During a recent visit to the local library, I came across a copy of Tea With Jane Austen by Kim Wilson. I’m a big fan of tea, so I picked up the book and checked it out.
Thirteen Things About Jane Austen and Tea
1. Jane Austen was responsible for making the family breakfast each morning and also the morning pot of tea.
2. Tea was very expensive during Jane’s time and was kept locked away to avoid pilfering by the servants.
3. Young ladies of the time used to decorate tea caddies with filigree work (rolled strips of paper applied in decorative patterns)
4. Jane took sugar in her tea, but probably not milk. The sugar was also locked up due to its expensive nature.
5. The sugar came in large cone-shaped loaves and someone had to break it up before it could be used. Sugar cubes came much later.
6. Shopping was different in Jane’s time. For example if she wished to buy tea she could buy it from a pedlar, she could walk to the local shops or wait until she visited a larger town or city.
7. Visits to the city were rare. Whenever Jane visited the city, friends and family would give her a list of their requirements and errands. Items such as jewellery and material were common additions to Jane’s list.
8. During Jane’s time a pound of tea sold for six shillings. Better quality tea fetched even higher prices. This was double the wages received by unskilled workers.
9. The quality of the tea varied widely. Legal tea was usually a decent quality as was smuggled tea, although it sometimes smelled a little of horse. Some tea was adulterated, which could be quite dangerous.
10. Some shops, such as dressmakers and milliners, offered tea to their customers. Tea contributed to a genteel atmosphere.
11. Twinings tea warehouse on The Strand probably hasn’t changed much in appearance since Jane’s visits to purchase fresh tea.
12. Riding in a carriage was considered exercise. Sometimes it was difficult to remain in a seat due to the bone-jarring roads. Tea was often the first refreshment called for on arrival at a destination.
13. Gentlemen and some ladies too, took to spiking their tea with spirits, especially in the morning after a hard night. If that didn’t work to fix a hangover, they’d move on to normal tea.
Are you a Jane Austen fan? Which one of her novels is your favorite?