Minor British Institutions: Builders' tea
Saturday 19 February 2011
Tea is the only drink in Britain enjoyed by all classes, although wine is percolating. It would be a mistake, however, to imagine that tea is classless, as its wide popularity has prompted all manner of distinction designed to protect the uneasy upper classes and torment the uneasy upward approachers. Putting milk in first, second or not at all has been as important in these circles as what you eat with it and when.
The modern popularity of "speciality" teas has led to a new label of distinction: builders', signifying the standard cuppa typically enjoyed by those eternally thirsty artists of drill and brick (it's been estimated that the average British house takes 9,500 teas to build).
Interestingly, the snobby origin of builders' has been subverted by people who wish to advertise their unstuffiness, the ones who breezily use it in the same knowing way their parents used "char". Builders, meanwhile, are increasingly turning to coffee.
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