Has there ever been a more comforting & evocative phrase than ‘would you like a cup of tea?’. We drink it at social occasions, to revive us when we’re weary, to wake us in the morning & to comfort us when things are tough. However, when did our fascination with these dark fragrant leaves begin?
Tea has been a drunk in China since time immemorial. Introduced to Britain in the 17th century and popularised by Charles II wife Catherine of Braganza. Catherine hailed from Portugal who had long trade links with the far east and therefore had already been introduced to merits of tea drinking.
Initially, as with all new finds, tea was very expensive to buy and therefore the reserve of the rich. It was a heavily taxed commodity and therefore on the radar (or compass) of the smuggling trade. Moving into the 18thcentury it was however, finding its way into more people’s lives. In 1717 Thomas Twining opened the first tea-shop in London for ladies.
Those who discovered the virtues of tea drinking will have invested in not only a tea pot but also a lockable tea caddy, not taking any chances with the valuable contents. The fashion was to drink tea black, weak and slightly sweetened. Adding milk was a later trend thought to have had different purposes from cooling the liquid so as not to crack fine china cups to mitigating the effect of the caffeine. The best milk to be had in Georgian times was direct from the cow and could be bought in St James Park from the herd that grazed there!
Tea actually remained quite expensive in the first half of the nineteenth century until in 1853 a decision was made to reduce import taxes. Those in power felt that tea was a preferable alternative for the masses to alcohol. Also, through this period the tea trade grew significantly and the trade in India was established. By the turn of the twentieth century Britons were drinking nearly ten times as much tea as they had a century earlier.
Today we have a wealth of teas at our fingertips. Whatever you preference, Earl Grey to Darjeeling, Chai to Assam, fruit teas to wellness blends, all make for the variety expected in today’s society. Celebrating the heritage of teas it is a comfort to see the popularity of taking afternoon tea grows ever stronger. There’s that word again comfort, a prevailing nod to the not so humble cuppa. It’s time to put the kettle on!
To browse our hand picked collection of teas shop here.