The recent Martin Parr exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery included a working cafe serving tea and cake as an installation. This meant that midway through the exhibition you could have a quick sit down, a cuppa and a slice of Battenberg cake. What could possibly be more British!
We Brits drink 36 billion cups of tea a year so I think it’s safe to say we do like a brew. Tea is so ingrained in our psyche that we even use it in our daily language with expressions such as “Not my cup of tea”, “Storm in a tea cup” and “Not for all the tea in China”. How do you even start to translate those into a foreign language?
Only the British could have endless debates about whether one should put the milk in the cup first or not. Apparently it’s a class thing - only those who could afford quality china cups could risk putting the tea in first as the hot liquid wouldn’t crack their tea cups. Rumour has it that the Queen is a tea-first kind of girl - I suspect because Wedgewood china doesn’t crack under pressure!
We all know that sugar, gluten and lactose are meant to be the devil, but what is more comforting than a mug of steaming hot tea and a plate of biscuits - answer me that! On a bad day I could drain a large pot of tea and demolish an entire packet of Malted Milk biscuits in one sitting!
The simple act of making a cup of tea is such a soothing ritual and most of us when faced with a friend in need instinctively pop the kettle on. You can’t beat a natter over tea and biscuits and many a problem has been solved over a cuppa.
The Brits love of tea is so entrenched that we need the guarantee of a quality cuppa wherever we may find ourselves. Our journeys across different time zones also come with a healthy contempt for ‘foreign’ tea bags which in our view are ‘not the same’ as back home! I have to confess that whenever I travel abroad, a box of PG Tips will always find its way into my suitcase. Even when we go to Ibiza, the tea bags come too - so uncool but nevertheless, a necessity!
While I’m feeling confessional, I’m also going to admit to being a biscuit dunker. To dunk or not to dunk, that is the question. Dunking is very divisive but I’m outing myself and can recommend the Jammie Dodger as the perfect dunker. No matter how hot the cup of tea, the Dodger will always maintain its integrity even after several dunks - respect!
We Brits just love a cuppa so it doesn’t matter if the tea in question is out of a thermos flask on the Yorkshire moors, in a polystyrene cup from a burger van off the A3 or in a vintage tea cup in a cafe in Brighton. All that matters is that the tea is hot, brewed to taste and accompanied by a biscuit. Preferably several biscuits in fact because, to quote the Rich Tea advert, a drink’s too wet without one!
Words and photos by Tanya Taylor © 2019