It's amazing that every time a new tea book comes out, I learn something new about tea. You'd think every topic would be covered eventually, but that just doesn't seem to be the case. "Tea and Tea Drinking" by Claire Masset is a small book from Shire Publications in the UK, and I love it both for the enlightening text and for the great artwork throughout. Although I knew that tea in England was originally served in coffee houses (ironically enough), I did not realize that the brew was taxed as a liquid. "Because it was taxed in its liquid form, and only once a day by a visiting excise officer, the tea had to be brewed early in the morning and reheated as and when required." What a headache -- and what yucky tea! (In 1689 tea began to be taxed in leaf form, Masset says, so the all-day brewing was scrapped.)
And I'd heard of the famous Lyons tea shops, but I did not realize the company actually started as a tobacco business! The above image shows another tea venue, an elegant tea room at the London Coliseum in 1905. Wouldn't you love to have taken tea there?
Tea drinking also became an outdoor activity in England, as evidenced by these ladies of the woods. Another image in the book shows ice skaters stopping for a spot of tea.
But perhaps my favorite image in the book is this one, which depicts "a French 1920s poster celebrating the fanciful idea of a 'tea promenade,' during which travellers would be able to savour tea and cakes while enjoying glorious mountain views from a luxurious, chauffeur-driven car." Now that's MY kind of tea party! (And a brilliant idea. Someone in the travel business ought to offer such an experience!) All in all, "Tea and Tea Drinking" is just a charming little book and gave me lots of new things to ponder in the wide, wide world of tea.