A Brief History of Tea (and its place in the Regency)

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There is nothing more comforting than a good cup of tea. In fact I would defend that there is almost something magical about tea. Tea is used to celebrate good times, and it is offered as comfort for the bad times. And yet, in our modern age, we take for granted how precious tea was not so long ago. Okay, it was 200 years ago, but in the grand scheme of our universe, that doesn’t seem so long!

During the 1700s, tea was a pricey commodity, and for the most part, only the affluent among society could afford it. Tea was imported from “The Orient”, and heavily taxed by the British Empire. It was cheaper to buy gin then it was to buy tea! However the tea tax affected not only the consumers, but the merchants and in 1784 it was Richard Twining who participated in the creation of the Commutation Act, which reduced the tax in tea from 119% to 12.5%. He was also one of the heirs to the Twinings Of London. The only tea that this Lady prefers to drink!

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So, by the time the Regency era came around most middle class households were drinking tea. And since it was now closer in price to gin, it was looked on as a wholesome, familial activity. Tea however was still held in wooden boxes known as tea chests, and either the lady of the house or the housekeeper wore the key to the chest on her person. Though tea was taken in the afternoon, it was not labelled as “Afternoon Tea” until later into the 19th century. Tea is the Regency was served by the hostess, and accompanied by savouries, scones and sweets – to be eaten in that order!

As part of the Good Time Regency Girls (GTRG), all of our activities, whether it be sewing, cards, etc, we always have a strong pot of tea and something delightful to nibble on. To me, there is little that can compare to sitting in my day dress, embroidery on my lap, and drinking tea in a delicate china cup!

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