Tea & Women through history

There is a long association of women and tea drinking.  From traditions such as the Chado custom in Japan to the early appearance of tea in the west when its value was so high that Catherine of Braganza brought tea as part of her dowry when she married Charles II of England. Queen Catherine popularised tea drinking amongst the English aristocracy, becoming known as ‘The Tea Drinking Queen’

Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford is credited with starting the custom of Afternoon Tea in the mid 1840s. Finding the break between lunch and dinner too long, she began to serve small cakes and sandwiches with Darjeeling tea in the afternoons, inviting her friends to join her. This trend soon spread amongst the middle and upper classes and is undergoing a significant revival today. 

The British institution of the tea shop owes its origin to one woman, the manager of the Aerated Bread Company, who began serving cups of tea to her favoured customers in 1864. Tea shops rapidly spread throughout England, owing much of their popularity to the fact that they were 'safe' places for unchaperoned women to meet and became important meeting places for those involved in the Suffragette movement

Famous suffragette tea rooms near our flagship store in Covent Garden London, were the Gardenia Restaurant in Catherine Street, The Criterion in Piccadilly – still there to this day and Alan’s Tea Rooms, Aldwych. You can listen to a BBC Radio feature on tea and suffragettes here 

The English Tea Lady became an essential part of the Second World War work force. Serving tea from a trolley to the workers on the shop floor, she had such a huge effect on moral and productivity, that tea ladies became common place in offices and factories all over Britain. Sadly tea ladies have now widely been replaced by the soulless vending machine and, worse still, “instant” tea

The Japanese Tea Ceremony ‘Chado’ was one of the important skills each Japanese woman had to learn before entering marriage. The ceremony is focused on preparing tea from one’s heart for guests, and even though performed by both men & women, the popular image of Chado is a Japanese woman in kimono performing this ancient ceremony

The relationship between Women and Tea is still going strong. Afternoon Tea Parties are becoming a popular way to celebrate a baby shower or hen party, and women love nothing better than putting their feet up and having a natter, and when a crisis hits, the first thing a lot of us do is head for the kettle and tea caddy (“there’s nothing that a cup of tea can’t cure”...)

Our Iron Goddess Tea celebrates the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Guanyin (or Ti Kuan Yin). The story goes that Guanyin appeared to a poor farmer in a dream and told him of a cave behind a rundown temple where treasure awaited. In the cave the farmer found a single tea shoot, where he planted it in his field and nurtured it into a large bush, from which the finest tea was produced.  It is the finest of the Chinese Oolongs from the Fujian province, with a very large leaf tightly rolled into dark, compact balls (often seen as ‘iron like’), with a naturally sweet aromatic nutty taste


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