For many years I was a coffee drinker. I still do drink the stuff (I'm one of those who enjoys the smell more than the taste), but only 3 or 4 cups a week - it used to be 3 or 4 cups a day. I made the switch to tea several years ago because I imagined that tea was better for my health. Of course, I now consume several cups of English Breakfast a day, with milk and sugar, so I probably haven't really gained much in the health stakes. What I have gained is some social status. It is immediately obvious to all but those sad coffee-addicted souls that the consumption of tea is a much more aesthetic and refined experience. I have noticed that tea has gained in popularity in the past few years, and one has witnessed the rise of tea houses and tea shops the re-emergence of the tea cup.
And while coffee is ubiquitous, and its consumption a somewhat hurried, workaday affair, places serving tea tend to have a more measured, stately atmosphere. Naturally, it is in Chinese and Japanese culture that tea drinking has reached the zenith of aesthetic experience. Indeed, throughout Asia the consumption of tea is seen as a virtue, superior even to the drinking of water, a habit that is looked upon with disfavour in most traditional forms of medicine.
A few months ago at work we resurrected afternoon tea, and it has become a wonderful tradition. someone prepares a big pot in an enormous silver teapot (pictured) and we all sit around a table drinking tea and eating biscuits. After we've finished our cup, several staff members versed in tasseomancy read the leaves.
I advocate the adoption of afternoon tea all over the globe - it is civilised, restorative and a timely reminder of the importance of rest, reflection and friendship.