The English and the magical properties of tea

From p312 of anthropologist Kate Fox’s entertaining book Watching the English:

Tea is still believed, by English people of all classes, to have miraculous properties. A cup of tea can cure, or at least alleviate, almost all minor physical ailments and indispositions, from a headache to a scraped knee.

Tea is also an essential remedy for all social and psychological ills, from a bruised ego to the trauma of a divorce or bereavement. This magical drink can be used effectively as a sedative or stimulant, to calm and soothe or to revive and invigorate. Whatever your mental and physical state, what you need is ‘a nice cup of tea’.

If you’re not from the UK, you may be interested to know that what the medical literature calls social support is often referred to as ‘tea and sympathy’ by the Brits.

Actually, the paragraph above is not particularly representative of the book’s careful observations of the English but I can’t resist the opportunity to discuss the mental health benefits of tea.

But even if you’re not particularly interested in the English themselves, the book is also wonderful if you’re intrigued by how social anthropologists think and work.

However, the book is more like sitting in the pub with a social anthropologist than being in a lecture with one, as it’s a combination of an academic approach to the study of the implicit rules of English culture and Fox’s subjective opinion about what these rules mean.

After downing a few chapters, the author gets a little more opinionated and less observational. Although the book is no less entertaining as Fox becomes a bit loaded, you can see she isn’t taking herself too seriously by the end.

Which, as she notes, is a very English trait.

Link to details of Watching the English.

One thought on “The English and the magical properties of tea”

  1. This isn’t limited to England, I once observed the following in Edinburgh, Scotland:
    An elderly lady was sitting on a folding chair about 5 meters behind an ambulance, apparently in shock from a small accident that she had been involved in.
    One of the ambulance crew was bringing her a cup of tea from the ambulance.

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