Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Importance of Having Tea

Sunday Tea-Time

Sunday Tea-Time

by Stephen Darbyshire

Luxury Without Expense
Homemakers want to guard the home in a way that helps it prosper and keep it from poverty. It is important to have leisure time, or quiet time, and to enjoy activities that refresh the heart, but they need not have a high cost. Tea time is one of them. It is a luxury that is enjoyed by people of all ages and all walks of life. Tea is not necessarily expensive, either, and these days, letters race back and forth between friends, containing interesting flavors and brands of tea. Many hostess gifts these days contain whole boxes of fragrant tea.Using fruits and spices, some people make their own tea just by adding boiling water.

Crises Control
The Dame of Sark whom I mentioned in previous posts, boldly served tea to her own invaders (and gave them a run for their wits at the same time).  In a tight spot conversationally, the fictional Fanny and Emma, of Jane Austen fame, announced brightly, "Tea!"  It is not just the drinking of the liquid that is the point in all of this. It is the dignified atmosphere of the ceremony---even if just pouring tea from a teapot into a teacup--brings to those gathered around the room.  It seems to say, " We must not forget who we are. It is time to behave in a civilized manner."

Finding Time
By setting aside time during the day, along with all the other things in a to-do list, a homemaker can be sure to include this enjoyable moment in time. Children love the ceremony and eagerly look forward to it, but even those who live alone can include this elegant activity in their daily lives.

Choose your own time for tea. If your day begins very early, 10 a.m. is a good time for a tea break, and 2 p.m is perfect go-between between lunch and dinner.

Taking Tea in the Garden

Not a Matter of Wealth or Poverty, Nationality, Class or Status
Taking tea makes life beautiful no matter what the circumstances. Tea in the humblest of homes is often better than tea taken in the finest resorts, because it can include favorite recipes and tea cups, perhaps passed down by a great-grandmother. Tea is taken the world over. I found a lovely contemporary painting depicting Russian tea from a samovar, here.


An Affordable Elegance
Tea sets are so beautiful that it may seem like they are meant for show, but they are meant to be used. Although it is tempting to think they must be saved for a better day, when the sun comes out, when life is richer or when someone of prestige comes to visit,  this is really an every day activity prepared with beauty and elegance. 

Tea pots and cups, whether made of fine porcelin or heavier glass, must still be looked after. Store them carefully without stacking them too close together so that they do not chip, and wash them separately in a dishpan and then in rinse-water. When preparing tea, gradually warm the cups and pot with tap water until it is hot. Boil water in a kettle and then pour out the warm water and add the tea bag or tea ball, loose tea, or whatever you prefer. Let it set for a couple of minutes, and then pour into warmed tea cups. If you do not warm the cups and the weather is cold, it may crack them to have hot water poured in them suddenly.  

Serve whatever you have on hand: crackers, small bites of raw vegetables, a plate of different kinds of cheese and meats, small sandwiches using chicken, cucumber, avocado, tomato or any combination that you like,  or quick-breads made with raisins and other ingredients. These are easy to make and delicious hot with real butter or cream cheese.  Sometimes all one really needs is a hot cup of tea with a few apple slices and some cheddar cheese with walnuts.  Tea Time magazine, published by Southern Lady, is full of delicious-looking ideas for tea. 

A tea for one.

Thirty minutes a day to prepare and take tea allows just enough time to fully relax. If the tea things are prepared at the first of the day, ready to be served, it allows even more time just for the tea ceremony. A tea for one gives the homemaker time to make new lists or create ideas of things she would like to make or do. 

Make it Pretty
If no one else prefers tea, it is even more important to make a special area in your home where tea is taken, and to make the setting as cheerful as possible. Above is a needle-work towel done in gold threads, picturing a tea pot and tea cup surrounded by roses, set on a doily. It is placed beside the tea cup.

