“And I want a tea cozy. I don’t know what a tea cozy is, but I want one!”

Buffy Summers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I dont think Buffy is alone, I find many tea drinkers who visit our Carriagehouse Tea Room at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens do not know what a tea cozy is, or they may have heard about them but never seen or used one!  They are a very simple yet amazing invention to keep your tea warm in the POT.

It would seem their popularity has waned since the invention of the tea bag which in turn meant less people used a teapot. So, let’s try and get back on track, get the teapots back out, add some good loose tea and bring back the popularity of tea cozy!

The history of the tea cozy is not too well documented, though It seems unlikely to me that they were used when teapots first originated as the pots were small and tea was very expensive.  When William Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister in 1783 at the tender age of 24, he passed the Commutation Act which lowered the tax on tea, making tea more affordable and no doubt, the teapots bigger!

Anna Duchess of Bedford, who is credited with inventing afternoon tea, would have needed a tea cozy to keep her tea warm while exchanging news and gossip of the day.  A cold pot of tea would have cut the party short.  There are many antique tea cozys from this era with elaborate brocade, silk fabrics and intricate embroidery skills.

The tea cozy was used in North America in the same period. The Philadelphia Inquirer noted in October of 1892 that the tea cozy enjoyed a ‘sudden and unexpected rise in public favor’ among women who hosted tea parties.

The cozy flourished during the late 19th century appearing in many households but became less elaborate in time. There is an old tea tale which tells of a farmer who inadvertanly threw his wollen hat over the teapot returning much later to find his tea was still warm. Thus creating the first knitted tea cozy!

During my childhood in Yorkshire, we always had a tea cozy on our pot (even though many times the teapot sat on the hearth in front of the fire). We had an assortment of different designs as my mum was good at needlework and knitting but the ones with bobbles were always the most memorable, especially when many colors of wool were incorporated as shown in this picture. 

At Local Coffee + Tea, we have our very own tea cozy maker.  Janie Childers is a ‘Local’ and makes a variety of tea cozy with beautiful insulated fabrics to keep your tea nice and warm. Jane’s tea cozy is also wipe-able in case of spills. We have lovely spring designs which coordinate with many different teapots and 2 sizes to fit most teapots.

I have one that Janie made and also a knitted one that my Aunty Dinah made and wouldn’t be without them, they are truly part and parcel of having a good pot of tea. If you haven’t yet discovered the tea cozy, waste no more time, you will wonder how on earth you managed without one!

Also, we are now on Pinterest and have created a board for Tea Cozies.  Please pin your favorite Tea Cozy pictures or ‘like’ or comment on the tea cozy pictures we have pinned on our board.

Cheers,

The TeaLady

Our sister company, Local Catering has seen an increased interest in tea parties at Selby Gardens including an intimate wedding last month.  I hear the term “High Tea” used as a reference, when in actual fact; “Afternoon Tea” is a more accurate description. 

Tea Service

I will attempt to explain the differences between “High Tea” and “Afternoon Tea”, as well as a bit of history on how these very different meals got their specific titles

“High Tea” does not refer to fancy sandwiches and small cakes served with elegant table settings, but rather a meal served in working class households as the main meal of the day, usually early evening.

At the height of Victorian times lower and middle class families were only able to afford one meal per day.  Served at the end of the working day, the meal typically consisted of bread and cheese, potatoes, vegetables, maybe cold meat and pickles or for the more affluent, fish.  Black tea would be served along with the food. This is the meal most families would now refer to as dinner.

Growing up, this was the main meal at house and was called “tea”.  Today, I still refer to our evening meal as tea and often ask myself “What are we having for tea today?” As I am more sensitive to caffeine, we now will drink Rooibos or Honeybush or another herbal tea

Why is this meal known as “High Tea”?  Very simply, the meal is served on a dining table, in contrast to the much lower table on which “Afternoon Tea” is served.

Anna, Duchess of Bedford

Anna, Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861) is credited with creating “Afternoon Tea”. The evening meal was often served after 8pm, and the Duchess would get a ‘sinking feeling’ (low blood sugar levels associated with hunger!) in the afternoon hours.  She instructed her staff at Belvoir Castle to make up small sandwiches and cakes, and invited friends for tea and conversation. The meal was served on lower tables in the drawing room, allowing for intimate conversation. The tradition of “Afternoon Tea” is still very popular.

There are many variations of “Afternoon Tea” with small sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream and a huge variety of teas to choose from.  “Tea” can be a sophisticated, dressy and special occasion or a simple, casual and relaxed meal at the end of the day.

Whichever “Tea” you choose, the idea remains a wonderful way to spend quality time with friends or loved ones, enjoying some food and conversation. We should all do this more often!

Cheers,

The TeaLady