When I first moved here from New Zealand 16 years ago there were many things that baffled me: why did everyone ignore each other on the tube? When they did talk, why did everyone keep asking me if I was ‘alright’?
And what was the obsession with tea?
Sure, I drank tea (truth be told, back them I was more of a flat white girl), but you guys had buckets of it.
I remember my first job, working as a journalist for That’s Life’ magazine in Camden, where it seemed like every five minutes the call would go up on the features desk: ‘Tea?’ After a while the other girls even developed hand signals, so they didn’t even need to speak – with a flick of wrist and a nod of the head a fresh brew would be on its way.
With unfailing British politeness my colleagues would always include me in the round, to the point where I actually got sick of smiling and shaking my head, ‘no thank you’.
Then something happened. I started suffering from insomnia, and stopped drinking coffee… and I discovered the utter joy of tea.
That first cup in the morning – piping hot, savouring those last few moment of peace before the girls wake up. After a busy day of rushing around – a few precious minutes of me-time, when I sit down, put my feet up and just breathe.
But my favourite has to be afternoon tea.
Is there anything more quintessentially British than afternoon tea? Those teensy little sandwiches, the delicate cakes, the chink of fine china – it’s one of my best-loved English traditions.
Apparently, it was invented in the early nineteenth century by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who would enjoy a pot of tea and a light snack as a pick-me-up before dinner. She began inviting friends to join her, and before long ‘afternoon tea’ became a fashionable social event.
When PORTMEIRION invited us to celebrate Afternoon Tea Week with our very own garden party, I was instantly inspired by their timeless Botanic Blue range. It features a whimsical pattern of blue butterflies and dragonflies, fluttering through a ceramic English garden of sweet williams, daisies, lillies and sweet peas.
I knew straight away I wanted a plain white tablecloth and flowers (I’ve used the Botanic Blue water jug as a vase), as I didn’t want want anything to detract from the intricate details of that gorgeous design.
Set against a backdrop of lush green ivy, I could almost imagine we were in the grounds of an Oxford country manor, sipping tea with gloved hands, followed by a game of lawn croquet.
Who’s joining me for a spot of tea?
• did you read about my Portmeirion Mother’s Day treat?