Teetotalers to Tea Parties?

In 18th century England, tea was an expensive commodity, heavily taxed and a luxury for the rich. At that time coffeehouses were popular meeting places for social interaction where news and views were exchanged, though women were banned!  Because of escalating drunkenness of the working classes (gin and ale being their drinking options) it was decided to start serving tea 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 to promote abstinence from alcoholic beverages.  The movement quickly spread throughout England and to the States. In the village where I was raised in Yorkshire, there was a hotel called the Temperance Hotel.  The picture above depicts Christian women in the New York promoting the movement .

It is not clear where the term ‘Teetotaler” originated and why someone who never drinks alcohol is referred to as such, but it has nothing to do with tea.  However, the movement laid the foundation to 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 had been serving tea and snacks gratis to customers of all classes, and received permission to open a commercial tea room on the premises.  This created a place where women of the Victorian era could take a meal ‘unescorted’ without sullying her reputation!

Soon other companies followed and from the 1880’s onwards, fine hotels began to offer tea service. Going out to tea became 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, leading to the even more fashionable tea dances.  How I would have loved to have been part of the era!

Changes in social patterns and lifestyle came about and fashions change.  Cocktails once again became popular, though tea continued as the choice of drink at home and the workplace.

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

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

Glynis Chapman

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Category: Black Tea, Tea Journey, Tea Questions

Tags: Aerated Bread Company, BestTeas, EdwardianEra, JoesphLivesey, local coffee + tea, LocalTea, loose leaf tea, Preston Temperance Society, sarasota, Siesta Key, sip locally, tea, Teas, TeeTotaler, temperance, VictorianEra, Yorkshire