Although coffee is one of America’s favorite beverages, it’s always time for tea. Not to mention it’s claimed to be a healthier option over coffee for many.
The history of tea dates back to China more than 3,000 years ago, with an introduction to Europe in the early 1600s and then England in 1669, teas were historically were enjoyed by upper class society due to the cost however today teas are available in thousands of varieties for a low price so much more easily available and enjoyed by many all over the world, garden party style or not.
It may surprise people to learn that although there are thousands of varieties of teas, most teas come from the same plant (although there are a few varieties), more commonly known as the Camellia sinensis (from the aceae family, related to the magnolia plant) that is an evergreen shrub that develops yellow-white fragrant flowers with up to seven pedals. Tea is made from the young leaves and leaf buds. A teas type and flavor is determined by the leaf picking and processing, and of course, what is added to the tea such as mint or lavender.
Many teas also contain antioxidants and vitamins that are good for the body, some even healing. Other teas are relaxing and soothing while others are simply pleasing to the palate.
Organic has become so popular that growing tea plants is just as common as growing herbs for cooking, so many local nurseries carry plants for this very reason (such as Summer Winds Nursery in Campbell and Santa Clara). If you don’t feel like growing your own, you can also visit tea houses like Teavana where sorted varieties are available to choose from (in fact, several varieties are available to try each time you visit their shop), you can order a glass or pound to go, or you can order online and have it delivered directly to your home.
Tea time is indeed making a come back all over the world – and although the terms Low Tea (a term derived from having tea in the afternoon, named after sitting around a low table such as in a sitting room), and High Tea (a term derived from having tea around dinner time) are not much used these days – the Royal family keeps up with a royal time-honored tradition since 1860 with tea at their garden parties held from 4 to 6 p.m.
Although the traditions have changed over the years, the basics have not. Finger food is still the essence of what is served with tea, such as sandwiches, scones, biscuits, cake, pastries and assorted desserts.
Much like a fine wine, tea time brings friends and families together – perhaps it’s the many varieties available, or the special sandwiches or desserts that accompany the tea – or maybe it’s the traditions behind that attract so many to tea for two (or more).
And then there is always that one question that remains, what should one wear if attending a traditional garden party like that hosted by Queen Elizabeth II, for afternoon tea? Generally proper garden party tea time attire for women is afternoon dress (including a hat for women), and for the men – morning dress or lounge suits (national dress or uniforms are also worn).
For those who may not have a garden party with the Queen on their calendar in the coming weeks and if coffee just isn’t a pick-me-up desire it’s a good thing it’s always time for tea so grab a friend, family member or just treat yourself for a cup of heart-healing and get your tea party on (leave the political madness and chaotic world behind for awhile, or at least find some good music to listen to) for there’s no easier way to get that Zen back into your day.
“There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
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