Tea Revives the World – an illustrated poster from the 1940s

Tea Revives the World Poster 2

In the 1930s, to help promote the sale of empire goods, the International Tea Market Expansion Board was formed. Several colourful maps were commissioned by them from graphic designer cartographer, artist and architect MacDonald Gill to help illustrate the benefits of tea and tea drinking.

Gill was commissioned later on, too. His ‘Tea Revives the World’ map was produced as part of a campaign of reassurance that all would be well during the darkest days of the Second World War. Winston Churchill recognised that if supplies of tea did not reach servicemen and women fighting overseas and those at home working in factories and on the land, there would be a damaging loss of morale.  ‘Tea Revives the World’ implied a determination by the Allies to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ and to remind people that their cuppa was secure.

 

Tea Revives the World section 1

With its mixture of quirky information and schoolboy humour and packed with details of the leaves’ journey from bush to pot, Gill’s poster was a cheering rallying cry in a time of conflict.  It also throws light on the extraordinary story of tea and shows us its origins, its culture but most of all it shows what fun the human race has had with the drink that is second only to water in worldwide popularity.

 

Tea Revives the World section 5

Packed with snippets of history and amusing quotations it is just the thing to explore as you wait for the kettle to boil.

 

Tea Revives the World section 4

 

And so it was that at the height of the London Blitz, the ‘Tea Revives the World’ poster echoed the very British belief that ‘a nice cuppa’ is the best thing to improve morale. The sentiment still holds true.

 

Enter to win your own copy of ‘Tea Revives the World’

 

 10 February 2014 – UPDATE: And the winner is: LaRue Barnes!

LaRue answered the question  ‘How does a cup of tea improve your morale?’ by saying that:

“The first cup is comfort in the morning starting the day with my hands around a hot mug. Swishing the tea bag,and stirring in a little sugar and squeezing the bag all part of the familiar ritual. Tea is just right.”

LaRue wins a copy of the 1940 ‘Tea Revives the World’ map.

Congratulations, LaRue!

 

 

I have a lovely copy of the 1940 ‘Tea Revives the World’ map to give away!

For your chance to win, please leave a comment below about how or why a cup of tea improves your morale.

Guidelines:

1. Open to everyone – I will post anywhere in the world

2. One comment per person

3. You must leave an email address where you can be contacted should you win

4. Deadline to enter is 11.59GMT Sunday 09 February 2014

5. I will use a random number generator to pick a winner on Monday 10 February 2014

6. Winner will be notified by email on Tuesday 11 February 2014

 

Good luck and I look forward to reading your comments!

 

 

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The Wellington Afternoon Tea – Flawless and Fit for a Duke

Wellington Afternoon Tea at the Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

As a tea enthusiast who has over the years enjoyed many an Afternoon Tea, I have by now developed a keen awareness of what I love in an Afternoon Tea – and one thing I love is a themed tea. Whilst there are indeed a few elemental things that every Afternoon Tea should contain, the ‘art’ of Afternoon Tea crys out for personalisation and creativity, and nowhere can this be better personified than in a themed Afternoon Tea.

Today I want to tell you about a themed tea that has surpassed all others I have ever had. It is the Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge, InterContinental London Park Lane. And it is in one word, flawless.

 

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Readers of this blog learned in my post about Apsley House that British military hero and twice Prime Minister Arthur Wellesley, a/k/a the 1st Duke of Wellington, was quite the tea drinker. He travelled extensively through India and Europe on his campaigns, drinking tea and enjoying exotic food. With a taste of his exploration subtly woven throughout, the Wellington Afternoon Tea honours the Duke by using the best of British ingredients infused with influences from his international destinations.

Talk about the art of tea!

 

The Wellington Afternoon Tea

 

Surroundings

With just the right balance of light and space, the ambience in Wellington Lounge is magnificent – sophisticated elegance, yet comfortably informal.

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane LondonAfternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

I love the view out the window across to Wellington Arch:

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Table Setting

The exotic green Anthuriums on the tea tables in Wellington Lounge are quite handsome and immediately evoke a sense of the Duke’s worldly wanderings.

The Wellington Lounge tea ware is striking. Its silver geometric design is a fresh change from what you normally see used at tea.

