Life beyond the teabag

Diane Eddy

If you’ve been watching the hit series, Downton Abbey, you may find it fascinating that the ladies of the Crawley family enjoyed their tea first thing in the morning while still in bed. A tray of hot tea was placed on their laps as they snuggled under piles of quilts to thwart the drafty cold of a grand estate house in Edwardian era England. For those who could afford it, sipping “bed tea” was promoted by the Indian tea growers of the period as an idyllic and stylish way to begin the day.

Black tea from the Assam region of India was the tea found both in the silver teapots for the upstairs ladies and in the “Brown Betty” teapots used by the serving staff. From this tradition emerged the blend we know as English breakfast tea, usually taken with milk and sometimes sugar. This classic strong, black tea has a full mouth-feel and yields a deep burgundy-red cup with a malty flavor and is still highly favored by today’s tea drinkers.

Our January 19 tea tasting class will explore the tea traditions and customs of the early 20th century, as the tea industry changed with the times. Carson, the head butler of Downton Abbey, struggled to maintain his exacting standards as his realm was turned upside down by war and economic unpredictability. But the one constant for all – ladies, gentlemen and serving staff – was the daily tea ritual.

This class is the perfect way to spend a morning learning about exceptional loose-leaf teas; the great single-estate teas from India and Ceylon. Each tea takes just minutes to steep, but a lifetime to forget. Whether you are a tea enthusiast or a tea novice, you will be awed by how tea elevates one’s mood and yet calms, and why it has become the world’s most consumed beverage. Whether it’s Assam tea, like the Crawley family drank, or the more mellow Ceylon teas favored by the Americans of the time, certain teas symbolize different periods of history.

You are invited to go gently into the good morning and join us as we travel back in history to learn how and why tea played such a vital role in the rapidly changing world inhabited by the residents of Downton Abbey.

On January 19, Diane Eddy, Certified Tea Professional from our local tea store, Global Tea Mart, will regale you with stories and tea history in this unique and fun tea tasting class as we explore the teas of the Edwardian era in both England and America.

The tea tasting class is from 10:00 a.m.-noon in the Sun Lakes Country Club Navajo Room. The cost is $5 and each student should bring a cup and saucer.

Reservations are a must and can be made by calling Diane at 480-266-5562 or sending her an e-mail at [email protected]