""Perhaps you would like some tea, as soon as it can be got." They both declared they should prefer it to anything." – Mrs. Price to Fanny and William in Mansfield Park, chapter 38.
Taking tea was an every day ritual in Regency England. Jane Austen mentions tea no less than twenty times in her novel Mansfield Park. Even though I am from Seattle, the coffee capital of the world, I enjoy tea immeasurably and drink it every day. Here are three steps to insure that you have the ultimate "taking tea'” experience.
First: Read Kim Wilson’s charming book Tea with Jane Austen. She shares her extensive knowledge of tea including history, preparation and of course its importance in Jane Austen’s life and the British nation. (publisher’s description) Tea figures prominently in Jane Austen's life and work. In fact, the beloved novelist was the keeper and maker of tea in her family. Tea with Jane Austen begins with tea drinking in the morning and ends with tea in the evening, at balls and other gatherings. Each chapter includes a description of how tea was taken at a particular place or time of day, along with history, recipes, excerpts from Austen's novels and letters and illustrations from the time. The book also reveals how to make a perfect cup of tea! This volume is the perfect gift for tea lovers-and of course, Jane Austen fans.
Second: Buy the best. I readily admit that I am a tea snob. If you want a superior tea experience, first and foremost start with high quality loose leaf tea. I purchase mine from the specialty tea proprietor in Seattle, Queen Mary Tea Shop. They have a lovely website that you should visit and an online shop which will dispatch worldwide. My favorite teas are Darjeeling, Strawberry Pepper and Lavender Earl Grey. I am particularly fond of Lavender Earl Grey which is a flavored black tea with locally grown lavender from Sequim, Washington. Earl Grey tea is named after Charles Grey (1764-1845). He served as prime minister under King William IV (king, 1830-37). Even though lavender is commonly used as fragrance in soaps and perfume, it adds a surprising and pleasing element to the tea experience. Not only does it add fragrance, the taste blends beautifully with the black tea and essential oil of Bergamot, Mediterranean pear-shaped citrus fruit. Enjoy!
Third: Drink in style. When at home, by all means go the extra step and drink tea from a tea cup or mug when you can. It adds to ambience of the ritual. However, if you are like me, on the go and out the door, I recommend a good tumbler to safely transport your special brew with a stainless steel interior and a pop lid. This clever Jane Austen Mrs. Darcy Ceramic Travel Mug from the Pemberley Shop is an excellent choice. Its purchase not only supports the nonprofit Republic of Pemberley website, it tells your friends and workmates that you know where your priorities lie. (shop description) Love style? Then drink this up, because our eye -catching ceramic tumbler is a work of art. Plus it's also a workhorse -- thanks to a solid design with steel inner-sleeve that's ideal for hot or cold beverages. Holding a full 15 oz. and fitting into most vehicle's cup holders (includes snap-tight lid), it's also a great choice for travel.
If you would like to learn more about the history and ritual of tea, the proper way to brew a pot or a mug, and discover great recipes for a full on English high tea of cucumber sandwiches, buttery scones and tea cakes, visit these lovely sites.
Tea Time: Jane Austen Centre online magazine
Tea in the Regency Era at Jane Austen's World
Recipe for Regency Queen Cakes for Jane Austen's afternoon Tea Party at Recipezaar
Check out the tea menu for the Jane Austen Evening by The Society for Manners and Merriment in Pasadena, CA. Next event on January 23rd, 2010
*image of Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (1995) from Jane Austen's World
Cheers, Laurel Ann, Austenprose