Wellington Afternoon Tea Wellington Lounge InterContinental London Park Lane

Tea Beverage

The extensive Wellington Lounge tea menu offers tried and true favourites, unusual teas, and a few exclusive house blends created through a collaboration between Executive Chef Paul Bates and the London emporium Tea Palace.

For our tea, we opted for their bespoke Wellington Blend, ‘a blend that embraces the spirit of a wonderful English tea. A balance of Assam, China Black tea, Earl Grey and softened by English cornflowers and mallow blossoms.’   It was outstanding – bright and full-flavoured with a gorgeous aroma.  Mr. Tea declared it the best tea he ever had! This from an Englishman. Need I say more? (We even brought a tin home with us. It can be purchased at the hotel shop.)

 

The Wellington Tea Blend Tea at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Tea Service

The Wellington Afternoon Tea is served in the traditional style – with a bit of a twist. The tea stand is brought to the table and displays tea sandwiches on the bottom tier, sweets on the middle tier, and a crowning glory signature dessert on the top tier. The ‘twist’ is a distinctive, independently presented tea sandwich served at the start of the tea.

 

Wellington Afternoon Tea, Wellington Lounge at Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

The Twist

Do you remember my saying how a themed tea crys out for personalisation and creativity? The unique, stand-alone tea sandwich served at the start of the Wellington Afternoon Tea is a perfect illustration of what I mean. Made with Spanish Monroyo ham and Monte Enebro cheese, the ingredients are a nod to the Duke of Wellington’s 6-year campaign in Spain. And it’s served on potato bread - a cheeky reminder that England’s beloved military hero was actually born in Dublin. Well done, Chef!

Spanish Monroyo Ham, Fig, and Monte Enebro Cheese on Potato Bread:

Spanish Monroyo Ham, Fig, and Monte Enebro Cheese on Potato Bread Tea Sandwich at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Tea Sandwiches

The Wellington theme continues with the Duke’s local association reflected in a Chilled Sirloin of Gloucestershire Beef with horseradish sandwich, served alongside an anything-but-boring Hen and Duck Egg mayonnaise sandwich with celery cress on brown bread. And thanks to the Portuguese Sardine with sherry vinegar and honey dressing sandwich, we’ll never forget Wellington’s protection of Portugal from the French army.  Who says history can’t be fun? (And delicious.)

Additional sandwiches are offered, should you desire. The sardine sandwich was so good, I asked for another. Up until then, I had never eaten a sardine in my life and wasn’t particularly worried about it either, but this sandwich was luscious.

 

8 Tea Sandwiches at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Scones

I appreciated that at the beginning of the tea service, our waiter Mohammed (more about him on Friday – a fabulous individual) gave us the option of choosing when to have warm scones brought to the table. This little nugget of information ensures that the customer is served fresh, warm scones precisely when they want them, and that is exactly what happened when the plate of homemade Sultana scones and Buttermilk scones arrived as requested. Generous scoops of clotted cream and strawberry preserve rounded out the interlude, one that is paramount to every proper English Afternoon Tea experience.

The scones were just the way I like them: light and soft on the inside, with a hint of delicate crunch on the outside. It’s my opinion that the hallmarks of a perfect scone (besides taste and appearance) are a good rise; a substantial yet light density; and the presence of a natural break line in the middle allowing it to be gently pulled apart in half.  These scones ticked all the boxes.

 

11 Sultana and Buttermilk Scones with Devon Clotted Cream and Strawberry Preserve at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Sweets

You’re full already, aren’t you? I know! But who can resist cakes at tea time?

In his duties as a military and political leader, the Duke of Wellington spent time in the Netherlands, India, Spain, Portugal, France, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, England and Ireland. The final course of the Wellington Afternoon Tea salutes his global travels with exquisite sweets of Blackberry and Vanilla sponge Bavarois, Coconut tart with Pistachio confetti, Gateau ‘Basque’ with comfiture of black cherries, and Raspberry Meringue with vanilla cream.

Do not let the 2-bite size of these little gems fool you – each one packs a flavour punch that will literally curl your lips with satisfaction.

My favourite was the meringue, whilst Mr. Tea preferred the coconut tart with its shards of fresh, sweet coconut.

