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Tea in enghteenth centry (part two)
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As tea drinking became ever more popular amongst the rich, some country house owners went as far as remodelling their homes to provide a dedicated tea-drinking room. Dunham Massey in Cheshire in one such example. Its Tea Room was used for the after-dinner drinking of tea, served in a splendid silver service. Similarly, in the 1760s Claydon House in Buckinghamshire acquired its Chinese Room: a private room where family members could sip tea while seated in a cosy alcove modelled on a Chinese tea house. At the same time, some Elizabethan and Jacobean outdoor banqueting houses, originally designed for the enjoyment of a pudding course after a formal meal, were transformed into tea houses. Others – such as the dual-purpose Tea House Bridge by architect Robert Adam at Audley End in Essex – were created from scratch and placed in newly fashionable landscaped gardens.


Tea in enghteenth centry (part two)

A Family of Three at Tea (c.1727) by Richard Collins. During the eighteenth century it was not uncommon for well-to-do families to be painted drinking tea. The resultant portrait highlighted the family’s wealth and good taste.



One of the world’s most luxurious tea houses can be seen in the grounds of Sanssouci Palace, Frederick the Great’s eighteenth-century summer residence in Potsdam, near Berlin. This elaborate building, a glorious mix of rococo and Chinese decoration, features extraordinary gilt columns in the shape of palm trees and groups of life-sized oriental figures, one of which is pouring tea.

By the end of the century, both rich and poor were enjoying the pleasures of tea. After a visit to England in the 1780s, the French Duc de La Rochefoucauld wrote: ‘Throughout the whole of England the drinking of tea is general… Though the expense is considerable, the humblest peasant has his tea twice a day like the rich man’. During his travels, the pioneering social commentator and author of The State of the Poor (1797), Sir Frederick Eden, noticed: ‘Any person who will give himself the trouble of stepping into the cottages of Middlesex and Surrey at meal-times, will find, that, in poor families, tea is not only the usual beverage in the morning and evening, but is generally drunk in large quantities at dinner’.


Tea in enghteenth centry (part two)

Country house owners keen to enjoy tea outdoors commissioned special tea houses, such as this neoclassical and dual-purpose Tea House Bridge designed by Robert Adam for the gardens at Audley End in Essex.



While the poor may not have written about their passion for tea, one man who perhaps more than any other captured the growing importance of the drink was the famous lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson. Describing himself as a ‘hardened and shameless Teadrinker’, Johnson once amusingly said: ‘You cannot make tea so fast as I can gulp it down’. His kettle ‘scarcely had time to cool, who with Tea amuses the evening, with Tea solaces the midnight, and with Tea welcomes the morning’. Without tea, would Johnson ever have produced his famous Dictionary of the English Language? Another great man, the Duke of Wellington, liked to sip tea made from his Wedgwood teapot while on the battlefield because it ‘cleared his head’.


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