For the love of tea
A friendship decider; a conversation starter; a nerve soother. It starts with that universal sound of water boiling, bubbles clashing against the sides of the kettle, eventually escaping as steam. Then, there's the joyous outpouring of water from the kettle to the cup (or the teapot, if you so wish.) A dash or so of milk. And, finally, the process of colour-change; from clear to opaque.
As a nation, we love our tea. According to tea.co.uk we Brits drink 60.2 billion cups of tea a year. Daily, the number of cups is 165 million. In my household, the bottom of the cup is barely visible when the next cup appears, as if by magic. (Thanks, Mother.)
For Lu Ann Pannunzio, Author of The Cup of Life blog, there is a certain joy attached to the ritual of preparing a cup. "I always love listening to the kettle sing," she tells me, adding, "I absolutely love watching tea leaves dance in the water, unfurling before my eyes."
This is a sentiment reflected, too, by Patrick Quilliam, Co-Founder of Quilliam Brothers Teahouse. As a child, Patrick became accustomed to his parents' ritual of drinking a cup of tea in the morning. "I remember as a child wanting to drink a cup, not because I liked the taste of it, but because I wanted to emulate my parents," he explains. "Once I started drinking tea, the inclusive ritual [of preparing it] became an appeal as well."
"I ABSOLUTELY LOVE WATCHING TEA LEAVES DANCE IN THE WATER, UNFURLING BEFORE MY EYES…"
To many, tea is a social tool - a gatherer at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to gather. Sometimes, this is as simple as a quick cup at the kitchen table with family; otherwise, it might be a pot (or two) over a catch-up with friends. "At Quilliam Brothers, we see tea as a lubricant to ideas, conversation and relaxation," agrees Patrick.
Far from just a fancy cup of water, it is widely acknowledged that tea can calm the mind. According to researchers at University College London, there is scientific evidence indicating that black tea has an affect on stress hormone levels in the body.
"Tea allows me to take a breather, to be more aware, and to enjoy life sip by sip," notes Lu Ann. For me, personally, this is something that resonates deeply. There is nothing quite like stopping what you are doing, taking a quiet moment, and allowing yourself to escape your current situation.
"AT QUILLIAM BROTHERS, WE SEE TEA AS A LUBRICANT TO IDEAS, CONVERSATION AND RELAXATION…"
For Jules Quinn, Managing Director of The *TeaShed, a cuppa is a quintessential part of her day - a way to keep going "until I feel empty, then I top up and I'm good to again." It is little surprise then that the daily drinking figures in Britain are so high. After all, the average full-timer is chained to their desk for a miserable 42.7 hours per week.
"A cup of tea doesn't just represent a moment of hydration," enthuses Patrick. "It is a mindful experience that you can repeat throughout your day to keep you calm, to keep you going, and to be social with."
Walk into any supermarket, and you are likely to be met with a vast array of different teas. From relaxing teas, to soothing ones, and ones to help you on your way to a restful night's sleep, the market has never been quite so saturated. In fact, the UK Tea & Infusions Association estimates that there are about 1500 different varie-teas. (See what I did there?!).
Whether your choice is black or oolong; loose or bagged, there is one thing you can always count on, a point that is summed up perfectly by Jules: "Tea solves everything."
Now, where's my favourite mug…?