Teetotallers to Tea Parties?

A Teetotaller to Tea Parties

What is a teetotaler, you ask?  In the 18th century England, tea was an expensive commodity, heavily taxed, and a luxury for the rich.  Coffeehouses were popular meeting places for social interaction, where news and views were exchanged.  However, women were banned!

Temperance Movement

Because of the working classes’ escalating drunkenness, tea was served to ‘persons of inferior rank.’ Many new cafes and coffeehouses opened as alternatives to pubs and inns, leading to the Temperance movement.


The Preston Temperance Society of 1823 was started in the north of England by Joseph Livesey.  He promoted abstinence from alcoholic beverages.  The movement quickly spread throughout England and to the States.

In the village where I was raised in Yorkshire, there is a hotel called the Temperance Hotel.  The picture above depicts Christian women in New York, promoting the movement.

A Teetotaler

It is unclear where the term a Teetotaller originated or why someone who never drinks alcohol is referred to as such.  However, it has nothing to do with tea.  However, the movement laid the foundation for something that would change the world.

In 1864 the Aerated Bread Company opened what would become known as the ABC Teashop. The manageress of this London-based company served tea and snacks gratis to customers of all classes.  She opened a commercial tea room on the premises.  This is a place for women of the Victorian era to take a meal ‘unescorted’ without sullying their reputation!

Soon other companies followed, and from the 1880s onwards, fine hotels began to offer tea service. Going out to tea was a fashion reaching its heyday in the Edwardian era (1901-1914).  By 1913, tea was an elaborate and stylish affair.  Served in palm courts with string quartets playing, and leading to the even more fashionable tea dances.  How I would have loved to have been part of the era!

Tea Service Fashions change, and so do social patterns and lifestyles.  Cocktails are again popular, though tea continues as a drink at home and in the workplace.

Thankfully there is a new surge of interest in tea drinking and going out for tea.  I love going to tea houses, as you can see in previous posts.  Tea dances are enjoying a revival, and tea parties are becoming popular to celebrate weddings, family events, and gatherings.

In conclusion, whether you are a Teetotaller or totally into tea, please join Local Tea Company in this fascinating TEA journey through the centuries.  Maybe the best is yet to come!

Glynis Chapman

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top