Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This is Oyiboland - Polly put the kettle on

So, one of the peculiar things I notice about the Brits is the copious amount of liquid they drink. Be it beer, coffee or tea. Especially tea. The only Nigerian I know who drinks tea like a Brit is my Mom. But she lived here for 10 years……. go figure.

I thought the tea habit arose because of the cold weather…....keeping warm and all, but on doing a little research I find that it is in fact an imported culture. The first batch of tea arrived in England along with the Dutch merchant ships in the year 1652. By 1672, tea drinking had become a trend with the English royalty under the influence of tea loving Catherine Braganza the Portuguese princess who married Charles II. The fashion soon spread to the middle and lower classes.
For example, the ordinary people in 18th century England had access to tea at the factories where they worked, because it had been noted that tea helped the workers to concentrate, therefore employers offered their workforce tea breaks at steady intervals.
Sadly, despite its popularity, "frequent tea-drinking was beyond the means of the majority of British people” due to the heavy taxation of tea and its consequent high price.

That was then…Now everybody can and do drink tea. It’s probably one of the cheapest beverages available.

But…it seems there’s a class factor in the drinking of the ubiquitous tea.

Working-class people (mostly males) are said to drink especially with their cooked breakfast (bacon, eggs, sausages, baked beans, fried bread and toast) “industrial quantities of strong, brick-coloured, sweet, milky tea”, which is often PG Tips. In addition, putting the milk into the cup first or stirring the tea noisily or over-vigorously is also considered a lower-class habit.

The lower-middle or the middle-middle class people (stereo)typically drink “a paler, ‘posher’ version” of the working-class tea, and their brand of choice is Twining’s English Breakfast, whereas the upper-middle or upper class members resort to “weak, dishwater-coloured, unsweetened Earl Grey”.

The quantity of sugar put in the tea is also another direct class indicator. According to Kate Fox in her book Watching the English, “Taking sugar in your tea is regarded by many as an infallible lower-class indicator”. To put even one spoonful of sugar in your tea is somewhat suspect, more than one spoonful says that you are lower middle class at best, and more than two spoonfuls screams, that you definitely belong to the working class (do note all ye Prince Harry aspirants!!)

Apart from the class factors, tea plays a central role in almost all social situations in Britain. Whether to make awkward encounters less awkward, if your head hurts, at the beginning of business and club meetings, your husband just left you, in the morning when you wake up at the house of a total stranger and you seem to have little to talk about.. ….tea is all you need to right your world.

How do you like your tea/coffee/beverage?? 

Excerpts from Laura Johansson & Kate Fox


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Just like Kenyans...they love their tea and beer.

  3. Chei!!!
    Then I'd be lower class oo, because I love me some Twinings :)

    Hi Ginger!! Thanks so much for the sout-out. Yeah I wrote my first paper today (not terribly fantastic but we sha thank God we wrote something ok). Cheers!!

  4. **shout out (I have been thinking about one of my Yoruba friends lately, that's probably why lolss!

  5. I drank gallons and gallons of tea (with milk and a touch 1/2 teaspoon of sugar) when I was in pubs with your Dad and he was putting away pints. The coffee in England is not drinkable so you have to go to France for that, Darling Ginger!

  6. Lol i always knew the Brits loved their tea. I dnt drink tea or coffee. But on the rare occasions i take tea, i put so much milk and sugar :P
    Guess i'm not posh afterall *sighs*

  7. Weird, I reposted my deleted post and it never showed up. I like my coffee with flavored creamer, and my tea, depends on what kind it is, usually only one sugar. But I do like my tea so dark I have to chew it.

  8. Thanks for letting me know my level cos I drink tea like the working class with a lot of sugar too. I just started cutting down my tea intake to drink water instead.

  9. I'm in the same boat with Kitkat...I rarely do and when I do, it must be milky (powdered milk for that matter) and sweetened with enough sugar. After that I wash it down with a glass of cold water...lol...lol...the brits will hate me for this...lol...lol...posh my big foot

  10. If you put Splenda in your tea, are you still low class? All this tea talk makes me want to go get a cup. Excuse me a moment


    I'm back with a cup of Good Earth caffeine free tea. Love that stuff. Thanks for stopping by my blog, commenting, and following me. I'm now your newest follower.


  11. @Madge you are on another spectrum. tea thick enough to chew??? scary
    @Mom, you've always been class so I'm not surprised you drink your tea posh-like.
    @Joyce you are welcome and Splenda is splendidly common...lol
    @Kitkat, Vyvyka, Northern Chica, Okeoghene, Ope...I am glad to know I am in un-posh company. I love my tea milky and sweet.

  12. I must admit, the first thing I get into my cup first thing in the morning at work is a tea bag. Wait, you just said, "...tea helped the workers to concentrate, therefore employers offered their workforce tea breaks at steady intervals." Are you sure about this? Whats the source? lol

    - LDP

  13. Wow, this is interesting stuff!

  14. i only drink twinnings ginger and lemon tea :)....good stuff

  15. Thank God I 'doesnt' like tea! Never did, probably never will. LOL

  16. Twinings is good but Earl Grey is the best. But come, where does the Nigerian Lipton fall? LOL...

  17. @Le Dynamique Prof - lol. Now next time your company gives you tea, at least you know its not cause they're being 'nice'. Its to increase productivity.
    @Ibdiamond - thank you. Good to see you here.
    @Sisi Yemmie - ginger is good stuff ehh :)
    @Cherie- thanks Cherie. Nice to see you here.
    @Mena - I doesnt like tea too. Not as much as chocolate ;)
    @Myne - Thanks for remembering good old Lipton. Good memories lol.

  18. So the sweeter, thicker, and more interesting, the more lower class it is. The upper class is sooo boring.

    This is such a great series Ginger. Looking forward to more.


  19. Thanks for the tea lessons...I really didn't know all of these. Before coming to the UK, I didn't drink tea, prefering hot chocolate (aka bournvita and milo) instead...I became a tea drinker @ my first UK job, and since then, the habit has stuck...I do like my tea sweet and creamy, and no, I ain't lower/middle class. lol.



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