Life, Lemons, and Tea

Life, Lemons, and Tea


I don’t know if you have heard of the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? I propose a change. How about changing the statement to “When life gives you lemons, slice them and put them in a cup of tea”. Lemons and tea, or tea and lemons. They are an inseparable pair. 


Life can be full of positive things, or not so positive things. There are things in life that may be lemons. They are just sour and bitter. I am not trying to minimize, trivialize, placate, or ignore life’s deep sufferings of a person. I am merely stating the obvious. While we can’t control every aspect of our lives, there may be a number of “lemons” that we have some power over that I am addressing. Sometimes adding a little sugar can make all the difference in the world. That is not to say all negative things in life can be fixed with a spoonful of positivity. Some things just take time and effort to heal from. Those things are not a simple “lemon”. This post is about the lemons in life that we can sweeten up. 


The lemon tree, species Citrus limon, is a type of evergreen native to South Asia. Lemon trees grow to an average height of 20 feet, and can be pruned back for easier plucking. There are a number of varieties of lemons , but Meyers lemon is one of the most common varieties. There are three parts that make up the lemon; the pulp, the pith, and the peel. Lemons contain a high amount of vitamin C. The pulp, squeezed into juice, is the most frequently used part of the lemon. The juice of the fruit is used in health care, skin care, and home fragrance products. Household cleaners, food and drink products, including tea, can contain lemon juice. Lemon motifs can be found on home and fashion textiles, home goods and also represented in art form. 

Several varieties flourish well in container gardening, and can be left outside in winter if it is frost-free. Bringing patio lemon trees indoors for winter is called Overwintering. To overwinter the tree, move the tree from full sunlight to partial shade, gradually decreasing the amount of sunlight exposure to full shade. Doing these steps outdoors will help the plant transition to indoor filtered light. When weather warms up with no more freeze warning, the patio lemon tree can be brought back out of doors. Reverse the overwintering process by gradually increasing the sunlight, prior to bringing the tree outdoors. By gradually increasing the direct sunlight exposure, the risk of sunburned foliage decreases. 

Growing plants in greenhouses dates back to Roman times, approximately 30 AD, during Emperor Tiberius’s reign. Legend states that Emperor Tiberius’s physicians recommended that he eat cucumbers daily. His engineers and scientists designed a rudimentary greenhouse. In the mid 1800’s, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a French botanist, is credited for designing the modern style greenhouse. Growing citrus plants in Orangeries, or greenhouses, became popular throughout Europe. Elaborate greenhouses, which can still be seen and toured today, ensured citrus plants could still be enjoyed during hostile winter weather. The greenhouses

occasionally included fish ponds or fountains, and were large enough for people to stroll through and escape from winter weather. 

Tea And Lemons 

Lemon and tea have been in simpatico globally for at least a century. The addition of lemon slices to an English cup of tea is attributed to Queen Victoria of England, in the 1800’s. The queen was purportedly visiting her daughter in Germany and noticed her daughter putting lemon in her tea. The Queen brought that custom back with her to England. Tea is frequently consumed in Russia with a bit of sugar and lemon. Black tea, flavored with lemon, is a common blend of tea in Italy. The ubiquitous glass of iced tea, served in the United States, often includes a squeeze of lemon in the beverage. Scenting with lemon slices, flavoring with oil of lemon, or dried bits of lemon, are all used to create a citrusy note to make a refreshing and tangy cup of lemon tea. 

Adding lemon to tea may possibly be a great way to add a bit of vitamin C to your cup, or iced tea glass. Lemon juice may, or possibly, help the green tea antioxidants stay viable for longer in the digestive tract. (I am not in the medical profession and therefore am not giving medical advice.) The addition of lemon to hot tea can help eliminate bicarbonate ions in water. 

In turn, decreasing the filmy, thin layer that can form on top of tea when using hard water to steep the tea. 

Be wary when adding milk and lemon juice to hot tea. An important reason against adding a combination of milk and lemon juice to tea is that the milk will curdle in the tea. There is good bacteria in milk called Lactobacillus. The bacteria uses milk for energy to release a by-product called lactic acid. The acid can cause old milk to curdle and taste sour. When acid is externally added to the milk, for example lemon juice, the milk will curdle as well. 

Tea Time Etiquette Regarding Lemons 

There are several interesting rules of etiquette for adding lemon to tea. Dorothea Johnson and Bruce Richardson’s book Tea & Ettiquitte: Taking Tea for Business and Pleasure, states when adding a lemon slice to tea, pour the hot tea into the cup before placing the lemon slice in the cup. Another rule regarding tea time and lemons is to leave the lemon slice alone in the cup, and do not press the lemon slice with the back of the spoon against the side of the teacup. Lastly, when the lemon slice needs to be removed from the tea cup, don’t place it on the tea saucer, place the lemon slice in a separate dish. 

Properly serving lemon slices during tea time, incorporate special kitchen accoutrements. A pierced lemon server and a lemon fork historically have been used at the most elaborately set tea table. The lemon fork is a three pronged fork with the two outside prongs of the fork flaring, or bending, to the outside of the fork. The outside flanged prongs enable the lemon slice to stay on the fork for easy transfer to the cup of tea. The lemon server is a flat, spatula type utensil that is used to slide underneath the lemon slice and pick it up.

In Closing 

Spring is approaching, and with the tangy addition of lemon added to your cup or glass of tea, your outlook on life might just be a bit brighter, sunnier and zestier! And remember, when life gives you lemons, go ahead and slice the lemons and add them to your tea, or make lemonade, your choice. 

In health, 



Johnson, Dorothea. Richardson, Bruce. Tea & Etiquette: Taking Tea for Business and Pleasure. Benjamin Press, 2009. 

Purdue University. Citrus Juice, Vitamin C Give Staying Power To Green Tea Antioxidants. November 13, 2007. The First Greenhouses: From Rome, to America. February 4, 2013. Taski, Ernie. All About Citrus & Subtropical Fruits. Ortho Books, 1985.

About the Author

Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea.  No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!

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