Yes, I know “The Tea Party” is a beloved term in USA Politics for a Republican Political group — but do you know what? I think you need to remember the rest of the world’s associations with the phrase you have called yourselves and maybe rebrand accordingly.

I grew up in England and glimpsed in my grandmother’s walnut cabinet beautiful miniature china tea services which were cherished toys from her childhood. I longed for the day when I would be considered “well behaved” enough to be allowed to play with them with her.

Until that day arrived — plastic was the name of the game, tea parties were held in the garden, and tea was a mixture of soil and water — AKA mud which was dutifully “sipped” by our parents when they were invited. I think this was preferred to the indoor tea party where the only “water” available to substitute for tea came from the toilet!

Somewhere between the mud in the plastic and the beautiful Victorian Tea sets I was introduced to Alice in Wonderland and the wonderfully ludicrous Mad Hatters Tea Party. Tea Parties were never the same again; they were accompanied by outrageous dressing and playing/acting up.

With hindsight I am sure that this was a protection measure put in place by my grandmother to secure the safety of her precious tea sets, one that paid off as I am now packing then up again to move.

There were variations on a theme of course — I had to include teddy bears picnics so that my brother could join in. He had teddy bears, not dolls. This invariably led to food fights, or mud fights, mud pies were our speciality.

As we left childhood, our education led us to the “Boston Tea Party” where American colonists became frustrated at the new tax on tea and decided to get their own back by disguising themselves as Native American Indians, board three English ships in Boston harbour and unceremoniously dump over thirty crates of tea into the water — a symbolic, but slightly ridiculous, gesture.

All of which brings us up to date, with the political Tea Party of today — and the “Tea Baggers” as they are so affectionately called — and why anyone who has been brought up in England secretly has a giggle when they hear the words “Tea Party” as they cannot escape from the on-going sense of the ridiculous that is imprinted on our minds.


  1. Brilliant article, Nicola! I appreciate the proper correction of the historical use of “Tea Party.”

    The USA Tea Baggers are all carpetbaggers, really. There’s no philosophical core there. They’re just a bunch of angry whackos controlled by tobacco and cynical big money — just like the rest of the GOP:

    A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

    Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry’s role in driving climate disruption.

    The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party’s anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.

  2. I found myself laughing every time The Tea Party was mentioned – expecially in conjunction with Sarah Palin and I had to think about why I just found it so funny …………… and then wondered if they knew !

    1. It’s an odd political party that seems out of step with mainstream America. Can the GOP survive if the Tea Party becomes the new standard? Or will there be a split?

      Love the images of your fine tea sets. So beautiful!

      1. David, “out of step” is a good term for it! I feel the same way. Hopefully for that reason alone they can’t become the new standard. They also seem so factionalized that they can’t seem to really get a grip on their own group.

        1. They’re also really dangerous because they don’t care to ever compromise.

          Because of that, they will never have the power of the presidency, but because they won’t negotiate, and they’re in Congress, they are always going to interfere with the proper business of the government — and that’s why they all need to go ASAP.

  3. They have a similar thing happening in the UK – the coalition between the Liberals and the Conservatives lost a lot of seats at local elections earlier this month to UKIP – the UK Independence Party – they are even more right wing than the Conservatives – there are already discussion there to see if the Conservatives should move that way or hold the middle ground with the liberal democrats.

    I love the tea sets – I used to spend hours as a child peering at them through the glass .. they were the dreamsof fairytale princes and princesses. – The first one is actually painted in gold leaf , the chinese looking ones are opaque in places too – like the rice bowls you often find,

    1. Yes the Tea Party will likely splinter the GOP in the coming years. There will be an ideology war between conservative moderates and the rest of them.

      What is the proper way to make tea? Put a bunch of loose tea leaves in a bot of hot water and strain it? How much tea per cup? What is the proper size for a cup of tea? Years ago, it used to be 8 oz. in the USA, but now we have massive tumblers of tea you can buy on every street corner, but the tea is usually always weak and bland.

      1. David,

        If I may respond to one question you asked, vis a vis proper tea preparation :

        The teaspoon is named for the proper measure of tea per cup of tea — one teaspoon per cup of tea, plus one “for the pot” as I have always been told. So if you are making four cups of tea in a teapot, you use five teaspoons of tea. I believe that should suffice for 6-8oz of tea. The massive tumblers of tea deserve 1 tsp per 6-8 oz.

        The temperature of the water depends on what kind of tea you are making. For black tea I boil the water, but for green tea I try to not let it get past 160 Fahrenheit.

        1. My grandmother used to always say that about coffee and tea! “And one for the pot.”

          Why the lower temperature for green tea? I’m guessing if the water is too hot it just ends up tasting bitter? I’ve only had it a few times, but the taste is usually very light.

          1. It has to do with burning the leaves and it being more sensitive since it has not sat in the sun as long.

  4. Nicola,

    The tea party is a joke — it called itself a grassroots organization from the beginning and of course was anything but. They are trying to teabag America by chanting “taxed enough already” when for most people, taxes have not gone up.

    1. I know they are a joke – a joke that takes themselves very seriously – and as you can see from my upbringing a joke in more ways than one.

  5. @David will wite a post on the correct preparation of tea – I have some interesting paraphenalia associated with tea that I can photograph as well.

    1. Excellent, Nicola! I would love that kind of steps article from you!

      I’d also like to know how you pick a proper tea. Are teabags ever proper, or should it always be loose-leaf?

  6. Such a fun article… took me back to my childhood and building tents over the clothes line with blankets where I would serve tea to my dolls and stuffed animals and occasionally my grandmothers grumpy old tabby would be invited. Thank you for associating the tea party with such nice memories.

    I too laugh now at the phrase since it has been commandeered by the political right. But I laugh for different reasons than you do I’m sure.

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