Tea with Jane

There is something quintessential about a British cottage. Pastoral in setting and charming in scope, they are found throughout Jane Austen's novels: the Dashwood's Barton Cottage, Aunt Norris's cottage in Mansfield Park, and Persuasion's Uppercross Cottage come to mind. Nearly all of Jane Austen's novels were written from her home at Chawton Cottage, where she resided with her dear sister, Cassandra, and their mother. We can only imagine the conversations around the tea table in that place and how their society inspired Jane's beloved literary characters.

Sometimes a project grabs your heart and won't let go. For me, this happened with Cottage Tea Cozy by Joanna Johnson, from Jane Austen Knits 2013. It's so charming. The cozy reminds me of playing with doll houses as a child, which was one of my favorite things to do. Whether it was the Barbie Dream House or the Victorian doll house at my Gramma's, I was all in.

I'll admit that I'm more of a coffee person than a tea person, but I would love to knit the Cottage Tea Cozy, put it on a tea pot, and display it in a prominent place in my china cabinet. It could be the catalyst to a fabulous tea party, too!

Tea Time

Tea was important in Jane Austen's time. It was a time to gather with friends and family, gossip, and catch up with each other. Tea played a large part in society in Jane's life, as it continues to do in the UK, and around the world, today.

In Jane Austen Knits 2013, Bonnie-Lynn Nadzeika researched tea in Jane's time, and her article is fascinating. I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

It is well documented that Jane Austen purchased her tea at Twinings. In 1814, while she was staying with her brother Henry in London, she wrote in a letter, "I do not mean to pay Twining until later in the day, when we may order a fresh supply."

In today's mind, the range of tea available then seems limited, but current choices would have overwhelmed Jane and her characters. The menu at Twinings in 1814 would have included Pekoe, Imperial, Bloom and Imperial, Congo, Congo with Pekoe, Congo with Bohea, Green Tea (also known as Hyson), Green Dust, Green and Imperial, Bloom Green, and Finest Hyson. The selection would grow as Twining is credited with introducing the blending of teas to suit different tastes.

You can still purchase tea from Twinings
on the Strand in London where
Jane Austen bought her tea.

While she would have been just another customer in 1814, today Twinings emphatically celebrates Jane Austen and her relationship with tea, declaring on its website, "The undisputed queen of all things tea, however, has to be the Georgian author, Jane Austen, where almost every social situation in her novels revolves around the taking of tea."

Indeed, many of the key scenes in her novels take place during a time when the characters were enjoying tea. After Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley come to an understanding about their feelings for each other in the novel Emma, Austen paints a vivid image: "They sat down to tea—the same party round the same table—how often it had been collected!"

Generations of imaginative readers have felt their pulses quicken as another pair of Austen's lovers engage in the intimate daily ritual of a meal, providing a glimpse of the "happy ever after" that all of her heroines would achieve.

Perhaps that is why Jane Austen and her novels appeal to women even today. Her characters do not exist in an exalted plane beyond the realm of our own experiences. They visited and drank tea. They spent their hours at home engaging in the daily tasks of sewing and mending.

So, make a pot of tea, take up your latest knitting project, and enjoy the company of your most intimate circle.

—Bonnie-Lynn Nadzeika, from Jane Austen Knits 2013

I feel like cozying up with with my knitting and a cup of Earl Grey, don't you? Get your copy of Jane Austen Knits today; there's lots more to learn about tea time in the 1800s, plus fabulous patterns that evoke Jane's lifestyle and literary characters, and life in the Regency era in Britain.


P.S. Do you prefer tea or coffee with your knitting? Leave a comment and cast your vote!

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