No Tea For Servants

Just a quick one today. I got the following story from E.S. Turner’s What The Butler Saw.

I know that tea was a highly politicized drink in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I remember reading somewhere about various moralistic tracts that tea could turn the most virtuous of girls into wanton strumpets, or that tea caused disease.

As the nineteenth century went on, people’s issues with tea became class-based. It was considered by some to be a drink inappropriate for servants. While many houses provided a certain ration of tea to be given over to their staff, many considered beer to be a far more nourishing drink for the working classes:

“Although tea allowances were a perquisite of long standing, many mistresses worried because their servants were the slaves of a beverage unsuited to their station; a bevereage which, while sustaining the energies of ladies, sapped those of servants. Girls who were not paid a tea allowance actually squandered on this unhealthy drink money which should have gone into the Savings Bank. If they had to drink tea, why could they not be content with the tea left over from the parlour? If that had been too heavily diluted, surely the could refresh themselves adequately with milk?

“For a girl earning £8 or £9 a year, an expenditure of £1 on tea was clearly uneconomic; ‘there are families’, scolded one writer, ‘in which the master and mistress deny themselves one dessert and common table luxuries which cost far less in proportion to the money they have to spend than their servants’ tea does to their wages.’ And how disgraceful it was for housemaids to spend money on tea when their younger brothers and sisters were growing up in ignorance because there was no money to send them to school” (218).

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One Response to No Tea For Servants

  1. Pingback: BizarreVictoria: Celebrating 3 Years | BizarreVictoria

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