“At 9 o’clock she made breakfast- that was her part of the household work- The tea and sugar stores were under her charge.” ( “My Aunt Jane Austen” by Caroline Austen)
Of course, Jane Austen loved tea. Everyone who have read at least one of her novels knows it. Just think what a relevant role tea plays in her novels: In “Emma”, Miss Bates doesn’t drink coffe, ‘A little tea if you please’; in “Sense and Sensibility”, it’s tea everyone’s drinking when Elinor notices Edward’s mysterious ring set with a lock of hair; in “Pride and Prejudice”, the great honour Mr. Collins can praise with Elizabeth and her friends, is dinking tea with Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Tea has not always been part of British life: Henry VIII, around 1520, used to have breakfast with some ale, for example. But, in the Georgian Era, when Jane Austen set up her writing ‘career’, tea drinking was like breathing for English people; that’s why there were more ‘tea meal’ than ‘normal meal’, and we will go through them all 🙂 .
- Breakfast wasn’t a formal meal: people chatted, or read letters or newspapers; the menu itself was quite frugal, with hot rolls or muffin with some good butter, or some toast and pound cake, and tea, of course.
- Afternoon tea. Legends wants the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anne, to be responsible for having introduced in England the habit of drinking tea between noon and the supper, inviting all her friends to join her in this new fashionable meal. Tea was usually drunk with milk and accompanied with sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries, usually served on a tiered stand.
- Evening Tea was a special moment in which family and friend gathered together after the day’s activities; since evening tea came after dinner, we wouldn’t have found the rich menu of afternoon tea, but only some toasts or, at least, slices of bread and butter.
Now I know what I’ll do tonight right after dinner: sit down with my favourite Jane Austen book, “Persuasion”, while enjoying a wonderful cup of tea 😉 .