10 THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT AFTERNOON TEA
1. We have the Seventh Duchess of Bedford’s grumbling tummy to thank for afternoon tea. Legend has it she often requested tea and a small meal of bread and butter or cakes and biscuit in the afternoon to tide her over till dinner. Her friends began to join her, and eventually the idea took off, spreading through homes of the upper class as a welcome ritual.
2. According to Chinese legend, tea was invented by chance by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2737 B.C when dried leaves from a Camellia bush fell into his boiling water.
3. Monkeys were trained in the past to pick tea leaves from wild bushes that grew up to 90 feet in the wild. Today the same bush is kept to a height of three feet for easy cultivation.
4. English potter Harvey Adams invented the moustache cup – an afternoon tea essential for any respectful 19th Century English man. It featured a small lip on the inside of the cup to protect a gentleman’s facial fuzz. Surviving examples of genuine moustache cups are highly sought after today.
5. Put down the knife! The nobility traditionally tore their scones open.
6. Is it high tea or afternoon tea? High tea derived from the working class during the Industrial Revolution as they served heavier meals with tea at high tables when everyone returned home from work. Afternoon tea is the more sophisticated version otherwise known as ‘low tea’ in reference to the low drawing room tables that the upper classes would sit around.
7. The largest tea bag in the world weighs 250 kg and can be found in Saudi Arabia. The biggest ceramic teapot found in China measures 1.8m in height, 1.5m in diameter, and holds 10 kg of tea!
8. Turkey, Ireland, and the UK take out top honours when it comes to the amount of tea drunk per person every year. Australia rolls in at 13th with 725 grams consumed per person every year.
9. A teacup and saucer used once by Lady Gaga sold for just under $100,000 at an auction in Japan.
10. The secrets to a perfect cuppa: use fresh, high-quality loose-leaf tea, fresh water, and a clean china teapot. For loose leaf, the traditional guide is one spoon per person and one for the pot. Pour in the boiling water and put the lid on straight away. Let the tea brew for 3 – 5 minutes, and stir before serving. What about the milk? Historically it went in first to protect fragile cups from the heat, but today it’s a matter of personal preference.
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