In the British Isles, the cup of tea could not truthfully be called a mere beverage. It is a pause, a pleasure, a punctuation mark in the day’s affairs. The grand London hotels have taken the ritual of afternoon tea and elevated it to the point of poetry. In a carefully polished tradition dating back to the middle of the 19th century, loose-leaf black tea from chests is ceremonially poured into finest bone china amid the lustre of cut-glass chandeliers, the genteel rattle of cup on saucer, and the delicate scent of roses.
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