Drinking Tea

How to Be More English?

(1) On Drinking Tea

The English are renowned for drinking tea and, to be fair, there is enough reason for them to be so. Although they never approach the subject of brewing this unique liquid with the concentration characteristic of the Chinese and although in the modern, hectic days no-one-with a possible exception of the Queen-drinks it regularly at five o'clock, tea remains an important issue.

When an English person says 'the tea', he or she usually does not mean the drink as such, but a light meal one would normally have in the late afternoon, say the traditional five o'clock, of which tea is a vital, though not always the most tasty part.

Tea need not be anything special, like an exotic blend or having a bewildering taste. Earl Grey is enough. It is you who makes it special by pouring milk into your mug-as a result you obtain a kind of a brownish liquid that does not look terribly appealing, but which you can still sweeten up to magnify the effect. In fact, this is neither very disgusting, nor very strange: some people drink it in Poland as well under the name of bawarka, to distinguish it from herbata, as this is not what it was before pouring milk; at least it does not taste the same. But just like in some societies colours like blue and red are described with the same word, in England 'the semantic field of the word "tea" covers both bawarka and herbata'. So remember to promptly say 'No milk, please!' if you are not very fond of it-pouring milk in the tea is an unconditional reflex here.

The above drink is usually accompanied by what is called scones. These are simply sweet rolls, usually with raisins in them, that you cut in half in order to spread butter, jam, honey or cream over them. There is actually one correct order of spreading these things on the scone but we have had problems establishing it as it seems highly controversial. Anyway, it is not terribly interesting to know either. Scones are actually genuinely tasty, so do not object to having one. Well, at least not longer than the English politeness requires you to.


Put the words into action

In the spirit of the above, we suggest you now go to the kitchen, put the kettle on and a teabag into your favourite mug. Then the usual: boiling water, milk, sugar and whatever else you feel is appropriate. Still, bear in mind that lemon does not at all go with milk. If you are really keen, embark on baking some scones, which can be done easily with some water, sultanas, flour, eggs and common sense. As a credo we suggest what seems to be the principle working behind the English cuisine: 'It is not the taste that counts'.

Good luck! If you get through that, then read us next week for more indispensable advice on getting English as we engage in a conversation about hailstorms.

The neccessary vocabulary

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