Tea: A UK Tradition (By Alessia)

Written by ATPAmbassador - 09/03/2020

by Alessia Scappaticci

Prior to
arriving in the UK, I worked at a tea shop, where I learned to become a serious
tea aficionado. And after living here for a few months, I’ve managed to learn a
thing or two about the UK’s rules about tea, and the traditions that make
afternoon tea so special.

A British Cup
of Tea

Although the
UK was not the original birthplace of tea, the Brits are notorious for steeping
a pretty good cup. If you order tea at any café or restaurant, these are the
flavours that will most likely be on the menu:

  • Earl
  • English
  • Lemon
  • Chamomile
  • Peppermint

Although tea
is slowly becoming trendier and there are tons of specialty tea shops opening
up, the simple flavours still prevail. Sure, if you go to an afternoon tea
event, they’ll most likely be serving English Breakfast. But as far as
popularity goes, Earl Grey is still at the top. Fun fact: Earl Grey tea is
named after the British Prime Minister, Charles Grey. He sat as Prime Minister
from 1830-1834 and was originally from the county of Northumberland.

Now, if we’re
talking about steeping tea, we need to discuss the issue that divides people
more than any political debate or family game night: the, “milk before tea or
tea before milk” debate.

I’ve had some
experience with differing opinions on this topic, and this seems to be the most
common answer:

If you’re
making tea in a mug, you steep it, remove the tea bag, and then add milk. If
you’re using a teapot, THAT’S where the debate begins. The argument for milk
first is that if you’re using fine china and for drinking tea, pouring the tea
first will crack the china. But, if you pour milk first, there will be no
thermal shock to the china and it won’t crack.

argument for tea before milk is that the amount of milk you add is based on how
much tea you have in your cup; the ratio will just be more balanced that way!

But no
matter how you take your tea, it always tastes better in the middle of the
afternoon with some treats.

Afternoon Tea

Photo taken by Alessia Scappaticci

Afternoon tea
was once an event for the socially elite, but has transformed into a staple of
the British experience. The tradition was born in the 1800’s, and is not a
feature of many popular restaurants and hotels.

I’ve been
told that there’s no specific order to eat the food on the tray, but I’ve come
to the conclusion that it makes the most sense to go top to bottom- start with
the savoury treats, move to the scones to “cleanse the palette”, and then dive
into the sweet stuff.

And if one
debate isn’t enough, here’s another: the scone debacle. Is it jam before cream,
or cream before jam? Just for the record, mine is jam before cream.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can get here too, then you can contact an advisor, and keep up with Across the Pond on social media. You can also follow along on my UK journey on Instagram at @alessiaacrossthepond!




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