It seems appropriate that as the world turns to watch Britain’s William and Cate marry, that we should stop and pay homage to one of the quintessential British activities, High Tea.  The Brits LOVE their tea, and have been for going on four hundred years.

While today we so closely identify them with tea that was not always the case.  Actually, it wasn’t until Portuguese Queen Catherine married Charles II in the mid 1600’s that it came into vogue.  Her habit of afternoon tea caught on as the Ladies of London attended these high note affairs.  It didn’t take long for this ‘respite from the day’ to take hold as commoners took the opportunity to feel in touch with royalty and to enjoy the pleasures of the ritual.

Two hundred years later the addiction to tea would take on a more sinister approach.  Great Britain and its East India Trading Company committed, what according to Sara Rose in “For All the Tea in China” was one of the greatest and most elaborate cases for corporate espionage and thievery in the history of our planet.  Until the mid 1800’s, China controlled the world tea market.  But during Britain’s occupation of India they noticed similarities between the two countries – weather and agricultural conditions conducive to the cultivation of tea, and thus the plan was hatched to birth the tea industry in India.  There was only one problem – they needed tea planets, seed and the expertise to grow and process the prized plants.  Over a decade, Britain through The Company, stole tens of thousands of plants, many times that in seeds, not to mention recruiting many master tea growers.  It wasn’t until a decade or more later that China realized what had happened – remember it took months just to travel to China…no lightening speed internet to break the news!

Today Brits are the second largest consumers of tea – and while this famous ritual has declined slightly in recent years, it still remains quite popular.  According to the web, the British Royal Family prefers to support local tea growers, such as Darvilles of Windsor who has held a Royal Warrant for over 50 years.  This seal of recognition identifies suppliers to the Royal Family.  Rumor has it that the Queen prefers Earl Grey, a very popular tea flavored with Bergamot oil, giving it a light citrus finish.  While we don’t know the favorite flavors of the newest British couple, we do know that Prince William chose his favorite ‘tea biscuit cake’ as one of the cakes to be served at the wedding reception.

So, if you missed the live coverage of the Royal Wedding yesterday, watch it today.  Prepare some tasty snacks and enjoy this huge event just the way the Brits do – over a delicious pot of tea.


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