Virginia Barton

10 February 2017: Milk and sugar?

10 February 2017: Milk and sugar?


10 February 2017


george-orwell-1024x765If you read it, my Commonplace last week ended with the name of George Orwell (left). He crops up again this week because I stumbled across an essay he wrote for the Evening Standard in 1946 called “A nice cup of tea”.  He, like Johnson and Dickens, extols its delights, and describes the best way to spin out the ration that was imposed at that time. Everyone over the age of five was allowed just 2ozs of tea per week

There are not many crises that can’t be improved by a cup of tea. Neighbours arrive with trays of it at scenes of fires and accidents. As soon as the baby is safely delivered, Mum is offered one. Post-op patients come round with the prospect of a cuppa and a brew-up is an essential for campers, night staff, and workers on strike.

165 million cups of the stuff are drunk in the UK every single day, mostly by the over 55’s. You reach for it when you are sad, or lonely, or not feeling too good. It’s the ultimate comfort drink. (Incidentally, tea drinking, originally an upper-crust habit, was plugged among the working classes by the Temperance Society as an alternative to alcohol. It would seem that it caught on.)


BH always made the tea in our house and I would say to him that, for a foreigner, he made a lovely cup. He would put on a special Jacques – think A Tale of Two Cities – tea-making hat; red woollen, droopy down one side. He looked very fetching in that hat.

I make the tea nowadays and swear it’s not as good as his. Perhaps because I’ve mislaid the hat?




  • Coal-Filled Wellies says on: February 10, 2017 at 5:57 pm


    I think I’m right in saying that two hundred years ago it was drunk by the Upper Crust in dishes, and called Bohea, for some reason. “A dish of Bohea would be magnificent!”

    Am I dreaming this?

    • Ginny says on: February 13, 2017 at 4:11 pm


      As regards bohea, Wellies, both Chambers and the Oxford English Dictionary tell me that bohea is the lowest quality of black tea from the Wu-i hills in China. Presumably the upper crust didn’t realise its lowly status (and their suppliers were laughing behind their hands).

      We like very strong (cheapo) tea in our house, known as builder’s. In fact, bohea. Ginny

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