In Varying Circumstances
In times of financial hardships or uncertainty in life, it is even more important to continue an established tea time at home. None of us are going to get out of this life alive, so we might as well make the best of it and enjoy taking tea. From cottages to campers and tents, women can set out a tea tray and serve a favorite tea blend and some scones.  Even the Queen takes tea, and it is something everyone can participate in, no matter what their circumstances.  A lady I knew who had just moved into a new house set a tea table on the moving boxes and took a break from unpacking. Others find these tea moments give them more energy for the tasks that remain in the day.

Still snowing...snowing, but a great time for tea. The fields are white an the trees coated with snow, like icing on a tea cake.

A new tea called "White Chocolate Kisses."  Tuck a tea bag in a letter and think of the recipient enjoying the scent.  When you send a letter, your friend can make a cuppa and sip while she reads your pages.

Especially in Discouraging Times
These are the times when the act of doing tea are the most important and the most appreciated, so, even though it is easy to forget it until a better time comes along, it is best to take time out to pour tea, sit still and think or dream of everything that is good and lovely. In tense times when the subject needs to be changed, one can always offer tea. In sad times, one can offer tea, and in times when people are worried about the economy, tea can be served. In snowed-in times or on foggy days, tea brightens things up.

Tea cups through the generations

Since tea has been around since 200 B.C., there must have been many people who enjoyed its benefits, and people today can still enjoy it if they would only take time for it.  Sometimes it can be discouraging to find that a favorite tea room has closed down, but it gives people a chance to put tea-time into their homes and enjoy being in a place that  they truly love, in which they have put a lot of time and work to create a loving atmosphere.

Ladies Taking Tea Outside, 1898 Ontario

An unmatched tea cup saucer makes a bright plate on which to lay a little treat to eat with hot tea.

Photograph of Victorian Women Taking Tea Outside

Don't forget: WalMart has pretty sidewalk chalks, about a dozen for a dollar, which work best on chalkboards.

View a Tea Room in Victoria

The History of Tea---it dates back to 200 B.C.

Taking Tea in Period Movies

Tea Time Books

A Cute Tea Cup Card Craft With Instructions


Trish said...

Lydia, what a lovely post!
We are a tea drinking family and like nothing more than a good cuppa!
At least 3 times a day, the kettle is boiled and the teapot set to steeping our favourite leaf tea.
On a wintry days, such as I see in your photos, my son makes chai tea for me from the spices in my pantry :-)
I enjoy having friends pop in to visit and share a pot of tea and a chat with me.
There's no nicer way to 'slow down and catch up', in my opinion!

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you on this and so many other issues. I love a little tea ritual in the early morning during my devotional and in the after noon at 3. I make my own herbal tea blends and serve carrots and hummus...or flax crackers with nut butter and banana. My grandmother (94) recently gave me 4 tea cups and saucers from her poverty years. She saved up to buy these lovely luxuries. I also have my other grandmother's tea set.

The Lady of the House said...

Quite restorative is afternoon tea. I find it gives me the boost I need to be cheerful through supper and the evening.

Thank you for sharing this enjoyable post.

Unknown said...

This was great. I loved the picture of tea taken with the sly puppy dog begging beside a tea drinker. That was great!

Anonymous said...

I love tea...especially a good, strong black one in the morning, & a lighter, sweeter one in the afternoon. The only problem is, I drink tea, often. But I don't "take" tea. There is a difference, & you've pointed out the obvious benefits of focusing on the "taking" of tea, the ritual & leisurely quality this gives.

A fine post!


Far Above Rubies said...

Lady Lydia, what a lovely post. I'm going to go have some tea right now. It's a delicious blend of ginger root, licorice, and red clover tops. Great for the winter season.

Such a splendid topic!!!

Anonymous said...

This was such a lovely post - we do not pause for tea, and reading this makes me want to!

Slowing down, in the midst of the busyness of our day sounds like the most wonderful of blessings.

Thank you for the inspiration!


Anonymous said...

I have recently begun setting aside a time every afternoon to enjoy a cup of tea. It seems to help calm my mind and spirit after a morning of homeschooling and chores. I inevitably find myself renewed and ready to tackle the rest of my daily tasks. Thanks for the post.

Bernideen said...

