Our new season is now open: Spring 1677 !
Tea itself has been in existence for centuries, but it wasn't introduced in England until the 1600's. In London, coffee houses were an integral part of life for men (no self-respecting lady would be found in such a place!), but tea was considered a medicinal beverage and was sold mainly in apothecary shops. Some believed that tea would cure almost any ailment known. Herbals teas, usually referred to as a "tisane," were often sent for if someone became ill or didn't feel well.
The queen consort to King Charles II, Catherine of Braganza is credited with bringing tea drinking to England. When she first arrived in Portsmouth from Portugal, in 1662, after being married, she brought her own tea chest with her and asked for a cup of tea. She introduced and made tea drinking fashionable to the British court by serving them Afternoon Tea. Her influence made tea more popular amongst the wealthier classes of society, as whatever the royals did, everyone else naturally wishes to copy. Soon tea mania spread swept across England, and it has become the beverage of choice in polite English high society.
Many middle class families scrimp and save in order to buy tea, as it is considered quite a status symbol. Because of its growing popularity and high cost, it is often difficult to get pure tea. In fact, it is actually smuggled into England on occasion, and is even sold used or mixed with other things.
High Tea or "meat tea" is another way of referring to dinner. Afternoon tea consists of tea, bread, butter and cakes, and is generally held at four or five o'clock. It is called "low tea" because it is usually taken in a sitting room or withdrawing room where low tables (like a coffee table) are placed near sofas or chairs generally in a large withdrawing room. It is often drunk in the French style, with a little milk.
|loose tea leaves, per 1lb||£2 10s|