinking of tea there are no mysteries. I prefer a bone china cup and saucer, but my parents preferred mugs. I have milk in first, but many like tea in first. To raise the little finger while drinking seems pretentious to me, but not to everybody. People who slurp tea noisily are distracting. I drink coffee on the continent, as their idea of tea does not match mine, and Spanish tap water dies not agree with tea blended for London. But none of this is prescriptive. In Britain it is thought elegant to drink with lemon not milk and in Bangladesh the tea comes thick, with hot milk. De gustibus non est disputandum.

What you eat with tea, too, is up to you, and hungry and growing children are fully entitled to eat doughnuts if they so choose: it?s us podgy middle-aged adults who might do better to avoid them. At the Temple I take a slice of mince pie or of apple pie, in Hampstead and RIBA a fruit tart in the French style, at home half a cream cake from the local bakers, after church a biscuit (custard cream if I can get it), in Kew a thin ham sandwich, and in Equatoria my servants prepared cucumber sandwiches in the cucumber season, though they tasted a little of weevils.

Please write again if I can help further.

Ben Haines
 
Old Feb 14th, 2002, 02:17 PM
  #6  
Christina
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I know this may sound very ignorant, but I am -- I've always wondered whether this tea custom is really followed by very many people, and if so, who? It just seems like an awful lot of food to be eating if you eat all of these sweets and even sandwiches late in the afternoon. It sounds like another complete meal to me. How can one eat dinner only a few hours later? Don't people gain a lot of weight eating so much? I could never eat that way every day or I'd weigh a ton, and I wouldn't even be hungry for eating sandwiches, etc, in late afternoon. Also, what about all the people who work, they don't take time off work to eat just a few hours after lunch do they?

I have always wondered about this as all the descriptions I've heard of tea involve a lot of food. I think just a break to have a cup of tea would be nice. So, how many Londoners really eat this extra meal?
 
Old Feb 14th, 2002, 02:41 PM
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Ben Haines
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Few. In London offices now working people take tea or coffee about four, at their desks, without food. But retired people like Hampstead intellectuals and me, and professional people (like architects) take tea alone or with a friend, to help intelligent conversation. They may or may not take a bite of something with it.

Ben Haines


 
Old Feb 14th, 2002, 04:46 PM
  #8  
scarlett
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For my birthday wish,Ben, I think I would ask to have a nice cup of tea with you ~
 
Old Feb 14th, 2002, 09:48 PM
  #9  
r
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Me, too, Scarlett, me,too. At the moment I can't think of anything more comforting and reassuring.
 
Old Feb 15th, 2002, 06:18 PM
  #10  
ttt
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topper
 
Old Feb 15th, 2002, 10:07 PM
  #11  
QueenMum
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What a lovely interlude. Must top!
 
Old Mar 12th, 2002, 04:20 PM
  #12  
topper
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To the top, for Penny.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 01:49 AM
  #13  
PGChimp
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Surely the best tea is served at Buckingham Palace when one is invited to take tea with the Queen. Failing that, then I think I make the best cup of tea that I can drink, simply because I know how to brew to perfection - from leaves and bag. Although Mr. Haines might dispute this, surely you can't beat a mug of Tetley??
And in response to health concerns about increasing ones mass during tea consumption; the evidence (compiled from reading over someones shoulder on the tube: source some woman's magazine and therefore can be taken as absolute fact) infers that tea helps to reduce weight unlike coffee which gives you an enhanced rump. Say no more...
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 01:56 AM
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PGChimp
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Actually, on another point, tea contains anti-oxidants which prevent the build up of Oxygen Free Radicals (or non-molecular oxygen) which is directly linked with the kind of cell damage that causes ageing. To prove just how good the tea at Buckingham Palace is just look at the Queen Mother. Mind you, this may suggest that the tea at Kensington Palace is rather good too.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 07:20 AM
  #15  
tea
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>To raise the little finger while >drinking seems pretentious to me, but >not to everybody

To raise the little finger is absolutely NOT DONE. It will mark you out as lower middle class pretentious. Think of Mrs Bucket.
 
Old Mar 13th, 2002, 07:32 AM
  #16  
elaine
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Speaking of Hyacinth, atually I've always wanted to know if those coffee and tea vessels really are called "beakers" or has the word
"mugs" crossed the Atlantic?
I bought some in London recently so I want to give them their proper, but not
Hyacinth-ish, name.
 
Old Mar 14th, 2002, 05:53 AM
  #17  
Ben Haines
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We say mug. Or rather, those Britons who use one say mug. The word Beaker is indeed alive and well, and lives in Ode to a Nightingale by Keats.
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delv'd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
Oh, for a beaker of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim.
Ben Haines
 
Old Mar 21st, 2002, 12:41 PM
  #18  
Alex
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i liked it so much, i'll send it back up.

You are a most entertaining commentator Mr. Haines!
 
Old Jun 22nd, 2002, 07:12 PM
  #19  
xxxx
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Interesting.
 
Old Jun 22nd, 2002, 07:18 PM
  #20  
Hyacinthe
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We watched Keeping up Appearances tonight. It is still VERY funny.

Someone mentioned all the sweets. We did High Tea at Chateau Lake Louise, and I must admit that once is enough! It's an experience. But, one sweet after another. Forget dinner that night!
 

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