“Tea is more important than ammunition.”
It is said that Winston Churchill uttered the phrase above in 1942. As he was British, it is easy to believe. The question is, however, whether or not it would still ring true today. Personally I believe that it would.
This sentiment comes from two sources. The first is my own experience with the drink here in London and I truly believe that tea has lost little of its appeal or its ceremony. For one, the original Twinings store still exists in the same place as ever on The Strand. It has been there for over 300 years and in a way is as reverent a place as any London cathedral. There is a strong sense of quiet tradition and the tea displayed along the walls in jars like relics waiting to impart their blessing.
Indeed, the act of drinking tea has not lost its pomp or circumstance either. I visited the Pump Room in Bath and was treated to many tiered shelves of cakes accompanied by no less than champagne and a three-piece chamber orchestra. While entrees were available it was clear that the music and coordinated dances of the waiters were not inspired by anything requiring a fork and knife but were rather meant to heighten the experience of high tea. I was told by a tea master that the term high tea comes from the act of having a “meal between meals” at one’s high dining table rather than a low tea table and that the practice originated in the 19th century (of course).
The other evidence for my claim comes from my experience with social movements in London. It seems that many Londoners love their troops but would rather they stayed home where the tea is warm and the biscuits are fresh.
And my last bit: it is never hard to find tea in London. Tea will find you. Take for example an unassuming antique store in Greenwich. Walk inside and you’ll find sprawling masses of antique postcards, African art, most of a motor cycle, and a tea room. Yes, a tea room complete with a court yard and delicious cakes in the middle of a self-proclaimed junk shop. It’s all bit Lewis Carroll-esque but instead of an un-birthday it’s an un-teatime with wonderfully mismatched cups and pots and perfectly tended gardens of aging stuff. Rest assured that the tea and the tart were delicious (as shown below).
It all just goes to show that tea truly does pass understanding.