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"Five o'clock": Where did this tradition come from, and how to drink tea in English
"Five o'clock": Where did this tradition come from, and how to drink tea in English
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The culture of English tea drinking: The history of the "five o'clock" tradition and its features

One of the most famous traditions associated with England is the five o'clock tea drinking. Tea in this country is a traditionally popular and refined drink, and the culture of tea drinking is very distinctive and unique. And it is not inferior in complexity to oriental ceremonies. So what are the characteristics of the tea traditions of the British?

Elizabeth II with a cup of five o'clock tea

The love of the British for tea drinking is reflected in the works of English writers, and in films, which thereby contribute to the popularization of this tradition. Lewis Carroll made the mad tea party one of the main scenes of his famous "Alice in Wonderland". Using the example of the inhabitants of the Looking Glass, he showed how unshakable the tradition of "five o'clock tea" in Britain is. His heroes, having started the tea-drinking, as it should be, at five o'clock, cannot end it in any way, because the time offended by them stopped the hands of the clock. And since the clock shows "five", you need to drink tea. It is possible that this crazy tea party is not over yet, who knows …

Tea drinking at Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Illustration by J. Tenniel for the first edition of the fairy tale, 1865

Over a cup of fragrant tea, the famous detectives Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple unravel the most complex tangle of crimes.

Sherlock Holmes (Vasily Livanov) Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) Miss Marple

The history of the origin of the tea tradition in England

English School. Tea drinking

For the first time this popular drink came to England in the middle of the 17th century, more precisely in 1664. According to one of the versions, several pounds of its dried leaves were presented as a gift to King Charles II, at that time it was a very expensive gift, since huge duties were paid for the import of tea.

Portrait of Catherine of Braganza by Sir Peter Lely, 1665

The taste and aroma of the drink was the first to be appreciated by the wife of the king, Katerina of Braganza, who, having made tea an official drink in the palace, started the custom of drinking it every day from porcelain cups. Her servants, fearing that these cups, very thin and fragile, might burst, began to pour milk into the bottom, and only then hot tea. Since then, this English tradition has appeared - to drink tea with milk.

Tea in the 17th century Kilburne George Goodwin Taking Tea

What is "five o'clock tea"

The most significant event in the history of English tea drinking was the well-known tradition of "five o'clock", which originated in the 1840s. And she appeared thanks to Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford.

Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford in 1820

At that time it was customary to serve lunch in the evening, between 8 and 9 o'clock. Once, walking in the garden and getting very hungry, Anna asked to prepare tea, bread and butter, cookies and muffins for her, and thus had a light snack. Next time Anna invited her friends to a similar tea party, and they had a very good time. So this ritual arose - the five o'clock tea party, which quickly took root among the aristocrats and the middle class.

Alfred Oliver. Tea drinking in the garden Matthias Robinson mid- or late 19th century. "Gossip over a cup of tea."

In order to be able to drink tea outside the home, there were "tea rooms".

Similar ceremonies were also popular in special "tea gardens", with music and dancing.

Beginning in 1880, this new emerging tradition of "five o'clock" grew into a real secular ceremony with its perfected etiquette and very beautifully decorated - tea tables with white starched tablecloths, expensive and exquisite china sets, silverware, vases with flowers.

Ladies in elegant outfits, gentlemen in suits with bow ties … Tea for such ceremonies was used of the best quality and of several varieties. Ready-made brewed tea was poured into cups for guests right at the table.

Tea was usually served with a variety of sandwiches - with chicken, cucumber, cheese, ham, smoked salmon, lettuce. As well as sweet pastries, whipped cream, jams on multi-tiered shelves.

Such a ceremony was necessarily accompanied by a long and pleasant casual conversation, perhaps, and gossip, where can we go without them …

You could also go to a tea ceremony at one of London's trendy grand hotels, for example, the Ritz or Brown's. In the 1910s, when the fashion for Argentine tango came to Europe, in hotels they also began to dance during tea drinking (‘tango teas’), and also to teach those who wish.

After the war, tea dancing disappeared and the five o'clock tea tradition declined. But the British are still very fond of tea, they drink a lot, only at other times and without much ceremony.

Today, only in the most expensive restaurants in Great Britain you can feel like an English aristocrat and enjoy the atmosphere of classic English tea drinking, but you need to book a place for such events several months in advance. One of the most elite places where such tea ceremonies are held is the Ritz Hotel Restaurant.

The Ritz Hotel In the restaurant of the Ritz hotel

British fashion has its own traditions. And the main one is the hats! What hats do the English queen and her family members wear? and for what reasons - in our review.

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