There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the phenomenon of men drinking tea. No longer regarding tea as just a prissy quaff for be-hatted and gloved ladies, apparently men are suddenly discovering the pleasures of what Cowper described as “the cup that cheers but never inebriates.”
A sudden phenomenon? I beg to differ. Since its discovery nearly three millennia ago — by a man, I might add — the majority of tea drinkers have always been men, especially in Asian countries and Asian communities around the world. Not to mention that who ever saw a British gent without his favourite cuppa?
No, the only culture where men have been slower than women to catch on to the pleasures of tea, and tea time, is here in the USA. It has taken them since the “tea parties” of the 1770s, but it looks like men are finally getting caught up with the ladies.
At one time, a lot of men (my dear husband included) would rather have eaten quiche than drink a cup of tea. Well, that’s been changing. My dear husband now drinks two six-cup potsful of his favourite Soderblandning tea on weekend mornings, and usually joins me in a pot or two of India tea in the afternoons. This former pooh-pooher of all things tea can now discern between different types of teas, and even between first and later Darjeeling flushes. Quite a turnaround for a man who, when we were first married, poked fun at my growing collection of teas and tea paraphernalia. Now he has his own Chatsford teapot, a Stump teapot for yerba mate, and a favourite glass teacup.
Men are discovering not only the chemical health benefits of tea, but also the less quantifiable benefits of relaxing with friends over a fresh pot of tea. Certainly it’s better for the mind and body to chat while sipping cups of Assam and sencha than by swilling mugs of beer. (Hey, I like beer too, but I’m just sayin’ …) Yummy traditional tea treats — scones, crumpets, finger sandwiches, tiny rich pastries — are also as much a draw for men as they are for women.
There are even men who arrange “guy time” at their local tea house, like this group in Philadelphia. Similar groups can be found in other cities, and of course in Britain, Asia, and many other countries.
The one thing all male tea drinkers seem to have in common, however, is an aversion to frilly, feminine type tea parlours that so many of my dearest friends prefer (and that I often enjoy with them for our “girl time”). From the beginning, my dear husband made it clear that he would indulge my love of tea by accompanying me out to tea, but not to his concept of a “girly” type tea room. No problem. I’m quite content at a no-frills tea room myself.
Our favourite tea spots include the spare, Japanese style TeaBox at Takashimaya in New York City; the elegant tea service (with a glass of sherry) overlooking the Saint Lawrence River at Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec; Camellia Sinensis’ contemporary tea house in Montreal; the eclectic book-store setting of the tea room at Carturesti in Bucuresti, Romania; and the veddy British style Victoria Tea Room in Anderson, South Carolina (my husband particularly likes the chocolate cheesecake they often serve at tea time). There is usually a balanced mix of men and women — and sometimes kids — at these tea venues.
The online tea world is, as you would expect, a mirror of the “analogue” tea world. The international membership in our Teamail tea discussion group, initiated in 1998, has always been more or less evenly divided between men and women. The percentage of male tea room owners in our Tea Entrepreneurs Association business networking group, on the other hand, is expanding against the growing number of female tea room owners. Men are apparently discovering not only the delights of drinking tea, but also the pleasure and profitability of selling and serving it.
As always, TeaGuide Worldwide Tea Directory is way ahead of the trends. If you want to locate a tea room where men can enjoy their tea without having to worry about crooking their little pinky fingers, just look for tea rooms with the notation “Male-friendly – decor and service are comfortable for everyone.”
Tea is good for you, in both body and soul. It’s healthful, it’s social, and it’s pleasurable. But gentlemen, if you still need a reason to drink tea: It’s a great way to meet ladies!
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