England Unit: Tea Dying Activity

Tea is very important to the English culture and for centuries they have been one of the world’s greatest tea consumers. While it is usually served with milk, it is not uncommon to drink it black or with lemon, with sugar being a popular addition to any of the above. Strong tea, served in a mug with milk and sugar, is a popular combination known as builder’s tea. Tea is often accompanied with sandwiches, scones, cake and/or biscuits, with a popular British custom being dunking the biscuit into the tea.

When my husband and I visited London in 2012, we had tea offered every morning, and it was so cozy to sit in our hotel room and look over the misty city with a cup of pipping hot Twinning’s Tea.

I thought it would only be appropriate to do a tea-based activity as part of our England unit. I had seen some tea-painting activities, but thought it would be fun to show the dying action of tea on fabric. I cut square pieces of white light-weight cotton fabric for our handkerchiefs, and frayed the edges. You could purchase plain handkerchiefs, but I was wanting to save $$ and also didn’t want to wait a few days to have them shipped.

I had a pretty good assortment of different teas in my collection (and brands!) I still love a good cup of tea, but having young children usually prevents me from enjoying a nice cup most days. I tried to pick several different kinds that potentially would yield different colors.

My daughter carefully took each tea bag out of the packaging and put them in our tea-cups.

We then poured boiling water on the tea and allowed them to sit a few minutes until the coloring was as dark as it would get. Obviously I did this part because my daughter still spills water and I didn’t want her to get burned.

My daughter wanted to smell each tea and commented how she felt they differed. She is such a chatterbox, live commentary all day, lol.

Next she put a handkerchief in each cup. We allowed them to soak for several hours.

We used (left to right top) Chamomile, Green Tea, Earl Grey Black Tea and (left to right bottom) Orange/Cinnamon & Red Raspberry Leaf.

I dried each handkerchief on a wire cooling wrap suspended with a glass canning jar (get creative, right?) The raspberry leaf tea made a gorgeous pink color and the green tea made a lovely shade of greenish yellow. The black and orange/cinnamon teas made similar colors and the chamomile is hard to see a difference.

My daughter loved this activity, now she wants to dye lots of things. Great activity to learn about tea and the concepts of dying fabric – love this hands on activity!

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