I remember being fascinated by my grandfather, watching him drink his tea after lunch- he would wait until the tea was quite stewed in the pot, pour it into his cup- a large, thikish cup with a big saucer, really quite plain- add a drop or two of milk into the quite strong brew, turning the tea to a dark creme caramel colour.
Then in a twist of tea drinking etiquette, he would tip the cup contents into the saucer until the tea lapped the edges of the saucer, cradle the saucer in both hands and raise the tea to his lips and drink.
Pop was a teetotaler- I never saw him drink any form of alcohol, nor did I see any alcohol in the house… not that I looked for it – being a kid it never occurred to me- just like Pop drinking tea from his saucer wasn’t a curiosity, just Pop drinking his tea.
I think this ritual, my grandmother brought the teapot to the table with the handle pointed towards Pop, dressed in a tea cosy, placed just so on the placemat to stop the teapots heat from damaging the wood topped dining table where the cup – the same cup and saucer every day, the same time every day, was his way of centering himself if such a concept existed that long ago – but I do remember his face and his body language when this ritual was taking place – contemplative and thoughtful, like he was aligning himself with his day and thinking about what his day might bring…
None of us were particularly religious – turning up to weddings, funerals and christenings and respecting the religious rituals were about the extent of our involvement in organised religion. I think these small daily rituals were our families way of involving ourselves in the benefits of religion – contemplation, inner quiet, introspection – the things that I imagine prayer bring people.
Pops tea drinking ritual was historically a European farmer tradition to cool the tea quickly – drink it to get back to the job.
It seems it was a habit that Victorian era middle class people took up as well. I cant find anywhere that explains when this leap across the classes actually occurred- and why… Ill keep researching this and keep you posted.
Its been a long time since my Pops last cup of tea – he was in his mid 90’s when he died from complications from a broken hip over 30 years ago, but his tea drinking ritual and the aroma of his very strong tea still makes me want to drink a cup…