Specimen of the Day

Coffee or tea, madam?

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It’s rather strange to think about it, but I suppose I have been living through something of a revolution in hot drinks in the UK. Traditionally, we are considered to be a nation of tea drinkers, but now on my way to work, I suspect that the majority of travel mugs clutched by my fellow commuters contain a more stimulating coffee instead. In 2008, the UK started to import more tonnes of coffee (green and roasted) than tea. Of course, you get more cups out of a kilo of tea than you do out of a kilo of coffee, but the upward trend for coffee importation continues (FAOSTAT).













It used to be that the nearest my coffee drinking came to any kind of ceremony was if I happened to be the lucky person who got to pop the seal on a new jar of instant. Now, however, even if there isn’t a gadget in the kitchen, then there’s ususally a coffee shop nearby to provide you with your morning ritual and your perfect brew. In 17th and 18th century London and Oxford, coffeehouses were also the place for men to go and read the news, make financial deals, reason about academic subjects and perhaps even discuss something a little seditious. By the end of the 18th century, these coffeehouses had all but disappeared. Many factors have been suggested for their decline, including that printed news was easier to come by, and the development of gentleman’s clubs. Tea drinking was on on the rise as it became fashionable at court, as women could participate in a way that they couldn’t in coffeehouses, and of course, through the promotional of the British East India Company’s trading interests in tea from China and particularly from India. Names such as Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Kangra and Niligri became familiar in the UK through the tea gardens established there by the British in the 19th century.


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Easier to prepare, tea remained the hot drink of choice in the UK for about two centuries providing warmth, comfort and calories (with milk and sugar) with every cup. Many countries favour either tea or coffee at the expense of the other, and in the UK a 2012 YouGov poll still showed more people still rate a cuppa as their favourite hot drink (52% tea/ 35% coffee). The coffee shop sector is one of the strongest businesses in the UK economy, turning over £9.6 billion in 2017. So when you next get to the counter of a coffee shop, what will it be – coffee or tea?


Further reading



David Grigg (2002). The Worlds of Tea and Coffee: Patterns of consumption. GeoJournal 57; 283-294






#AdventBotany Day 23: Rosemary, love and controversy – By Alastair Culham

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By Alastair Culham Rosemary makes a tasty addition to many savoury dishes. My favourite is a rub of salt and crushed fresh rosemary leaves put on potatoes before roasting but it’s also lovely with lamb and even with citrus based desserts. Rosemary was probably introduced to the U.K. in Roman times and it is reported…

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#AdventBotany Day 22: Put a cork in it. By Ali Ayres

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By Ali Ayres Wine corks. Composite (upper), cut (lower) (Photo A. Culham) It’s decided, 2017 is the year I finally contribute to this fine festive botanical blogging tradition. But what should I write about? Holly? Ivy? All the usual suspects have already been covered –and excellently to boot. Maybe a glass of wine would help…

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#AdventBotany Day 21: The qulliq brings light and heat to Canada’s Inuit Nunangat in the dark winter — By Dawn Bazely

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#AdventBotany Day 20: Holly By Patricia Francis

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By Patricia Francis Christmas gift tags from Gallery Oldham collection. The Winter Solstice has been celebrated in many cultures for thousands of years. In our northern latitudes evergreens show how life continues even in the depths of winter. In pre-Christian times evergreen boughs were hung in winter to encourage the return of the sun gods.…

via #AdventBotany Day 20: Holly — Culham Research Group

#AdventBotany Day 19: Christmas Kalanchoe – Kalanchoe blossfeldiana — Culham Research Group

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By Will Simpson by Wildfeuer (own work) [GDFL + CC BY 2.5] via wikimedia commonsThe genus Kalanchoe (the preferred pronunciation is kal-un-KOH-ee(1)) belongs to the Crassulaceae family. Like other members of this family, such as Aeonium, Crassula, Echeveria and Sedum, Kalanchoes tend to be succulent evergreen perennials, come from arid environments and make popular houseplants.…

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#AdventBotany Day 18: Cyclamen persicum: a Christmas misnomer? By Karen Andrews

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By Karen Andrews Photo by Karen Andrews They say that you should never judge a book by its cover. Walter C. Blasdale’s ‘Cyclamen persicum: Its Natural and Cultivated Forms’ is an unassuming, concise volume that normally sits in the restricted access section of the University of Reading Library. In an age of print or e-books…

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