What a lovely first visit! Wonderful thoughts and ideas!

Anonymous said...

The photos included in the post are very interesting. I think the Edwardians and the "ladies taking tea outside" near Ontario are especially charming. The ladies in the latter are so beautiful, and they look as if they are enjoying themselves.
We've always been tea drinkers in my family. When we visit my parents, the first thing my mother says is "Hello. Would you like a cup of tea?" I always say yes.

Anonymous said...

My very generous mother inlaw introduced me to tea in 1968 while I was still in high school.
One afternoon she invited me over for a "visit" and brought out everything from her refrigerator and warmed it, boiled a kettle of water and brewed a wonderful pot of tea that we enjoyed for hours as we got to know one another.

No one had ever made me feel so special before. We found we mutually loved canned sardines and soda crackers with hot sauce. She is so much fun.

She has been an inspiration to me for 42 years and started my collection of tea cups by giving me several of her mothers and her mother inlaw's tea cups from England and Canada.

Years later I took an online tea course, helped a friend start her tea room and taught tea classes there.

In all of my tea experiences I have learned that the art of taking tea is still one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating things a person can indulge in and one doesn't need to be wealthy to do it.
Funny we practiced it as children. Somewhere in time we have forsaken this practice. I think we need to bring taking a moment for a cup of tea back to our day. Who doesn't need a lift at around 3PM everyday?

Thank you Lydia for posting this on your blog.

Janet Westrup.

Anonymous said...


I just read this post and really enjoyed it. I think tea is wonderful and always so uplifting. Sitting down for a cup means one has to relax in order to really enjoy it. Just the other day I found some strawberry, lemon and mixed berry tea at a local store. They were so inexpensive and packaged in such pretty boxes that I enjoyed buying them.

When I am tempted to rush and hurry, I am reminded how much my husband loves me calm, contented and smiling. Tall order I know, but it is so satisfying . And tea helps!


Blessed Homemaking said...

I love this. I did not grow up drinking tea, but you have just made me realize what a nice little tradition it would be to bring to our family, at least for the children if my husband wouldn't enjoy it. I think the children would thoroughly enjoy taking the time to sit with their momma in the afternoon to sip a nice cup of tea.

I often give the children a special herbal tea when they are sick, but only a couple of times have we sat down together with a cup to just savor and share conversation over. This sounds really fun and enjoyable.

I appreciate the history you bring into your posts, as someone who does not have near-relatives who are older to share these things with me.

Many blessings,
Mrs. Q

Anonymous said...

Another tea drinker here! Green tea was always my favorite. Then reports start coming out about how in might help with everything from weight loss to gum disease!

Our dollar store even has boxes of tea- with 20 bags per box. They aren't really that great tasting alone, but you can doctor them up with lemon, sugar, or cream and they are drinkable.

My favorite is Salada Green Tea Red. I can find them buy one, get one free at Harris Teeter sometimes. Do you have a brand you gravitate towards?

Anonymous said...

Is that your beautiful handwriting in the photo of the daily schedule? It's as elegant as calligraphy.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia

Well, of course tea is a top drink here in the UK. I like to drink it while reading my bible and praying when I get up.

Also at 3-4 p.m., I like to read a chapter or two from a book while having tea with the children. 'The Railway Children', 'Pilgrim's Progress' and so on.

I encourage our daughter to have little girls over for tea -- dollies invited,too. I make tiny cakes for the dollies, with tea served in thimbles or egg cups.

It seems to be quite common among home educators, perhaps because we have less frazzled afternoons -- no stinky homework to do.

Kimberline said...

Lovely. It made me happy to read this article. Sometimes we take time to have tea in the afternoon with simple treats to go with it and it is just such a relaxing, wonderful time for us to catch up with one another. My children love to have tea in the nice cups and to use the pretty teapots. They said it makes them feel special.

I suppose those who may gripe that you advocate tea could always try a little break with coffee. I found that there are elegant and beautiful coffee pots that can be used as well. For those who gripe about cups with roses, use what you have and put a smile on your face.

