What is an English Afternoon Tea? Plus how to make a good cuppa!

Is it just a cup of tea? What's all the fuss about? Read here to find out, and learn how to make a perfect English cuppa by clicking here.

You will find help with vocabulary below the article

As everyone knows, people in Britain drink an awful lot of tea. Tea with milk, that is, popularly called a cuppa, or a cup of char, or in Cockney rhyming slang a Rosie Lee (cup of tea).

Nearly all British people drink tea, and people in the north of England and Scotland can easily consume 10 to 20 cups a day. Whenever housewives visit each other's houses almost the first words uttered are I'll put the kettle on for a cuppa! And every cuppa always becomes at least two or three cupfuls.

In fact, it is estimated that about 200.000.000 cups of tea are drunk every day in the United Kingdom - a staggering amount: an average of over 5 cups for every adult in Britain.

The famous tradition Afternoon Tea originated when the East India Company began shipping tea in the late 17th century (one of the ships which brought it over can still be visited in Greenwich, London - the Cutty Sark). In those days only the wealthy could afford to buy tea. They would invite guests to their houses and the tea-drinking ceremony would begin. The host would bring out the finest porcelain called China, which was extremely fragile and intricately painted, and the beverage would be served, along with delicate thin sandwiches of cucumber, cress and ham, plus cakes, scones, clotted cream, and jam.

The Afternoon Tea tradition is still going strong and is enjoyed by rich and poor alike, although globalisation and heavily marketed coffee are taking their toll on the custom. Nowadays, however, Afternoon Tea is mostly taken not in people's houses, but in the many quaint tearooms which are found the length and breadth of Britain.

Many people still read the tea-leaves - that is, after finishing a traditional cup of tea they swill the tea-leaves round in the cup and read them - read the future of the person concerned. This, of course, can only be done if the person drinks loose tea: that is, tea which is not inside a tea-bag. Hardly any British people, when drinking loose tea, use a tea-strainer - only foreigners do that! (Tea-strainer: the device that stops tea-leaves going into the cup).

These days, Afternoon Tea found in tearooms usually consists of a pot of tea, milk and sugar, two scones or toasted teacakes, a small pot of clotted cream, and "home made" strawberry jam. Yummie! Enjoy!

a kettle = a utensil or container, nowadays nearly always electric, for boiling water. Just about every household in Britain has a kettle.

to stagger = to walk unsteadily, as if drunk. If the amount is staggering, it means simply that you're so surprised when you hear it that you stagger!

to ship = to transport by ship

the wealthy = rich people. In English we can also use such adjectives preceded by "the" to mean all the people in that group, without adding the word "people". Here are some examples: the wealthy     the rich     the idle rich     the blind    the lonely     the poor    the deaf     the homeless     the unemployed     the stupid    the illiterate

take their toll on = have an effect on

quaint = nice, old fashioned or picturesque

breadth = width. broad - breadth wide - width long - length

scone = a small, round soft cake

a teacake = it looks like a hamburger bun, but is sweet, with currants.

clotted cream = extra thick cream that looks like soft ice-cream

How to make the Perfect English Cuppa.

1. The traditional way

Use loose tea leaves.

Boil water.

Pour a little into your teapot to warm it. This is essential.

When the teapot is warm, empty the water out.

Put in one teaspoonful of tea for every person, and one extra "for the pot".

Pour boiling water into the teapot - it must be absolutely boiling!

Put the lid on the teapot and a tea-cosy to keep the pot of tea warm.

Wait about 3 minutes for the tea to brew.

Use delicate china cups and saucers.

Pour in a little milk.

Pour in the tea, "backing" the pot to make sure the tea comes out of the spout brewed and strong.

Add sugar if desired.


2. The modern way

place a teabag into a cup

pour boiling water on it

Add milk after a minute or two.

Add sugar if desired

Enjoy (but maybe a little less than the traditional method!)

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