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Modern-day tea drinking (part three)
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For those people not keen on dancing but still desirous to enjoy a cup of tea outdoors, there were many other options. A few London department stores created wonderful roof gardens where shoppers could take a break. Now sadly lost, the pergola-clad roof garden restaurant at Selfridges served morning coffees, lunches and teas. So too did the magnificent roof garden restaurant at the Derry & Toms department store. Now known as Kensington Roof Gardens, they are something of surprise on busy High Street Kensington and well worth a visit.

Modern-day tea drinking (part three)

A relaxed yet also refined seaside tea served from a gleaming teapot.

In towns, tea rooms or tea houses were a feature of public parks. In the countryside, the downstairs rooms of cottages were converted into tea shops, their gardens offering an idyllic spot for afternoon tea during the warmer months. A few orchards even doubled up as tea gardens, with restful deck chairs and low tables adding to the relaxed atmosphere. The Orchard Tea Gardens in Grantchester near Cambridge are a particularly charming example. Planted in 1868, the orchard became a tea garden in the spring of 1897 after a group of Cambridge students asked the owner of Orchard House if they could have tea in the blossoming orchard, rather than on the front lawn. The idea was an instant success and since then generations of students have made the pleasant three-mile journey by foot or bike from Cambridge to Grantchester to enjoy a relaxing, rural tea.

When at the seaside, tea drinkers could choose from tea stalls or special beach-side tea rooms. Of course they could also, as was increasingly the case over the course of the twentieth century, bring their own teapot or Thermos flask.

Modern-day tea drinking (part three)

During the First World War, the Army Service Corps was responsible for getting food and essential supplies, including tea, to the troops.

Wherever you were and whatever your budget, you could now indulge in a ‘nice cup of tea’. Even two world wars did not stop Britain from drinking tea. It has, in fact, been claimed that tea had a major impact on the outcome of the Second World War. Winston Churchill believed that tea was more important than ammunition. And in 1942, historian A.A. Thompson wrote: ‘They talk of Hitler’s secret weapon, but what about England’s secret weapon - tea. That’s what keeps us going and that’s what’s going to carry us through’.

During the First World War, people had to register with their grocer, who received an allowance of 2 oz per person per week. This quantity of tea would make an average of one-and-a-half cups a day. However, in Liquid Pleasures: A Social History of Drinks in Modern Britain, social historian John Burnett states: ‘It seems that most people were able to buy as much as they wished, since families with large numbers of children did not take up the full allocations’.

Modern-day tea drinking (part three)

A Clarice Cliff Conical Early Morning Tea Set from about 1930. How one was supposed to pour the tea without the pot slipping out of one’s hand is anyone’s guess!

Two days after the Second World War broke out the Government secured all stocks of tea and by 1940 it was rationed. The allowance was, once again, 2 oz per person (this time only for those over five years of age) per week. Those involved in essential work, such as firefighters and steelworkers, were given more, and, from 1944, anyone over 70 was entitled to 3 oz per week. During the Blitz, mobile canteens were set up on city streets by the Women’s Voluntary Service. Volunteers would hand out cups of tea and coffee and snacks to rescue workers and the thousands of people affected by the bombing. Even once the war had ended, tea continued to be rationed for another seven years.

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