Food for Thought-Jane Austen’s Tea


My day began several months earlier when someone picked and prepared the tea leaves I drank this morning. After years of living in Great Britain and Ireland, I have grown fond of tea from Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Africa, and across the Indian subcontinent. I prefer my tea, like Jane Austen, at breakfast or mid-day. Though, if the mood strikes and the pastries are properly prepared; I can be convinced sit again at 4:00 pm.

Jane Austen is the ideal companion with whom to share a cup of tea. As a writer she is thoroughly obsessed by tea. I find this enthralling. Few writers share my fascination. Coffee addicts and bourbon hounds are a dime a dozen. But Jane Austen, Ms. Northanger Abbey herself, is into tea. That is the foundation on which one can build a lasting relationship.

The drawing room consumption of tea was one of the events which held middle and upper class society together in Regency England. Drinking tea and talking in one room (at home) was still a fairly new event. Jane helped make this both popular and cool. Tea was important (as it still is) to ordinary British people both rich and poor. You can see this in her work. In her six published novels, Jane’s characters drink tea on almost 60 occasions. The contents of the tea cup define the meaning and set the rhythm of Emma’s, Mr. Darcy’s, and the other character’s days.

Were I to begin to read, how would I, prepare my Jane Austen tea?

A boiling kettle,
Full of water,
I would need,
Then leaves of tea,
Brought to me,
Across the sea,
From the Chinese,
To be strained,
And steeped,
And then to see,
If I could sip,
And be pleased.

–Richard Bryant