And so the house is open! And off to a brilliant start with lots of visitors. While the house is settling back into the season routine, I thought I’d take some time to talk about tea (stick with me…). I discovered a rather alarming fact last week:
The house was shut for a stretch of just over 18 weeks. Working on the basis that this translates to roughly 90 working days, and that the average member of the house team drinks two cups of tea a day (this is a low estimate – it has been known for 10 cups to be drunk in one day!) I calculated that well over 1000 cups of tea would have been consumed by the house team during the closed season.
I think it’s safe to say; this house runs on tea.
In fact, one of my favourite things in the house is this:
What I like about the tea set is that it represents a quintessentially English practice, yet the tradition and evolution of tea incorporates many different cultures from across the world.
Tea is said to have originated in China in 2737 BC, discovered by the Chinese emperor Shen Nung, who was a famous herbalist. To put this into context – Stonehenge was not created for another 400 years after this!
Tea plantations first appeared in China and were only introduced to India in 1834 by the East India Company. The first people to ship back tea as a commercial import were in fact the Dutch in the 16th century. Tea became popular in Britain in the mid 17th century, and tea pots and tea wares were initially imported from Asia.
Tea would have been made at the table. When you visit Attingham, you can spot the silver kettle on the Sultana table, and see where the little heater, keeping the water at a steady temperature, sits underneath. By serving the tea to family and guests, the lady of the house would be honouring them by her rank – she represented the status of the household.
Tea etiquette was also important and included holding the cup daintily, not drinking from the saucer and inverting the cup to show that you’ve had enough tea…so perhaps not quite what we do today but nonetheless, tea still cuts the mustard in this house!
Hope you found this interesting – if you want to find out more about silver we will be running a silver conservation week later in the year, which will include seeing some of the silver collection up close, learning how to look after silver and how to read the hallmarks.