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Are Tea Towels Actually Associated With The Drink?

tea towels on rack
tea towels on rack - Joe Kuis/Shutterstock

If you're a tea drinker, you've undoubtedly come across a tea towel or two. But what exactly makes a tea towel different from a regular towel? Are they associated with the drink? Those are all valid questions — and they all have answers. Unlike your fluffy bathroom towel or high pile dish towels that are made to be super absorbent, tea towels are made from a thinner flat weave. Although they come in sizes similar to your hand and dish towels, they're usually made from soft cotton or linen. This way, they don't leave behind any lint or streaks when you're using them to clean your fine tea china — which brings us back to the last question.

The short and sweet answer here is, yes, tea towels do have an association with tea. The longer one, however, begins back in 18th-century England when textiles like soft linen became more readily available. Members of England's higher societies, particularly women, began collecting the towels. They used them to line their tea trays during high and afternoon tea to absorb any spills. They were also useful for insulating their teapots and drying their china, as the fabric didn't leave behind any of the streaks or lint of the textiles they were once used to. So, there you have it — tea towels are in fact associated with tea, or at least they were.

Read more: Ina Garten's 12 Best Cleaning Tips For A Mess-Free Kitchen

Do You Need A Tea Towel?

striped tea towel folded
striped tea towel folded - SNeG17/Shutterstock

Since its stint with the upper echelons of English society, tea towels have become a standard piece of houseware. Odds are you have one tucked away in your linen closet or stuffed inside that one kitchen drawer — but do you need one? Most of us aren't entertaining royalty nor are we expecting any calls to host a high tea at home anytime soon. But, despite the name and the association, tea towels have more uses than your afternoon tea time.

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As mentioned above, these towels were preferred for the streakless sheen they leave after drying china, which means the same will be true with your everyday dishes. They're also good after rinsing fruits and veggies, as the short weave won't leave any leftover lint behind. You can also use them to cover your baked goods, whether it's a basket of fresh muffins, tortillas, or rolls, to help keep them nice and warm. Some people also like to use them for proofing and storing bread.

Tea towels are not only multi-purposeful, but they're also a great option to reduce waste because they can be thrown into the wash with your other linens  — just keep the ones you use for cleaning separate from those you use to dry your dishes and food to be safe. While you might not need one, they definitely can come in handy.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.