Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reading the tea leaves – literature's best brews

We celebrate international tea day with a round up of some of the finest beverages in books. But what have we missed? Give us your favourite fictional cuppas below

Mad Hatter's tea party
‘It’s very easy to take more than nothing’ ... Alice takes tea with the Mad Hatter in a production of Alice in Wonderland at the Royal Opera House in 2013. Photograph: Tristram Kenton
“Under certain circumstances,” declares Henry James at the opening of The Portrait of a Lady, “there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” There are also few novels that are not agreeably enhanced by the presence of a good brew. As James says, “whether you partake of tea or not … the situation is in itself delightful”. Introduced to the English court in the middle of the 17th century by Catherine of Braganza, the fashion spread to the middle classes in the 18th century, offering an alternative brand of refreshment to the excitements of the coffee house.

“What part of confidante has that poor teapot played ever since the kindly plant was introduced among us,” observed William Thackeray in The History of Pendennis. And, as he remarks ironically, “what a series of pictures and groups the fancy may conjure up and assemble round the teapot and cup”. Here are some of literature’s best.


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