It’s something you gossip over when you’re having a quick break at the office, or drink first thing in the morning to help you function in the day ahead.
It’s even a favourite when people head out for the afternoon with friends and family. Tea has been Britain’s favourite drink since the 18th century and 66 per cent of the population drink it every day.
It’s so steeped in tradition that many people see it as a classic British quirk. Just about everything can be fixed over a good cup of tea.
Now tearooms are becoming more and more popular. People’s pockets may be a little less full, but many don’t mind spending a small amount on a warming milky drink.
One tea merchant who knows only too well about the nation’s love of tea is Andrew Gadsden, who runs All About Tea in Southsea.
The 38-year-old has been running the business, which is a wholesaler of locally-produced tea, for nearly seven years. It was after moving to new premises last year that he opened a tearoom at the front of the factory for members of the public.
Andrew explains: ‘We intended to open up the business because people had been interested in buying the tea, not just other businesses. It’s gradually grown as more people have heard about us.’
All About Tea is an importer, blender and packer and sells to retailers, cafes, restaurants and hotels. Andrew brings in loose tea from suppliers all over the world and blends it on site, and the tearoom is making it more accessible than ever.
With 156 loose leaf flavours and 76 tea bags, there’s even a blend called Portsmouth tea, which is made from Assam and African tea and is designed for hard water areas.
For Andrew, tea has been something he’s loved since he was just seven years old.
‘When I was young I had two aims,’ he explains, ‘one of them was to join the Royal Navy and the other was to start a small business.
‘I joined up and when I was 30 I left and started work on what I was going to do next. I’d been interested in having a cafe with specialist teas and coffee, but the council refused me permission.
‘It was a blessing in disguise really because I never considered being a tea merchant. But during that long process I learned a lot more about the industry.’
Meeting a tea merchant one day changed everything.
‘He offered to train me as a taster, which is very difficult to do these days. You can only really train to do it through big companies like Tetley.’
But building up All About Tea hasn’t been an easy process, especially as many people just buy their family favourite brands at the supermarket, instead of searching for specialist flavours.
Andrew adds: ‘It is very hard to establish a regional tea company but I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I learned how to taste and blend for myself.
‘The business had its ups and downs. The first year was fantastic, for a while after it was very difficult and the last two years have been great for us again.’
Andrew says he simply wants to sell good quality tea. And the tearoom gives individuals the chance to try something they never normally would.
He says: ‘All tea in the supermarkets is basically the same, it’s all bland and goes for a price which is set by the supermarkets.
‘A lot of them aren’t what they used to be, it’s not twhat our grandparents would have recognised as tea.
‘It’s just brown and has caffeine in it, that’s all we can say it is. The taste of real tea is a revelation to people who haven’t tasted it before. There’s nothing unique, it’s just good quality tea.’
And the people of Portsmouth know exactly what they want from their tearoom – a comfy place to sit, a tasty cup of tea and maybe the odd piece of cake. And that’s exactly what Andrew hopes to offer.
‘Portsmouth people are great tea lovers,’ he smiles.
‘Almost everybody has a sense of what is a good cup of tea when they drink it, even if they’ve never had it. It’s a refreshing, satisfying, healthy and enjoyable drink. When you have a good cup of tea you know about it.’
Andrew adds: ‘Tea is one of the things that people in Britain feel is part of the national identity.’
David and Karen Moore have been running The Tenth Hole at Southsea in their daughter Lucy’s absence for the past week, and the family has been running the tearooms for the past three years.
David, 58, explains: ‘The Tenth Hole has been here for the past 24 years. As it’s based on a nine-hole golf course people who had finished playing would be offered a cup of tea and a scone. Before you know it, it became what it is today.’
Employing 35 staff members, it’s one of the most popular tearooms in the Portsmouth area, selling a variety of teas and bespoke cakes that are made fresh each day.
‘The girls who make them are flat out some days. No food has a chance to be left sitting around because it’s constantly being sold,’ he explains.
‘I like to think it’s a cafe for everybody. Tearooms are somewhere for the family to go, from the cradle to the grave.
‘It’s not very intimidating either, which some pubs and bars can be when people have children. Families and friends can totally relax, I think that’s why it’s so popular.’
Stocking tea flavours from All About Tea including white tea raspberry and ginseng, camomile and lavender, and darjeeling and peppermint, it was important for The Tenth Hole to offer its visitors a tearoom experience.
David adds: ‘Tearooms are enjoyed by the people of Portsmouth as they go hand in glove with being by the seaside.’
THE HISTORY OF TEA
Since the 18th century Britain has been one of the largest tea consumers in the world, after it was brought over from India.
It was originally a drink associated with high society as they were the only people who could afford it, and over the decades the demand for tea cups, pots and dishes increased to go along with the new drink.
Thomas Twining opened the first known tea room in 1706, which still remains in London, and there is a long tradition of serving tea in hotels.
In the UK, a tea room is a small room or restaurant where light meals and tea are served, and by far the most popular type of tea in the country is English Breakfast (normally served with milk).
Tea itself as has long been promoted for having a variety of positive health benefits. For example green tea is associated with a lower risk of diseases and peppermint tea is seen as an aid for digestion.
WHERE TO GET A DECENT CUPPA
· All About Tea, 56 Middle Street, Southsea – (023) 9275 0122
· The Tenth Hole, Eastern Parade, Portsmouth – (023) 9283 0009
· The Georgian Tearooms, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – (023) 9285 1723
· Mint Tea Rooms, Castle Road, Southsea – (023) 9234 6958
· Cafe In The Clouds, Spinnaker Tower – (023) 9285 7520
· Mamma Tearoom, High Street, Old Portsmouth – (023) 9286 2011
· Vintage Tearoom, West Street, Fareham – (01329) 284433
· The Village Tearooms, Alverstoke, Gosport – (07954) 056003
· The Pavilion Teamroom, Rowlands Castle – (023) 9241 3432
· Laura’s Kitchen, Park Road, Havant – (023) 92 48 1497
· Driftwood Cafe, High Street, Emsworth – (01243) 377373
· Northney Farm Tearooms, Northney Road, Hayling Island – (023) 9246 7607
· St Martin’s Tearooms, St Martin’s Street, Chichester – (01243) 786715