Time for Tea


Calling all tea lovers to a new exhibition at St Albans Museum + Gallery

A tantalising new exhibition, ‘Time for Tea’ opens on 19 May at St Albans Museum + Gallery, exploring the fascinating journey of tea from leaf to cup and the worldwide significance of this popular beverage. Following a preview for local supporters, councillors and dignitaries on Thursday 18 May, the free exhibition held in the Weston Gallery, will run until 05 November 2023 and includes complementary, immersive activities.

With 36 billion cups consumed a year in the UK, 3,000 varieties available and tea being the second most popular beverage only to water, it is firmly entrenched in British culture. Believed to be brought to Europe by Dutch traders in the 1600s, it was a favourite of Princess Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II, who set the trend for drinking tea which continues to this day.

From a quick cuppa during the day to a luxurious afternoon tea, a cup of tea is a familiar moment in many peoples’ lives. Referred to in literature, popular culture, film and TV – including at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, served by penguins in Mary Poppins and a favourite of Downton’s Lady Violet Crawley - tea is a most-loved drink with a fascinating story.

Sarah Keeling, Curator- Post Medieval to Contemporary at St Albans Museums, says:  “We are delighted to bring this wonderful exhibition to St Albans. Time for Tea celebrates the nation’s love affair with tea exploring its history, how it’s made, drunk and its significance across the world. Visitors can also enjoy a nostalgic look at the tea houses and cafés St Albans has been home to in the past.

“There will be engaging imagery, including ‘A Tea Party at Napsbury’ by artist Louis Wain, beautiful displays of ornate tea bowls and decorative teapots from our collection, and after a wander through the exhibition visitors can relax with a cuppa in the museum’s Courtroom Café.”

The exhibition will take visitors through what tea is, how it comes to the UK, is packaged, stored, made, and then drunk from different vessels. There will be a look at tea from a social perspective including how different cultures enjoy tea and a community sourced display of people’s favourite tea mug.

A range of complementary activities will be offered including family activities, talks, creative workshops, and an incredible Georgian Costume Ball taking place in the grand Georgian Assembly room at the museum. Guests are invited to wear modern day formal attire or let their imaginations run wild and wear an outfit befitting 18th century Georgian high society. The evening will include live music, dancing with the assistance of an historical dance caller and canapes

Part of the exhibition will include the recreation of former local tearoom Thrales Café, using original signs and furniture stored in the museum’s collection- the area will also include a play café and space for interactive activities and further reading.

Councillor Allison Wren, Vice-chair of the public realm committee of St Albans City and District Council and lead councillor for museums says: “I am incredibly grateful to the museum team for bringing another fascinating and high-quality, cultural exhibition to the city which will attract visitors from near and far. With recent recognition as a National Portfolio Organisation by the Arts Council England, providing access to additional funding, I am looking forward to many more thought-provoking and engaging experiences to be enjoyed at St Albans Museum + Gallery.”

This exhibition celebrating the world’s oldest beverage ‘guaran-teas’ to enlighten, inform and engage visitors. Whether you like your brew, traditional, herbal, milky or with a slice of lemon the exhibition is a must for tea-lovers everywhere.

Entry is free and the exhibition runs in the Weston Gallery from 19 May – 05 November 2023

St Albans Museum + Gallery is open daily 11am – 5pm. Visit stalbansmuseums.org.uk @stalbansmuseums

‘A Tea Party at Napsbury’ (1930s) by Louis Wain ©St Albans Museums
Cartoon by J. H. Buckingham ©St Albans Museums
12 Bickerton Teapot (from St Albans civic silver collection) ©St Albans Museums



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