Freeze warning looms for Phoenix, blizzard in NM sparks misery
These are headlines rarely seen by Phoenicians. (Seriously, that’s what people in Phoenix are called.) Freezing weather is one of the few times that I pass on a glass of iced tea in favor of a cup of hot tea. Today was one of those days, and it reminded me of the importance of tea in Jane Austen’s time. I could demonstrate my erudition by writing an article on tea in the Regency Era, but Kim Wilson has already done it in her Tea with Jane Austen. So, here is my review of a great book on that very subject.
Tea with Jane Austen is a lovingly told tale of the importance of tea in the life of those who lived in the Regency Era. It is all here: How to make tea, tea and toast for breakfast (the usual breakfast fare for all but the wealthiest households), seeping the tea leaves, tea caddies and miscellaneous utensils, shopping for tea sets, and the different types of teas. In Austen’s time, tea was a valuable commodity that was kept under lock and key. In the Austen household, Jane was the keeper of the keys to the tea chest.
For me, the most interesting part of the book was Jane’s excursions into London to buy the best tea from Twining’s warehouse. This was the most expensive way of buying tea, but there was a reason for buying the best. Tea was regularly adulterated with things you don’t want to think about. Dregs were sold out the back door by kitchen maids. After being dried, they were mixed with “leaves, twigs, and sometimes floor sweepings.” That was the worst of it–if you were lucky. “The dyes used on adulterated tea were often quite poisonous.”
Although the afternoon tea we associate with the British belongs to the Victorian Era, there were rituals aplenty in the Regency Era, and this book shows how important tea was to Jane Austen and her contemporaries.
A few years ago, my husband, daughter, and I visited Twining’s in London, and it was impossible not to think about Jane and I occupying the same space 200 years apart, drinking a beverage we both enjoy. To welcome in the new year, my drink of choice will be tea–iced or hot–depending on whether Phoenix has a freeze warning.
On a rainy or snowy day, what is your drink of choice?
Happy New Year to all!