Original image
Wikimedia Commons

Where Does Tea Time Come From?

Original image
Wikimedia Commons

Few things are more British than afternoon tea. Despite the close association, the beverage was enjoyed for more than twenty years in France before it migrated across the English Channel.


Until the nineteenth century, British citizens ate two main meals — breakfast and dinner. Dinner wasn’t served until late evening, so most citizens went many hours between meals.

Around 1840, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria Russell, began complaining of faintness in the mid-afternoon. At first, the noblewoman would privately consume a pot of tea and a light snack in her personal quarters. Later that summer, she began inviting friends to dine with her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey.

When the summer ended, Russell continued this meal in London during the social season. Here, other hostesses picked up the practice. As it became popular, teatime moved from private quarters to the drawing room. After a while, most of London’s social scene would be drinking tea and eating a light snack in the afternoon.

Revolutionary drinks

Until tea became popular, beer was the daytime drink of choice for the lower class. Since beer is produced with boiled water and antiseptic hops, it was a safer drink than the unsanitary water. At the time, drinking alcohol was a social ritual, a vital source of calories, an escape for the working classes.

As the Industrial Revolution took hold, workers were expected to stay sober during their long workdays at the factory. During the same time, the temperance movement was gaining steam, and more people were turning to “temperance drinks” like coffee, tea, and chocolate.

High Tea?

Though many tea shops call the light, casual afternoon snack “high tea,” they’re misusing the term. High tea actually refers to the slightly heavier meal enjoyed around 5 or 6 at night, usually by the working class during the Industrial Revolution. This meal was often taken during the factories’ longest break of the day – the tea break.

For many workers, high tea was a vital source of caffeine and calories. Since it helped workers to get through long work days, some historians credit the tea break for the spike in productivity that happened during this era. The name is thought to be derived from the high, formal dinner tables it was served on.

Original image
Big Questions
How Does Autopilot Work on an Airplane?
Original image

How does autopilot work on an airplane?

Joe Shelton:

David Micklewhyte’s answer is a good one. There are essentially a few types of features that different autopilots have. Some autopilots only have some of these features, while the more powerful autopilots do it all.

  • Heading Hold: There’s a small indicator that the pilot can set on the desired heading and the airplane will fly that heading. This feature doesn’t take the need for wind correction to desired routing into account; that’s left to the pilot.
  • Heading and Navigation: In addition to holding a heading, this version will take an electronic navigation input (e.g. GPS or VOR) and will follow (fly) that navigation reference. It’s sort of like an automated car in that it follows the navigator’s input and the pilot monitors.
  • Altitude Hold: Again, in addition to the above, a desired altitude can be set and the aircraft will fly at that altitude. Some autopilots have the capability for the pilot to select a desired altitude and a climb or descent rate and the aircraft will automatically climb or descend to that altitude and then hold the altitude.
  • Instrument Approaches: Autopilots with this capability will fly preprogrammed instrument approaches to the point where the pilot either takes control and lands or has the autopilot execute a missed approach.

The autopilot is a powerful computer that takes input from either the pilot or a navigation device and essentially does what it is told to do. GPS navigators, for example, can have a full flight plan entered from departure to destination, and the autopilot will follow the navigator’s guidance.

These are the majority of the controls on the autopilot installed in my airplane:

HDG Knob = Heading knob (Used to set the desired heading)

AP = Autopilot (Pressing this turns the autopilot on)

FD = Flight Director (A form of navigational display that the pilot uses)

HDG = Heading (Tells the autopilot to fly the heading set by the Heading Knob)

NAV = Tells the autopilot to follow the input from the selected navigator

APR = Tells the autopilot to fly the chosen approach

ALT = Tells the autopilot to manage the altitude, controlled by the following:

VS = Vertical Speed (Tells the autopilot to climb or descend at the chosen rate)

Nose UP / Nose DN = Sets the climb/descent rate in feet per minute

FLC = Flight Level Change (An easy manual way to set the autopilot)

ALT Knob = Used to enter the desired altitude

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Original image
Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
Original image

While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at


More from mental floss studios