Inspiration is the key!
Tea is a national debate in Britain and has always been for centuries, from what I see. What George Orwell wrote in his “A Nice Cup of Tea“, an article published by the Evening Standard in January 1946, clearly gives you the impression that making and drinking tea is not only an art, but also a ritual. He listed and explained 11 rules, which I summed up a bit in the following list:
1 – Use Indian or Ceylonese tea.
2 – Small quantities are best: use a teapot made of china or earthenware.
3 – The pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.
4 – Tea should be strong and as one grows old, strong tea is preferred.
5 – Put the tea into the pot with no devices to imprison it. Even small tea leaves can be drank.
6 – Take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about.
7 - Stir it, or give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.
8 – Use a cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more
9 – Pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea.
10 – Pour tea into the cup first.
11 – Drink it Russian style. No sugar in it.
There seems to be universally accepted rules when it comes to such iconic food or beverages. Think of pizza, or coffee, or pasta. If you ask the traditionalists, they will cringe at the thought of pasta with parmesan and fish, pizza with french fries on it, or coffee with some unusual addition to it. That is because all of these things become icons for a selected group of people, sometimes national culture, sometimes continental pride. It just depends. The traditionalists would usually behave in such manner, it could be summed up in one thought: it would be like “we do it this way, so if you do not do it the same way, it’s like taking our flag off of it to replace it with yours, so you might aswell stop calling it X but Y and it has nothing to do with X which is its original version and we like it that way“. I hope my reasoning was not too confusing!
He was very careful mentioning that some of these rules were universally accepted, while others were subject to controversies. Was Orwell using tea as an icon for British Imperialism? The last bastion of what was left of the British Empire? Probably not. In one of his essays, he would brand as “neo-torysts” all those who felt ‘the desire not to recognise that British power and influence have declined‘, although he would call this ‘positive Nationalism‘. Besides, he does acknowledge the origin of tea leaves and foreign customs (i.e. ‘Indian tea’ or ‘Russian style’), so one can probably rule out the Imperialist theory, but what comes across by reading between the lines, is a concept. Food, more than other things, can become the symbol of a culture and sometimes of a nation, as previously suggested: Orwell also claims that ‘tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country‘ and brands his rules as ‘golden‘. One keeps wondering about Orwell’s attitude towards British culture in the way it’s represented by tea. You can tell he has a clear mind when it comes to preparing tea, and you get the feeling this preparation leads up to the icon that tea is to Britain, but you can also tell that he is not going to use it as such, or against any other cultural icon. Tea as a result of those rules will only serve the pleasing purpose of delighting someone’s afternoon break. As I once read on a WordPress blog I cannot recall the name of right now, isn’t it possible that not all novels have been built with a message and a purpose, but just to tell a story? Perhaps. So, maybe Orwell was just telling us how he likes tea.