 

9 Sweets, Cakes and Pastries at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Waterloo

It all began when the Duke of Wellington was taking care of business in Vienna and Napoleon decided to take care of unfinished business in France by escaping from Elba – so what Wellington themed Afternoon Tea would be complete without a worldly cake offering of the Sachertorte, Austria’s famous chocolate torte. This was my first Sachertorte. The chocoholic in me is saying that it won’t be my last. Read here about the interesting history of the Sachertorte.

Sachertorte:

10 Sachertorte at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Remains of the Day

Even after all these years of Afternoon Tea-ing, it still surprises me how filling tea food can be. The experts at Wellington Lounge know this, and will be happy to box up any leftovers so you can continue the experience later on at home with your own cup of tea.

12 Takeaway Box of Extras at Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

Conclusion and Recommendation

The Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge InterContinental London Park Lane is from all perspectives the best Afternoon Tea I have ever experienced. There are a number of reasons for this and I’ll be telling you about them on Friday, but in the meantime I strongly encourage you to book in and see for yourself.  You will be treated to beautiful surroundings, delicious food, impeccable service, and unparalleled value. An adventure the Duke of Wellington himself would have enjoyed.

Afternoon Tea at The Wellington Lounge Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane LondonHow to Book the Wellington Afternoon Tea

 

Served Monday to Saturday from 1pm to 5pm, the Wellington Afternoon Tea at Wellington Lounge is priced from £28

Bookings are essential and can be made by ringing +44(0)207.409.3131

InterContinental London Park Lane – One Hamilton Place – Park Lane – London – W1J 7QY

 

 

 

 

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Tea, Apsley House, and the Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington's Teapot

Silver teapot used on campaign by the 1st Duke of Wellington

One of the reasons I write this blog is to share my tea experiences in England with an audience of readers who, like you (and me!) love tea and love England. Another reason is to reveal the sometime obscure tea connections that I seem to find woven throughout the places I visit here. Here’s one of them.

 

Apsley House

 

Apsley House, with its prestigious address of Number One London, was the London townhouse of Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852) – better known as the 1st Duke of Wellington. Besides defeating Napoleon at Waterloo and being a two-time Prime Minister, Wellington did all that other stuff that gets your name on hundreds of pub signs in the country puts men like him into the history books. You can read more about his adventurous life here.

Because it contains one of the finest art collections in London, a stunning collection of silver and porcelain (including tea sets – gifts to the Duke to celebrate his military and political prowess), and a massive nude statue of Napoleon (and we always thought that Napoleon’s “complex” was due to his small …….. stature), a visit to Apsley House was on the Tea in England Bucket List. And so it transpired.

I can report that Apsley House is a fantastic property to tour. English Heritage have done well in keeping the interior of the house much the same as it was during the occupancy of the Iron Duke. (P.S. The Wellington family still live there!)

 

"Tea. Now."

“Tea. Now.”
The Duke of Wellington

 

The Tea Connection

 

Then

Many 19th century military officers traveled with their own dinnerware, and Wellington was no exception. His traveling canteen, displayed in the basement at Apsley House,  includes plates and serving dishes, beakers and tumblers, knives and spoons – and a silver tea set.

Wellington was a dedicated tea drinker who appreciated its qualities, and whether at home or away on campaign, a pot of tea was never far from hand. He wrote that whilst planning the [Spanish] Battle of Salamanca, “Tea cleared my head and left me with no misapprehensions.”

So it is true: Real Men Drink Tea

 

And now

There could be nothing more perfect after a visit to Apsley House than to treat yourself to a Wellington-themed Afternoon Tea in London. Impossible? Not at all! The Wellington Lounge at Intercontinental Hotel London, a stone’s throw from Apsley House and in the shadows of Wellington Arch,  honours the original Duke of Wellington with its magnificent Wellington Afternoon Tea that uses British ingredients infused with influences from his travels.

Wellington Afternoon Tea, Wellington Lounge at Intercontinental Hotel Park Lane London

The Wellington Afternoon Tea

 

I was recently invited to experience the Wellington Afternoon Tea and I can’t wait to tell you about it. It was flawless! Look for my review on Wednesday.

In the meantime, don’t take my word for it that the Duke of Wellington was a tea drinker. See for yourself:

 

 

 

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Are those tea leaves on Harrods’ family tree?

