Because tea is so associated with Britain, it's interesting to note that it was unknown in Queen Elizabeth I's time. A few hundred years later, however, it was definitely a status symbol to be able to offer your guests tea. This book describes how tea was such a valued commodity in Jane Austen's home that it was kept under lock and key. Not only was the beverage itself an important part of social calls, but elaborate tea sets and tables were also necessary to impress the guests.
Chapters in the book deal with such important matters as the time of day when tea was consumed, how tea was purchased, the effects of tea on health, and taking tea away from home. Sprinkled throughout the text are lovely excerpts from Jane's books and private letters relating to tea. She was apparently in charge of tea operations in her family's household, and took her duties very seriously.
The book also features many recipes that would have been familiar to people in Austen's day, including Hot Bath Cakes, Barley Water, Plum Cake and China Orange Jelly. There are also plenty of illustrations throughout the book which help to set the mood. Luckily for me, the final chapter of the book concerns "Making the Perfect Cup of Tea." This chapter includes advice on the correct water temperature based on the type of tea you're using, how to correctly use and steep loose tea, and the proper accessories needed to get the most enjoyment out of your cuppa (a beautiful pot and cup, plus a Jane Austen novel, of course!).
I found this book to be very informative and delightful. I truly felt the importance of tea and its place in society during Jane Austen's life!
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of Tea with Jane Austen from Frances Lincoln Publishers
Final verdict for Tea with Jane Austen: Four Gherkins, for being a thorough look at that most delightful of British customs