Americans drink more coffee than tea, a fact that might be linked to a historic party held in Boston on Dec. 16, 1773?
But while one, two, or three can chat over coffee, tea, served with light refreshment, has been a worldwide ritual for nearly two centuries -- arguably since 1840, when Anna, Duchess of Bedford, wanted to extinguish the "sinking feeling" she had between breakfast and dinner. Supper is traditionally served as late as eight or nine at night.
Lemon shortbread, madelines, bread and butter sandwiches and assorted sweets are among the light refreshments served at tea. But "high tea" can be a substantial meal in Scotland, Ireland and England.
"High tea does not mean a cup of Earl Grey sipped in Denver," said Payson resident Paty Henderson, connoisseur of things Scottish.
"When we were visiting Alford, Scotland, people made a big deal about going out for tea," she said. This was a ‘high tea' which is a supper, not the dainty tea with sandwiches served on a tea (low) table." Described as more of a man's meal than a ladies' social diversion, high tea included meats, fish or eggs and cheese. Leonie Dobbins grew up in South Africa. She misses having tea with her mother.
"If people were visiting in the morning we would have tea rather than coffee and it was always made in a tea pot, no bags and mugs. It always felt so good to sit down and just relax and take time to sip some tea and chat," Dobbins said.
Often they would sit on the veranda with a tea tray which would include doilies for the tray and a beaded doilie to keep the flies out of the cream, a quilted or crocheted tea cozy to keep the pot of tea hot, a sugar bowl and spoon, and a tea strainer for leaf tea.
In South Africa some businesses would come around with a tea trolley at 11 a.m. But it is late afternoon before Dobbins gets to slow down -- because she owns the Red Elephant Bakery and Cafe inside The Carpenter's Wife.
"The habit of drinking tea can make you stop and gather yourself for the next bout of work and not just rush, rush, rush all day long," Dobbins said.
About 5,000 year ago the Chinese discovered tea and its medicinal properties and tea has been used to promote health since then.
According to "Traditional Medicinals," a brand of tea, "medicinal herbal teas are generally best suited for self-treatment of common, non-serious health conditions such as nervousness and sleeplessness, occasional constipation, minor cough and cold systems and mental and physical fatigue." They recommend the services of a qualified medical herbalist or licensed acupuncturist experienced in traditional Chinese medicine to create custom formulas to treat more serious conditions.
"In Europe, kid's teas are quite common and these formulas have a long, well-documented tradition of use in European pediatric herbal medicine," explains Traditional Medicinal's David Hoffmann. He has been a medical herbalist for 30 years and is the author of 17 books on herbal medicine. When formulating the newly released "Just for Kids" teas, Hoffmann selected only medicinal grade, kosher certified, organic herbs that have a history of safe use by children.
"It is quite feasible to address children's everyday health issues with herbs. There is a space between not needing health care at all and needing prescribed drugs," says Hoffmann. "Properly formulated, medicinal herb teas can fill that space."
Traditional Medicinals is available locally at Back to Basics and Bashas'. Several Rim Country chiropractors are licensed to treat patients with acupuncture.
Employees at The Herb Stop, Garden of Eden and Back to Basics are founts of information about which teas and custom blends are good for what ailment.
But if what ails you is the need to slow down and chat with a friend, tea will be served at the Red Elephant Wed., Feb. 8 and Sat., Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. Reservations are required.
Dobbins is in the process of deciding what savories, scones and desserts she will make.