A Harrods Cup of Tea

Whenever I’m at Harrods, the first place I head to is the Food Hall, mainly because it’s one of the few places in the store where I can afford something. But the real reason is because I love the tea section. It’s not a particularly large space, but it’s crammed with boxes and tins of more than 300 pre-packed teas, and 165 single-estate, single original teas.

The last time I was there, they were featuring this 22-carat gold tea. As if.

22-carat gold tea from Harrods

You probably know all there is to know about Harrods, the world’s most famous department store:

That it had the very first escalator in history.

That it sits on 4.5 acres and is visited by 100,000 shoppers every day.

That A.A. Milne found the original Winnie-the-Pooh for his son Christopher Robin in the Toy Department.

That it employs 5,000 staff from over 50 different countries, together with 7  ‘Green Men’ who stand by certain doors to offer heavily-laden shoppers a helping hand.

But there’s one fact that I bet you didn’t know.

A brief history of Harrods

In 1834, Charles Henry Harrod, a London tea merchant (and grocer), rented a small shop on Brompton Road, Knightsbridge. The area was quickly becoming quite fashionable, and in just a few years, the discerning Charles – a man of good taste – put his store, Harrods, on the proverbial map.

It eventually passed from father to son, and Charles Digby Harrod continued to build the business by purchasing adjacent stores and introducing a delivery service that is still in operation today. The family sold the business in 1889, but Harrods continued to grow in profits and in size. Its motto is Omina Omnibus Ubique: All things for all people. It truly is legendary.

Harrods Tea Court

“Our customers want the best teas…” ~ Yousef Serroukh, Tea Buyer, Harrods


And all due to one man, a tea merchant, whose legacy lives on through the sales of luxury tea to discerning drinkers from across the globe.

 

The next time you are in London and visit Harrods, don’t be so much amazed by its size, atmosphere, or wealth as with the fact that it all started with a cup of tea.

 

 

 

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London’s Cabbie Tea Huts

Russell Square Cabbie Tea HutThere are so many, many things I love about London. The most endearing sights for me, as a tealover, are these adorable little green buildings known as Cabmen’s Shelters or, as I call them, Cabbie Tea Huts. These shelters were built in Victorian times as places where a London taxi driver could grab a cup of tea and a sandwich. They serve the same purpose today.

The first shelters were built in 1875. At that time, it was illegal for a cab-driver (in his horse-drawn carriage, called a Hansom Cab) to park his cab and leave it unattended. This made it a bit difficult to get a hot meal during the day. In stepped The Earl of Shaftesbury who, with some other philanthropists, created a charity called the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund. The charity built and ran these “shelters” at major cab stands to provide cab-drivers with good, wholesome food at reasonable prices.

Cabbie Tea Hut in LondonIf you have ever watched movies depicting the hussle and bussle of street traffic in Victorian England, you will appreciate the building requirement that these charming little buildings be no larger than a Hansom Cab. Though twee, they still managed to fit in a kitchen and seating for 10-13 men. 61 shelters were built between 1875 and 1914, and 13 remain, located here:

  • Russell Square
  • Chelsea Embankment – near the Albert Bridge
  • Embankment Place
  • Grosvenor Gardens – west side of north garden
  • Hanover Square – north of central garden
  • Kensington Park Road – outside numbers 8-10
  • Kensington Road – north side
  • Pont Street
  • St George’s Square, Pimlico
  • Temple Place
  • Thurloe Place, Kensington – opposite the Victoria & Albert Museum
  • Warwick Avenue – Clifton Gardens
  • Wellington Place, St John’s Wood

The next time you are in London, keep an eye out for these tiny tea houses. At most of them, anyone – not just a cabbie – can order a cup of tea or a sandwich.

Cabbie Tea Mug, 1935-1945 (Museum of London)

This 3/4-pint tea mug would have been used by a London cabbie in a Cabman’s Shelter. A cabbie would bring his own mug to the hut, where it was kept and looked after by “shelter boys.” (Image from Museum of London archives.)

 

 

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HISTORY OF TEA TIMELINE

The history of tea is an East meets West tale of romance and intrigue involving emperors and kings; duchesses and queens; sailors, soldiers, wars and trade; politics and potters; botanists, smugglers and entrepreneurs – and lovers of the leaf like you and me.

This history of tea timeline will help you navigate the five thousand plus year old story of the nectar of the gods: Tea.

