2004-12-03 / Society

Tea Time with Linda


Edwardian caricature of afternoon tea
Edwardian caricature of afternoon tea During my month in London, I sought to learn something about tea each day. The tea exhibits in the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Victoria and Albert Museum were all interesting and informative. I thoroughly enjoyed the fine craftsmanship of the Chinese clay tea pots, the European porcelain and silver tea services, and the polished wood tea caddies. But, it was the Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum I looked forward to visiting most of all.

The Bramah is located in Bankside–-Southwark near the Tate Modern, the Globe, and London Bridge. This is the area where tons of tea were imported during the 20th century. Since the London Tea Auctions ended in 1999, the Bramah is all that remains of the areas long association with the tea trade.

Linda Sosbee and the world’s largest teapot
Linda Sosbee and the world’s largest teapot Edward Bramah worked in the tea industry in Malawi, Africa in the 1950s. In 1992 he founded the Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum to illustrate the history of these two beverages which have had such an impact on the world.

Most of the museum covers the history of tea from 1600 to 1950 including the East India Company, the London tea gardens, ceramics, smuggling, tea auctions, the Boston tea party, opium trading, clipper ships, the production of tea, and, of course, afternoon tea. There is a large and varied collection of teapots, mostly from Bramah’s personal collection. Two of the most interesting are one shaped like the monkeys which were trained to pick the tea and the largest teapot ever made.

The museum has a tea room and a tea shop. The tea room serves lunch as well as afternoon tea. When the pot of tea is delivered to your table, it comes with a small hourglass sand timer for a perfect brew. The tea shop contains a good selection of teas, teapots, teacups, and other tea items.

Edward Bramah is at the museum almost everyday. The day I visited, we had a nice chat. He said most people come only to have lunch or tea or to purchase tea items, that few are interested in tea’s history. I offered as some small consolation that I am fascinated by the history of tea and take every opportunity to increase people’s knowledge about it. This seemed to please him, and he graciously walked me to the underground station two blocks away.

Where there is tea there is hope.

Sir Arthur Pinero (1855–1934)

English playwright


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