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Fun Things to Know
How did WWII affect tea consumption in America? What gave birth to the custom of tipping? How were early American fortunes made? And how did Brits come to love putting milk in their tea?
another reason to hate the war
American tea consumption prior to World War II is an interesting bit of trivia. In those days, black tea accounted for only about 40% of our tea intake. Another 40% were green teas and the remainder were oolongs. However, the war with Japan had closed off Asian tea markets, our source of green and oolong teas. Americans were left consuming black tea from countries unaffected by the fighting, primarily in Argentina. Ever since the war, America's consumption of black tea had remained close to 98%.
save the queen and tea
Tea deliveries to Britain were also affected by the fighting in the two World Wars. The German U-boat blockade had severely restricted supply during World War I, resulting in rationing and price controls on tea. Rationing was less severe during the Second World War. However, given its role as a national morale booster, stocks of tea were dispersed to over 500 different location all over England in order to better protect it from air raids by the Luftwaffe.
to insure prompt service
Tipping as a response to prompt service was born in the tea gardens of England. A small wooden box was placed on each table in the garden. The box was inscribed "To Insure Prompt Service" or TIPS for short. A coin dropped in the box usually assured prompt tea service. And thus the custom of tipping was born.
america's early millionaires
The fortunes of America's first three millionaires were made in the China trade. T.H. Perkins of Boston, Stephen Girard of Philadelphia, and John Jacob Astor of New York prospered by bringing tea directly to the colonies, bypassing the hugely wasteful and monopolistic East India Company.
the union of milk and tea
The British custom of drinking tea with milk has its roots not in taste but economics. The long journey from the Orient made tea prohibitively expensive. Milk, on the other hand, was cheap and became the condiment of choice among the lower classes. The amount of milk added became a telltale of one's social standing. The wealthy took their tea undiluted. The middle class poured the expensive tea and then diluted it with milk. The lower class filled the cup with cheap milk and then added a splash of the costly tea.