 

 

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Tea, Sir Joseph Banks, and Spring Grove House

Conservatory at Spring Grove House

If you have read my story about this blog, you know that the longer I live in England and the more I see and do, the more I discover that almost  every place and every thing here has a tea connection. Some are obvious, but others are obscure and I need to do a bit of research before I can make the association. Today’s post is a perfect illustration.

I hope you read about the Royal Albert Afternoon Tea at Kew Green I went to a few weeks ago on a Saturday; it was also Open House London 2012 that week-end. Open House London happens once a year when over 750 buildings in London and the surrounding area throw open their doors with free entry all week-end. Most of the buildings are well-known and not generally accessible by the public throughout the year; a few places are less familiar.

When we left Kew that Saturday, I thought we were going straight home but Mr. Tea, who thinks he is the best driver in the world does most of the driving in our family, took a slight detour and followed the Open House London signs until we ended up at a place called Spring Grove House. Except we weren’t just at Spring Grove House – we were also on the campus of West Thames College*, of which Spring Grove House is a part.

 

Spring Grove House, West Thames College campus

Spring Grove House

The exterior of Spring Grove House, built in 1779, was pleasant enough, but there certainly wasn’t any kind of  Wow! factor going on for me, so I couldn’t figure out why we were there. I had never even heard of the place.

We walked in the front door and as Mr. Tea was signing the Guest Register, the docent enquired of him, “Alumni or visitor?” to which he replied, “Alumni.”

Huh?

Apparently, Mr. Tea studied here in his late teens. (Married to the man for almost ten years, and I’m still learning things about him!)

 

Stained glass window, Spring Grove House

Spring Grove House was quite lovely inside, with beautiful stained glass windows, dark wood panelling, plaster ceilings, and beautiful fireplaces. In 1886, the house was owned by Andrew Pears, great grandson of the famous soap manufacturer. But before that, in 1808, it was the country residence of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820) of London.

I was not familiar with Joseph Banks but during the brief house tour, learned that he was an eminent English botanist and explorer who collected plant specimens from all over the world. He traveled on the Endeavour with Captain Cook, and was instrumental in the development of the now world-renowned plant collections at Kew Gardens.  It was Banks who introduced us to the likes of eucalyptus and mimosa, and he even had a genus named after him: Banksia.

 

Stained glass window detail, Spring Grove House

Walking around Spring Grove House, I started thinking about Sir Joseph Banks.  As a botanist in the late 18th century, surely he must have a tea connection, in turn giving Spring Grove House a tea connection as well. At that time in England, tea was in great demand and tea drinking was prevalent and fashionable. Still a somewhat ‘new’ commodity, it was studied and discussed by all the great movers and shakers of the day.

I returned to a room where books and papers about Banks were laid out, and picked up a large volume on the life of Sir Joseph Banks. I flipped to the index at the back of the book, turned the pages until I reached the letter in the alphabet I was looking for, and ran my finger down the page hoping to find the word tea.  And find the word tea I did – together with page after page after page of tea-related references. I couldn’t wait to get home and start reading!

 

Sir Joseph Banks, Blue Plaque, Spring Grove House

My research revealed that Sir Joseph Banks was a man passionate about tea – and a man of influence upon its history.

▪ He was the first to identify the potential for growing tea in India, and in 1788 suggested it to the East India Company.

▪ He and his wife Lady Banks were avid collectors of china tea ware, and regularly served tea to visitors at their London home.

▪ He had a tea house in the basement of his home where he would experiment adding different flavourings to tea and in so doing, created the Earl Grey tea blend!

Or did he?

There are several theories about the history of Earl Grey tea,  but a very recent one is that  Sir George Staunton, an officer of The East India Company, sent a sample of Chinese tea scented with Neroli oil to Banks. In an attempt to re-create the blend  – can’t you just visualise Banks the mad tea scientist in his London basement, adding a pinch of this and a pinch of that to his cauldron of black tea leaves? - Banks realised he did not have Neroli but he did have a [experimental] Bergamot tree growing in his garden, so he used the similarly flavoured Bergamot oil as a substitute.

Whatever its true provenance, the pleasing tea-with-Bergamot blend was named after the popular politician Earl Grey, and marketed first by both Twinings and Jacksons of Piccadilly.

