Monday, August 19, 2019

#StormInATeacup, #Onelumportwo,vicar by Ashe Barker

I live in Yorkshire, in the UK. For Yorkshire folk, tea is something akin to a religion. The elaborate tea ceremonies of the Japanese are as nothing compared to the rigmarole of preparing a decent cuppa in this part of the world.

The first dilemma – teabags or loose tea? The traditionalists favour loose, of course, which has the added bonus that you can read your fortune in the tea leaves left at the bottom of the cup. But tea-making with loose tea and fortune telling are both something of a dying art and by far the most popular choice is the humble teabag.

Simple, clean, accurately measured. You can’t go wrong.

Except, there is the next dilemma to overcome. Do you make it straight in the cup, or in a teapot to then pour out? Personally, I prefer the teapot approach, but I am in the minority in my house where the teapot is seen as just another thing to have to wash up.

Does the milk go in first, or the tea? Or even the sugar? What if you prefer your tea black?
Should it be strong, so strong the spoon almost stands up on its own? In God’s Own County of Yorkshire we call that builders’ tea. Or weak (known round here as witches piss) so that when you add a good drop of milk you get something the colour of chicken soup?

Then we come to the crockery itself, and for this there is a carefully choreographed code of etiquette depending on who is to drink the tea.

Posh visitors (i.e. The Queen, future in-laws, bank manager)

Best quality china with dainty handles, all cups and saucers must match, as well as sugar bowl with little knobbly lumps of white sugar and a milk jug; no chips or scratches.
Expensive chocolate biscuits or buttered scones
Not quite so posh but still need impressing (e.g. the vicar, the doctor, her from next door who you don’t know that well)
Good quality china, matching set, sugar bowl and jug. Granulated sugar permissible. Chocolate biscuits or scones
Casual acquaintances
Cups or mugs, still matching, sugar bowl and milk jug optional. Hobnobs (not the chocolate variety) no scones.
Ordinary friends and family
Mugs, not necessarily matching. Milk in bottle or carton. No sugar because it is bad for them.
Their choice of biscuits or scones
Folk you don’t want to encourage (inquisitive neighbours, insurance salemen)
Chipped cup or mug, milk in bottle, no sugar, plain digestives.
People you definitely don’t like (PPI salesmen, door-stepping religious evangelists, selected in laws.
Chipped mugs, preferably no handles. No biscuits. No milk or sugar.

So, there you have it, the noble and ancient art of tea snobbery.

One lump or two, vicar?


  1. So lumps of sugar are considered more presentable than granulated? I never would have guessed.

    Fun post, Ashe! Though I'm surprised you'd offer tea even to door-stepping religious evangelists...

    1. WE Brits ALWAYS offer tea (though as you can see, this is not to be confused with hospitality)


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