An important difference between American and British culture lies in the simplest of forms: drink choice. I doubt any American would underestimate the importance of a cup of “joe,” while any Englishman wouldn’t hesitate when you asked if they would “fancy a cuppa?”
I’m not going to make sweeping cultural assumptions about how coffee and tea changes the cultural identity of college students, but I have to acknowledge how the drink choice changes the “style” of student life.
There’s a lot that can be said about the time of day and manner in which these drinks are consumed, with American students drink their coffee on-the-go in the morning, typically tapping their foot as they look at the clocks on their smartphones.
In contrast, British tea time is traditionally at three or four in the afternoon, a carryover from the Victorian times, and today provides a break from studying for students. Tea can also be an early dinner-like meal or an event to get dressed up for and visit a “tea room” for biscuits, cakes and such. It’s kind of a catch-all term.
Tea is also a great excuse to meet up with friends and try out new restaurants. While in England I had the pleasure of visiting a friend in Manchester and going to Teacup, a tea shop specializing in being adorable. While we were there the shop was gearing up for Valentine’s day, upping the cuteness factor by about a million. I should also mention it was snowing. Enough said.
“We have tea in Japan, but it’s very different in England,” Mizuki, another exchange student in the U.K. said. “I think it’s interesting that different cultures all have different approaches to the same thing.”
What makes tea in Manchester so special is it’s connection to China, having the biggest Chinatown in England outside of London. While the history of tea in England is largely tied to it’s colonization of India, China is known as the original birthplace of tea and plays a huge part in the drink’s history.