 

Proudly bearing a Blue Plaque to botanist and explorer Sir Joseph Banks, the innocuous Spring Grove House sits quietly within the campus of West Thames College, London Road, Isleworth. Of all the teachers, students, and visitors who have ever had a cup of tea there, how many knew just how much that cup of tea connected them to the man whose name is on that plaque?

 

 

*In this instance, the word “college” means post-high school but not at degree level.

 

See the Tea in England Facebook page for more pictures of Spring Grove House, and some fun and interesting things related to the content of this post.

 

A Potted History of The Brown Betty Teapot

Denise's Brown Betty Teapots

It is a known fact that the Brown Betty teapot brews tea better than any other teapot design. This is because of the shape of the pot which allows the tea leaves to be gently swirled around as the boiling water is added, and the special clay used in its manufacture that holds heat so well.

Why is it called a Brown Betty? Well…it is brown, thanks to a Rockingham Glaze.  But why “Betty”?

In the 1800′s no self-respecting house in England was run without at least one servant. As “Elizabeth” was a very popular name at that time, odds were that you had a servant named Elizabeth. And Elizabeth – shortened to Betty – would have served the tea. Some believe that the special brown teapot came to be known as a “Betty” or a “Brown Betty“. But no one knows for sure.

Cauldon Ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent hold the exclusive design rights and are the sole producers of the Brown Betty teapot. They have been making Brown Betty‘s since the end of the 17th century. (Stoke-on-Trent is the historical home of English ceramics and features on the Tea in England banner.)

I have always owned a Brown Betty. At the moment, I have a 2-cup personal size, and a larger 6-cup size for when company visits.  Based on my experience with a wide variety of teapot designs, I definitely believe the Brown Betty produces an excellent pot of tea – but the quality of the newer models by Cauldon are sometimes less than perfect.

Should you decide to buy your own Brown Betty, don’t be fooled by imitations! An authentic Brown Betty will have a small [removable] Union Jack sticker on it,  and the bottom will be marked, “Cauldon, Made in England”. The newer ones are also stamped “©Original Betty”, and carry a swing card with the history of the Brown Betty.

 

Markings on bottom of Brown Betty teapot. Photo courtesy of www.gravelandgold.com

 

If you own a Brown Betty, do you think it is the best teapot for brewing tea?

Catherine of Braganza: England’s Portuguese Tea Princess Rests in Peace in Lisbon

 

 

Tomb of Catherine of Braganza, Queen consort of England, Scotland and Ireland (1662-1685). Lisbon, Portuga

The history of tea in England is a delicious blend of romance, intrigue, and adventure, overflowing with a cast of fascinating characters. Kings and queens, princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses, sailors and soldiers, explorers, botanists and planters, businessmen,  politicians, and even the lawless all played essential roles in England’s rich tea narrative.

There is, however, one person in particular – a woman – to whom we tea lovers owe an especially deep debt of gratitude, for it was she who brought the tea-drinking custom to the English, setting a trend that continues to this day. Her name is Catarina Henriqueta de Bragança – Catherine of Braganza.

The irony of Catherine’s influence on tea drinking in England is that she wasn’t even English – she was a Princess from Lisbon, the daughter of King John IV of Portugal. But because Portuguese and Dutch traders had been bringing tea to Europe long before it would arrive on the shores of Great Britain, Catherine was already an established tea drinker by the time of her arranged marriage to England’s King Charles II.

 

São Vicente de Fora (church). Lisbon, Portugal

São Vicente de Fora (church)
Lisbon, Portugal

 

Who got the best deal in the marriage contract between Charles and Catherine? England inherited Tangier and Bombay, trade privileges with Brazil and the East Indies, a quantity of luxury goods (including a chest of tea) that could be sold to pay off Charles’s many debts – and about £300,000 cash. Portugal inherited crack military and naval support against Spain (Rule Britannia!), and liberty of worship for Catherine (who was a Catholic about to reside in a Protestant country and Royal Court). Catherine inherited twenty plus years of marriage to an unfaithful husband (who had thirteen mistresses, including the orange-seller/actress Nell Gwyn), several miscarriages (she never was able to conceive), and isolation from her family and homeland.

