Feeling British? Like tea? Then celebrate International A Nice Cup of Tea Day, which I learned about on the Traveldudes web site. It's mostly a Facebook event, so if you're not on Facebook, you're out of luck.
Which doesn't mean you can't celebrate tomorrow, November 28.
Pour yourself a cuppa, relax and treat yourself to some nice biscuits -- or cookies -- depending on your nationality. But if you find some McVitie's Digestive biscuits, all the better. Covered in plain or milk chocolate? You, my friend, are living large.
The British drink 165 million cups of tea daily, according to the Traveldudes' post. But tea for the British is often about more than the steaming brew in the cup.
It's about the atmosphere you drink it in. What you have with it. What you get to take a break from when brewing and drinking it. And nostalgia.
Tea doesn't have to mean something fancy. The way the fine hotels in London serve it. Yes, that's nice. But that's not typical. Plenty of down-to-earth tea shops and inns all over the country serve tea in an ordinary or even rustic atmosphere, without the bone china cups and saucers.
I made British friends and soon enough I was enmeshed in university life and living wide-eyed, as new experiences rained down on me. (The cultural immersion would not have been the same if I'd gone with friends.) I was the only American on a hall with British "freshers."
Tea was ritual in our dormitory (in a quad that came with a warden!) After dinner we'd gather in one dorm room or another for a cup of tea. With milk. Early on, I had to scramble to the High Street in town and buy an electric kettle so I could host too.
In the dining halls, the only drinks available were water or hot tea with milk. The milk was already poured into the stacked institutional thick white tea cups with saucers, and the brewed tea came from a huge urn. You lifted the spout and you got yourself a milky cup of tea.
The Traveldudes post names the "best" places in England to savor a cup of tea. They're in London, Edinburgh, Oxford and other British cities. My friends in Devon, in the west of England, had a different goal: to find not just good tea, but the best cream tea.
That meant the tea shops serving the largest portions of clotted cream to heap on scones and jam. We'd pile into a friend's car and make our way around Dartmoor and other places around Devon, in the west of England, seeking the "best" cream tea.
One of my favorite places was right in Exeter. Tinley's tea shop, long gone now, with its great view of Exeter Cathedral. Parts of the building it was housed in date back to the 16th century.
Solo travelers who want to try a cream tea, or just tea with scones or biscuits, don't have to go to a fancy hotel or tea emporium. It might be more comfortable heading out into the country and finding a down-to-earth tea shop, rather than sitting in a hotel with other tourists, or British families out for a special occasion. (Though if that's your idea of tea, well, go for it! Let 'em all stare at you getting every last drop of clotted cream for yourself. Pay no mind.)
Once settled into your chair, get yourself a pot of Assam or Darjeeling or English Breakfast and some scones. Go for the clotted cream if you've never tried it and you're not prone to heart attacks (55 percent fat, my friends.)
Pour the milk that comes with the tea service (standard unless you ask for "black tea") into the bottom of your cup. Pour the tea. Drink. Repeat.