February 16, 2010

The Amherst Club

February 16, 2010

A sizeable group of intrepid club members was today rewarded with a delightful talk by Claire Hopley about the history and significance of tea.  Many Club members know Claire from her cooking column in the Amherst Bulletin but may not know that she is English, spends time in her hometown of Chester, and writes and publishes there as well.

Tea arrived in England from China in the seventeenth century and was at first considered medicinal since it had to be made with boiling water, thus bypassing all of the dangers of unboiled water.  By the eighteenth century, tea had replaced beer as the popular beverage since it could be imbibed in large quantities with few effects.

Almost immediately, tea became the domain of the ladies and tea service also a symbol of status, wealth and power (or lack thereof).  Afternoon tea was mostly a women's affair, but high tea, served at a table when the men had returned from work, pushed dinner later and later.

Claire illustrated her history with excerpts from English literature, but her closing illustration was from Edith Wharton and demonstrated how the tea service came to symbolize one's status, and sometime's one's aspirations for status.

Since this was the luncheon after Love Notes, the meeting began with an auction of wines and the sale of coffees and plants.  Treasurer Roger Webb gave a preliminary accounting of Love Notes income, which appears to be somewhat below previous years.  Any one with Love Notes expenses should give Roger their paperwork right away. Any new income should be given to Jim Scott next week.  On March 7th at noon there will be the traditional Love Notes Debriefing and Pot Luck at Phyllis Lehrer's house.

Dee Waterman and Michael Greenebaum