In spite of it all, Catherine was a loving, devoted wife who remained faithful to Charles even as he continued to have children by his many mistresses. And in spite of himself, Charles honoured Catherine’s religious convictions, and made it clear to everyone that his wife would be treated with respect. When he felt that wasn’t happening, he would always side with her over his mistresses. What a guy.

As a Royal trend-setter (can you think of another Royal trend-setting Catherine?), Catherine’s tea drinking habits strongly influenced the aristocracy and tea gradually replaced wine, ale and spirits as the court drink.  In a few short years, tea drinking was universal among the English upper class. It eventually was being sold in markets, and the English East India Company made it a part of their regular trade.

 

São Vicente de Fora (monastery). Lisbon, Portugal

São Vicente de Fora (monastery)
Lisbon, Portugal

 

The life of Catherine of Braganza, Queen Consort of England, Scotland and Ireland, isn’t altogether tragic, for there were happy times during her life here. And in fact, she remained in England for some years after her husband’s death in 1685.

While there is tea, there is hope. ~ Arthur Pinero

It is conjecture, I know, to think that Catherine may have sat and contemplated her life situation at times over soothing cups of tea, but that is exactly what tea drinkers do, isn’t it. Not long after Charles’s death, she described her role as Queen of England as being a sacrifice ‘solely for the advantage of Portugal’. I would like to think that tea was a solace for her, supplying strength and hope during those sacrifice years.

When Catherine did finally return to Portugal – home – she was very active in politics, and became regent for her brother Peter II. She was loved and adored by the Portuguese.

She died in 1705.

 

São Vicente de Fora. Monastery cloisters. Lisbon, Portugal

São Vicente de Fora
Monastery cloisters
Lisbon, Portugal

 

As soon as I realised that we were going to be in Lisbon for the day on our recent cruise, I knew that I had to visit the burial site of Catherine of Braganza.  After doing some research and map reading, I was delighted to discover that her tomb, located at the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, was but a short taxi drive from Lisbon city centre.

This is not particularly a tourist destination and is a bit off the beaten path – which makes it all the more enjoyable. We were the only ones there on this day, and it was very satisfying to admire its beauty and tranquility accompanied only by the sound of birdsong.

 

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza, entrance. Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. Lisbon, Portugal

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza (entrance)
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
Lisbon, Portugal

 

The  church and monastery are situated at the top of a steep hill overlooking Lisbon. Catherine is buried there in the Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza, which is the final resting place for the majority of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal and their families.

 

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza, entrance. Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. Lisbon, Portugal

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza (entrance)
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
Lisbon, Portugal

 

The majority of the tombs line the sides of the pantheon, and are simple marble boxes with spaces for four tombs. If the tomb is of a monarch, it has a gold crown placed on top.

 

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza. Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. Lisbon, Portugal

Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
Lisbon, Portugal

 

 

Tomb of Catherine of Braganza (top left). Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza. Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. Lisbon, Portugal

Tomb of Catherine of Braganza (top left)
Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
Lisbon, Portugal

 

 

Tomb of Catherine of Braganza. Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza. Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. Lisbon, Portugal

 

 

Denise at Catherine's tomb.

I stand here on your behalf, dear reader, and in honour of Catherine, who introduced us all to the enchantment that is drinking tea.

 

Catherine is represented in the Tea in England blog banner by the locket hanging from the teapot balloon. The heart-shaped locket is engraved with the words RexCII & ReginaC (Charles II and Queen Catherine), and is an illustration of the original antique.

 

 

Portrait of Catherine of Braganza

Catherine of Braganza
By or after Dirk Stoop
Oil on canvas, circa 1660-1661

Abbey ruins tea

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

Netley Abbey, built in the 13th-century, is the most complete surviving Cistercian monastery in southern England. It was home to Cistercian monks who came to England from France in 1128.  After the Dissolution (1536), it was given to a nobleman who converted it into a great Tudor mansion. Two hundred years later, it lay in ruins – grand, glorious ruins – and became a place of inspiration for the great Romantic writers and poets like Thomas Gray, author of Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard.  Jane Austen visited Netley Abbey (she lived in the area), and so did England’s notable artists Turner and Constable, who each painted its stunning landscape views. Netley Abbey, owned today by English Heritage, still draws visitors; I was one of them last week-end. Tea connection? Wait and see.

