How to drink a Tea?
 

 

 

 

The Victorian Tea Time Tradition

- facts -

 

History

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 Tea reached Europe in 1610 and was introduced into England about 50 years later from Holland. Pepys wrote on October 25, 1660, 'I did send for a cup of tea (a China drink) of which I had never drank before'. When first introduced it cost £6-£io per lb and remained at i6s-6os per lb until 1689 when the EAST INDIA COMPANY first imported it directly from China and carried it in its own ships; in 1721 the Company was granted the sole right to import China tea and enjoyed this monopoly until 1833. The price remained more than ios per lb in the 18th century.

At first tea was drunk by the well-to-do in TAVERNS and COFFEE-HOUSES, but in the early 18th century tea-drinking developed in private houses, though it was still mainly a luxury of the urban rich. It was carefully kept in a CADDY, and in larger houses the company withdrew to a 'tearoom' where the cups and saucers were kept and tea was drink. Taken by both sexes, it contributed to the softening of manners, and by the end of the century was replacing the conventional drunkenness after dinner.

By the early 19th century, other classes were drinking tea, and the estimated annual consumption per head of the population was 2-3 lb. The abolition of the East India Company's monopoly brought the price down, but a heavy duty kept it at over 3s. a lb. until the 1850s. It was made cheaper and became the drink of all classes through lower tariffs and the introduction from 1839 of Indian tea which gradually superseded China tea.

Tea was first retailed in sealed packets under a proprietary name in 1826 by John Horniman, whose sealed, lead-lined packets soon became popular. Packeting was first put on a mass-production basis when the Mazawattee Tea Company offered a high-priced, extensively advertised pure Ceylon tea. Lipton's stores in 1889 sold tea at is 7d per lb; until then no tea had sold under 2s 6d per lb. Such cheap tea was made possible by selling it in multiple stores together with provisions and by centralized buying and control. By 1914 there were over 500 Lipton stores, and these and rival multiple stores dominated the trade. By 1967, 86 per cent of tea was sold by five manufacturers.

The British are still the biggest tea-drinkers, consuming 500 million lb a year or 9 lb each, compared with 1 lb a year in India and 08 lb in USA. Most Britons drink 5-6 cups a day. Most of the tea now comes from India, next Ceylon and then the African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi); little now comes from China.