Tea drinking down to a T and the storm brewing in our collective teacup | Jack Marshall's column
You likely won’t know the name Thomas Garway, but he probably had more of an impact on your life than most people you know.
London, 1657. Mr Garway is the proud owner of a coffeehouse a stone’s throw from London Bridge. He’s just added something to the menu. It’s so innately foreign a concept that he has had to publish a pamphlet to explain how it works.
That something was tea. Three years later, every coffeehouse worth its salt (or rather, sugar) served tea. So started the loose leaf revolution on our little island.
It’s hard to imagine a time when Britain wasn’t utterly obsessed with tea. Today, the UK consumes almost four-times as much tea per capita than China, the very place where Mr Garway’s tea leaves will have originated from. As a nation, we’re consumed by our tea consumption.
Tea is comforting. It’s soothing and calming, not as aggressively harsh as coffee and just sweet enough to warrant a pause on the taste buds but cuttingly bitter enough to make that splash of milk welcoming. It’s consoling, everything about it is right and warm and homely.
My mum used to wake me up for school with a cuppa saying ‘drink it while it fizzes’. To this day, not a single day starts without the kettle. We drink tea when it’s cold, wrapping our fingers around the mug, and when it’s warm, sipping it on balmy mornings. The kettle is king.
In fact, the kettle’s pre-eminence is demonstrated by the fact that, after Chris Waddle missed that penalty in the 1990 World Cup semi, the UK experienced its biggest ever surge in electricity demand as people grappled with their disappointment by brewing up.
Good news? Brew. Bad news? Brew. No news? Brew. Watching the 10 o’clock news? Brew.
I’m a devout tea-drinker, but my tendencies have changed.
I used to proudly dump a bag of Yorkshire Gold into a mug no matter the time of day, even welcoming the warmth of a cuppa before bed. But, after learning that 25% of the caffeine in your system at midday is still coursing by midnight, I made a change for the sake of my sleep schedule.
An expansion of my tea-drinking horizons awaited.
This is a big moment in any Brit’s life, as we’ve covered. But I’m embracing it. Now, my post-midday double-strength peppermint tea bags sit proudly alongside my proper tea bags in the cupboard.
Can’t help but feel like I’ve got tea-drinking down to a T.