Ulverston shop owner ready for a tea-riffic national celebration
FROM the ordinary worker the royal family, there are few things we have in common more than a love of tea.
We drink it to celebrate, when we're unhappy, and whenever there is a crisis to be solved the first thing we do is put the kettle on.
For millennia poets and writers have devoted line upon line to the simple pleasure of steeping those precious leaves in a pot.
Chinese poet Lu T'Ung said: "I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea", while the British-American author Henry James said: "There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea."
Today is National Tea Day, a country-wide celebration of our national drink.
As the nation once again prepares itself to go to the polls it is fitting to remind ourselves of the one thing that brings us all together.
Doug Gillam, owner of Gillam's Tea Room in Ulverston, has nothing special planned for the day, but for a very good reason.
"It's tea day every day," he said.
Mr Gillam has noticed a rise in the number of people coming in to drink tea, in particular, afternoon tea, complete with scones, jam and cream.
Asked why he thought it was more popular, he said: "I suppose it's increased in popularity because it's something we do a lot, it's something that people want. People come in for hen dos, it's an alternative to going out. It's not something you see day to day any more."
Tea strainers and beautifully decorated crockery are a nostalgic reminder of the rituals which formed part of every day life.
He said: "When people get a tea strainer out, they'll say 'my nana used to have one of those', people embrace it again as today, people always use tea bags."
Above all Mr Gillam knows the special place in hearts nationwide for tea. He added: "You can't live without it, if it was taken away you'd really struggle. It's a cliche but whenever something goes wrong, you get the tea on."
To find out how you can celebration National Tea Day near you, visit www.nationalteaday.co.uk.
The story of tea begins in China, where legend has it the beloved beverage was created by accident more than 4,000 years ago.
It was told the Emperor Shen Nung was sat beneath a tree, as as servant boiled drinking water. Leaves from the tree fell into the water, infusing it with a delicious taste – and so tea was born.
Although impossible to know exactly how tea came to be drank, containers for the leaves have been found in Chinese tombs dating back 2,000 years.
For centuries the drink remained in the East, only being mentioned in European chronicles in the mid 16th century.
In 1606 the first consignment of tea was shipped from the island of Java to Holland by Dutch traders. It soon became a popular drink back in Holland, and then other European countries, however, because of its price it could only be drunk by the wealthy.
It was only because of Charles II marriage to a Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, a noted tea addict, the England's love affair with tea began.
Because of its royal connection, nobles across the country began drinking as much tea as they could.
British consumption of tea steadily increased over the centuries, fuelled by the expansion of the empire.
By 1902, the average tea consumption of a Briton was 6lbs a year.