Tea advertisements of the 1950s often targeted female shoppers, as seen in these two magazine pages from that era. Sixty years later, women continue to be the decision makers when it comes to buying tea for the home. 

The first image shows a woman’s image brightening as she drinks a cup of brisk Lipton tea. Thomas Lipton is often credited with exploiting the word brisk when describing his teas—especially to American consumers. 

In his Tea Dictionary, Norwood Pratt defined the term as ”flavour characteristic of liveliness, that is, with a light, pleasurably dry taste in the mouth.”

I find it interesting that Lipton’s parent company Unilever has resurrected that tasting note in their trademarked Brisk, a new tea and juice brand.

This Maidenform advertisement also focuses the readers’ eyes on cups. 

One of the women sipping tea while seated beside the fireplace shares this uncomfortable revelation:

I dreamed I had Tea for Two in my Maidenform Bra it says. Maidenform is just my cup of tea…such a marvelous pick-me-up!

Never mind all the double entendres, this was the golden age of advertising—the era now relived in episodes of Mad Men.

We may laugh at the setting pictured here, but the tableau might be more historically correct than we think. The first instances of tea being consumed by English women in the afternoon took place in their closets—meaning their private sitting room adjoining their bedroom.

In the early 19th century, small tea tables were placed there for the pleasurable pastime of afternoon tea, a simple meal sweetened by gossip. These ladies-only teatimes were enjoyed in the company of just a few intimate friends. 

Three centuries later, who knows what those ladies might have—or have not—worn while sipping tea?

Read more stories of how tea influenced British and American culture, commerce, and community in A SOCIAL HISTORY OF TEA, 2014 by Benjamin Press.

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