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There is nothing more classically British than afternoon tea, which makes National Tea Day, April 21, a wildly popular occasion in the country. This love of tea dates back centuries and this fondness seems to only get stronger with time! National Tea Day’s slogan is “Brew More. Do More.” The vision is to inspire special moments with tea. Working with a variety of partner companies throughout the year, they desire to bring tea drinkers, tea servers and the entire tea industry together. So, grab your cuppa and settle in for a read on how to celebrate this truly brilliant holiday.
History of National Tea Day
National Tea Day is more than simply a holiday. It’s a movement providing opportunities for future generations of tea drinkers to understand and appreciate the world of tea. Founded in 2016, the date of April 21 was chosen because it is also Queen Elizabeth’s birthday! Could the day be any more British?
It’s relatively common knowledge that we have the Chinese to thank for tea, but it was actually a Portugese woman named Catherine of Braganza who popularized the beverage in England. In 1662, Catherine married King Charles II. Her dowry included several crates of loose leaf tea, which she continued drinking every day in the U.K. The royal court quickly adopted the tea-drinking process, including aristocrats.
While the goal of National Tea Day is to inspire the world to drink more tea and to drink it throughout the year, we can’t help but immediately think of the famous British afternoon tea. “Tea” can be both a drink and a meal. The Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell, introduced afternoon tea during the late 1840’s out of her hunger pains between the two daily meals at the time, which she shared with friends.
Many forms of tea exist around the world. Green tea is popular in countries such as China and Japan, whereas South Asian countries often prepare ‘chai’ with spices, boiled in both milk and water. There is even a pink tea, commonly known as ‘Kashmiri tea,’ served in many parts of the Himaylan regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan during the winter months at weddings. In the UK, the perfect British cuppa is usually served as a variety of black tea with boiling water and a little milk.
Henry James, author and nominee for a Nobel Prize in Literature, once said, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” National Tea Day celebrates the world’s second favorite drink — only to water — so heavily stemmed in everyday culture so each of us can learn and revel in its drinking experience!
National Tea Day timeline
The first Fes-Tea-Val is held, where companies showcased the latest in tea trends.
Popular British tea brand, PG Tips, celebrates its 75th birthday by commissioning a jeweler to make the most expensive tea bag studded with 280 diamonds.
Upscale department store, Fortnum & Mason, began a magnificent relationship with tea which continues today.
Chinese legend credits the mythical figure, Shennong, as the inventor of tea.
National Tea Day FAQs
Do British people drink tea all day?
More than 300 years after Catherine’s introduction, it’s estimated that the British now drink about 165 million cups of tea every day.
Why do the British put milk in tea?
During the 17th and 18th centuries, milk was added to cool the liquid and stop cups from cracking as tea used to be served in delicate china cups.
What time do British have tea?
Traditionally, for some people still, meals are called at specific times. Breakfast is between 7:00 to 9:00 in the morning, while dinner, the main meal, is between 12:00 and 1:00 p.m. Tea begins anywhere from 5:30 to 6:30 at night.
How to Celebrate National Tea Day
Host or join an afternoon tea
Share your love and knowledge of tea with friends, especially those who have not been exposed to the vast variety of tea and its rich culture. You could even join National Tea Day’s monthly #VirtualParTea.
Attend the Festival
The founders of National Tea Day hold an annual “Fes-Tea-Val”, bringing the best of the tea industry under one umbrella. The popular gathering showcases the latest brews, the master mixologists of “experTeas”, and the newest tea making and tea serving gadgets.
Learn tea etiquette
Just in case you are ever invited to afternoon tea with the Queen of England, you want to be prepared. Steeped in tradition, drinking tea comes with its own set of rules. Don’t worry, we’ve started with a few tips for you below.
5 Tea Etiquette Tidbits
Pouring the tea
The host should pour everyone’s tea and the teapot should remain on the table with the spout facing the person who poured.
To dunk or not to dunk
Unless situated in an informal setting, it is inappropriate to dunk a biscuit into tea.
A tiered cake stand should be used when food is served with tea. The top tier is usually filled with scones, the middle for sandwiches and the bottom comprises sweets, pastries, and desserts. Don’t forget the order of eating, which is sandwiches, scones, and finally, sweets.
Mind the napkin
Napkins are placed to the left of the plate with the folded edge on the left and open edge closest to the plate. Place a napkin back to the left of the plate — never on the chair — when momentarily leaving the table.
How to stir tea
Starting from the 12 o’clock position in the cup, slowly fold the tea with a spoon from 12 to 6, back and forth about 2 to 3 times. The spoon should be resting on the saucer to the right of the cup when it is not being used.
Why We Love National Tea Day
The choices are endless
The blends of teas are endless, but they usually fall into main types such as black, green and white, all coming from the same plant. Differences in these teas are created by how the leaf is processed, as well as the conditions and geography of where the plant is grown. Additionally, there is also herbal tea which is, basically, infusions of other types of plants such as peppermint or chamomile. Setting out to try these many tea offerings is far from boring!
Humans are social beings
Tea is as much of a culture, or an experience, as it is a drink. The best way to enjoy tea is in a gathering of friends and family which is one of the reasons for its popularity and our love affair with it.
Tea offers tons of health benefits
Black and green tea is found to be heart healthy. This is because tea can reduce bad cholesterol levels and improves blood vessel function. Not only this, the popular drink is hydrating since 90% of tea is water. It also contains antioxidants and vitamin H which strengthens the immune system!
National Tea Day dates