Tea: Drink of the English Nation

Tea was first brought to England in the 17th century with the first recorded sale in 1657.  On its arrival tea was consumed for its medicinal purposes and was very expensive.  It was afforded only by the very wealthy and locked up in tea chests.   In 1662, Queen Catherine of Braganza, King Charles II’s wife, introduced tea to the royal court and from there it became fashionable to drink tea.  
The popularity of tea spread like wildfire, ultimately leading to a chain of events which resulted in taxes of 120%.  With tea becoming even less affordable than before, tea smuggling began. Tea smuggling was often performed by local fishermen who found it to be very profitable.  So much so they would add sloe, liquorice, willow and even re-used dried tea leaves to the smuggled tea.
English Tea party in the 1730s
                An English tea party held by the wealthy in 1730's
Fortunately, in 1784 William Pitt dropped the incredibly high tax on tea, making it available everyone.  Tea houses quickly grew in popularity as well as the rise of morning, afternoon and high tea, something which is still enjoyed today.
By the end of the 18th century the British became concerned about the cost of importing so much tea from China and began their own plantations in India.
With substantial quantities of tea being grown on British territory and a big reduction in the tax on teas in the 1860s, tea was now affordable to everyone in Britain, and it truly became the drink of the nation.
English Tea house
It was drunk at breakfast in houses across the land, it was served at afternoon tea parties in upper and middle class homes, it was enjoyed with the ‘high tea’ evening meal in working class kitchens at the end of long exhausting days in mines, mills and factories; it was a comfort, a refreshing brew, a nourishing and sustaining beverage, a thirst-quencher, a celebratory cup, a maker of friendships, a breaker of social barriers, an acceptable and sensible alternative to alcohol and a symbol of the temperance movement, and a political focus for Women’s Suffrage. Tea had become a drink for all occasions, an essential to everyday British life.
Tea room sign

Tea room in England

Tea as a Social Ritual

Tea quickly became more than just a beverage; it became a social ritual. The English upper classes would often hold elaborate tea parties, complete with delicate china teacups and silver tea services. Tea became a symbol of wealth and status, and it was an opportunity for people to show off their lavish lifestyles.

Tea Today

Today, tea is still an important part of English culture. It is enjoyed by people from all walks of life, and it is still often served with traditional accompaniments such as scones, clotted cream, and jam. Tea remains an important social ritual, and many people enjoy taking a break from their busy lives to enjoy a cup of tea with friends or family. 

If you are interested in trying some high-quality tea products, we recommend check out our wide variety of loose-leaf teas, tea bags, and tea accessories. Here are some of our top picks:

  1. Breakfast Blend - This classic black tea blend is perfect for starting your day off right.
  2. Earl Grey Creme - A black tea infused with bergamot oil, this is a classic tea that is perfect for any time of day.
  3. Pure Peppermint - A refreshing and soothing herbal tea that is perfect for after a meal or before bed.
  4. Glass Tea Infuser Mug - This double-walled glass mug is perfect for enjoying your tea without burning your hands. It allows the tealeaves to expand and is great for re-infusing tea bags.

Tea has a rich history in England, and it continues to be an important part of English culture today. Whether you prefer a classic black tea blend or a soothing herbal tea, there is a tea out there for everyone. We hope this post has inspired you to explore the world of tea and try some new and exciting tea products. Don't forget to check out Tea by Birdy for high-quality tea products!