 

ABBEY

For nearly three hundred years, a very small group of monks, brothers, officials, and servants called Netley Abbey home. The monks were of the Cistercian order. Walter Daniel, writing in The Life of Aelred in 1166, described them:

“…these remarkable men, famed for their religious life, were known as White Monks after the colour of their habit, for they were clothed angel like in undyed sheeps wool, spun and woven from the natural fleece. Thus garbed, when clustered together, they look like flocks of gulls and shine as they walk with the very whiteness of snow. ”

 

Sub-Vault of Reredorter, Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

Cistercians lived a very simple life: study, prayer, and manual work. They rejected wealth and the wearing of undershirts and trousers,  were vegetarians, and followed strict rules of silence. To avoid worldly temptations, Cistercian abbeys were built in remote locations.  Although a bit hard to imagine today, Netley was at that time very isolated and surrounded by dense woods and heathland, so the perfect place for the White Monks.

The monastic community at Netley were highly respected by their neighbours. They were never known for scholarship, wealth, оr particular fervour, but they did have a reputation for generosity tо travellers аnd sailors, аnd fоr the devout lives they led. Contrary to some of the things we hear about the modern church, reports indicate that the abbey hаd а peaceful аnd scandal-free domestic life.

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

MANSION HOUSE

At the suppression of the monasteries in 1536, Henry VIII granted Netley to Sir William Paulet, who turned the buildings into a great Tudor courtyard house.  After the Civil War, it belonged to the Earl of Huntingdon who turned the nave of the church into a tennis court, the choir into his private chapel, the chapter house into a kitchen, and other parts of the Abbey into stables. Grand Designs would have loved this!

 

East window of the church, Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

RUINS

In 1704 the owner of Abbey Mansion started selling off bits and pieces as building material. Can you believe it?! Early on, when one of the demolition workers was killed (making way for what they called “The Curse of Netley Abbey”), work quickly stopped and the structure was left alone to fall into, well ….. ruins.

The Romantic writers, painters and poets of the day, always in search of picturesque inspiration, were deeply attracted to Netley Abbey. It’s not difficult to see why. But not everyone who visited Netley Abbey in the 1700s was there for the scenery.

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England“The ruins are vast, and retain fragments of beautiful fretted roofs pendent in the air, with all variety of Gothic patterns of windows wrapped round and round with ivy … they are not the ruins of Netley, but of Paradise.
Oh! the purple abbots, what a spot had they chosen to slumber in!”

- Horace Walpole, from The Castle of Otranto

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

Pregnant with poetry … one need not have a very fantastic imagination
to see spirits at noon-day’ but was it all imagination’
- Thomas Gray, poet, describing Netley Abbey

 

TEA

Tea in mid 1700s England was all the rage – everyone wanted tea. But its popularity, coupled with an exorbitant tax, meant that tea was prohibitively expensive, available to only a few.  The demand for affordable tea simply could not be met by legal means.  The answer? Meet the demand by illegal means – smuggle it in! Tea smuggling was so effective, that virtually all the tea consumed in England at that time was black-market, smuggled tea. The south coast of England became a smugglers paradise, and Netley Abbey was a known location for stashing contraband tea.

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

Was tea hidden in this nook?

 

A hundred or so years later, Netley’s tea tradition took on a more genteel character when the abbey became a popular place for local people to come for tea, dancing and music.  There was even a Rondo for piano-forte written by William Sheppard entitled “Netley Abbey”. Large events called Fetes Champetres (basically, a chic garden party) were being organised here on a regular basis. A description of the event in the 1840s records:

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

On Mondays, the Fountain Court presents a singular scene of gaiety. It has long been the custom for people from Southampton and the neighbourhood to meet at the Abbey on that day, and to hold a kind of festival. Tea and other provisions are furnished by the inhabitants of a neighbouring cottage, and this is followed by music and dancing.”

 

Netley Abbey, Hampshire, England

This was my first visit to Netley Abbey – but it won’t be my last.  My dream would be to arrange a beautiful summer afternoon tea here, accompanied by the reading of Netley Abbey poems by the Romantics, and the Netley Abbey Rondo playing in the background.   Surrounded by the ghosts of 12th-century monks, 18th-century poets, 19th-century Victorians, and perhaps a personable smuggler or two, I can’t think of a more tantalizing tea party.

 

(For more pictures and related information about Netley Abbey, visit the Tea in England Facebook Fan Page.)