Critical spirits might benefit from a cup of tea or coffee but I know they won't be healed by a pitcher of margaritas as some sites advocate. I'm sure you know if I am talking to you :)

If you can have a lovely moment in the afternoon over a cup of something hot and energizing, why not indulge in a lovely respite?

Thanks Lydia for a very nice article. Again I say "LOVELY!"

The Tablescaper said...

What a wonderful post, filled with information and inspiration. We do need to make more time for tea!

- The Tablescaper

Lydia said...

Your tablescape blog is really beautiful and I am so glad you share it and help make life better for others.

Lydia said...

The penmanship is NOT my best, as it was just a hurried sample for the blog article. I do hope to have a Spencerian tutorial using dip pens, some time, here.

Anonymous said...

Well, even if it's not your best, it is still lovely! I almost bought a book a while ago about handwriting; mine could use improvement. A friend of mine told me that her grandsons are not being taught cursive in their NYC public schools. If that's true, it is a shame. At the very least, it is good for the development of fine motor skills.

I enjoy your blog so much. I have started sewing because of you-not very well yet, but I'll get there. I've had a nice sewing machine for 25 years that I did not know how to use! I'm so glad I didn't give it away!

D in NY

Anonymous said...

The embroidered tea towel is beautiful too.

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia. Could you please post a printable copy of your schedule that you showed in this article? The penship is so pretty I would like to print it and hang on my frige to help me stay on track. Thank you. Or maybe frame for the kitchen shelf. Thank you for the time and effort you put into your article. My computer broke and I tried to find you through a search engine. It is sad so many ladies don't get inspired as I do but can only critize. You inspire me to be better and I thank you. When I get depressed and wonder why I stay home when getting a job may ease financial restraints I read your blog and it reminds me how important I am to my family. Your article on making a home someplace you would like to be. My family enjoys being home and others don't understand why. After reading your article I understand now why they are confused. Our home is our safe haven. Our refuge. I am proud to give my best to my family and let them reap the reward for my work instead of some corporation I may not even know who they are. Thank you.

Lydia said...

I think I might be able to make a printable schedule, and also include one with French Script font, which is quite beautiful.

Remember all schedules are flexible but also dont flex so much that you dont do anything at all. The important thing is to get the house kept so that people can function as they need to. Since a woman is home a lot, she needs an atmosphere of beauty and order that will inspire her and make her love being in the house. This can be accomplished by creating order and beauty around her.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the lovely posting. I personally have always longed for beautiful things which was lacking in my growing up years. My mother was not gifted in this, though she did the best she could, and we were poor. (Thus I especially appreciate your crafting and sewing knowing that some will be making pretty things for their daughters and the girls in their lives). God did bless me to have exposure to beautiful things throughout those years, and has since given me many beautiful things of my own.

In my older teen years I would ride the bus downtown to go to the one fine department store in our city and look at fine china. What with the prices of fine china I thought it would only be a dream for me to have those kinds of things. In my apartment as a young adult I had melanine and was thankful for those but I still longed for china, and some of the place settings cost more than what I got in my little paycheck.

Then I discovered some of the outlet and clearance stores. I found beautiful china for prices I could afford. And then the dollar stores began to be in our area, and they would sometimes have real china at just a $1.00 per peice. I now live very near a nice thrift store run by a church group and they also occasionally have nice china peices. I like the older teacups and saucers of the thin light porcelain.

For a while when my girls were growing up, I would give them a teacup and saucer as a part of their birthday present, and gave to one or two of their friends that had that I wish I had something like that look.

Marshall's and Ross type stores have tea things (even teapots) often for less than $10.00 which makes it where I can afford to give china for gifts.

I even have a few peices in Christmas patterns.

I have begun taking a break at around three or so with a cup of hot tea. I like to put a few dried cranberries in the cup to flavor it. Then I have a little nap, which on average runs for about 20 minutes. It is amazing what a small nap does.

Château de Margot said...

Where can I find the chart for the beautiful cross stitched tea towel with tea pot and roses? I want to make or buy one or two!