Tea is the most popular manufactured drink consumed in the world, equaling all others, including coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and alcohol combined.
Most of the tea consumed outside East Asia is produced on large plantations in the hilly regions of India and Sri Lanka, and is destined to be sold to large businesses. Opposite this large-scale industrial production are many small ‘gardens,’ sometimes minuscule plantations, that produce highly sought-after teas prized by gourmets. These teas are both rare and expensive, and can be compared to some of the most expensive wines in this respect.
The tea bag
In 1907, American tea merchant Thomas Sullivan began distributing samples of his tea in small bags of Chinese silk with a drawstring. Consumers noticed they could simply leave the tea in the bag and reuse it with fresh tea. However, the potential of this distribution and packaging method would not be fully realised until later on. In 1953 (after rationing ended), Tetley launched the tea bag to the UK and it was an immediate success.
The ‘pyramid tea bag’ (or sachet) introduced by Lipton and PG Tips/Scottish Blend in 1996, attempts to address one of the connoisseurs’ arguments against paper tea bags by way of its three-dimensional tetrahedron shape, which allows more room for tea leaves to expand while steeping.
Everyone loves a cuppa, so why not pop the kettle on during 1st – 8th March and support Dementia UK.
A way of life
Tea had become firmly established as part of the British way of life. This was officially recognised during the First World War, when the government took over the importation of tea to Britain in order to ensure that this essential morale-boosting beverage continued to be available at an affordable price. The government took control again during the Second World War, and tea was rationed from 1940 until 1952.
1952 also saw the re-establishment of the London Tea Auction, a regular auction that had been taking place since 1706. The auction was at the centre of the world’s tea industry but improved worldwide communications and the growth of auctions in tea producing nations meant that it gradually declined in importance during the latter half of the twentieth century. The final London Tea Auction.
Tea becomes popular
It was the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza (pictured) that would prove to be a turning point in the history of tea in Britain. She was a Portuguese princess and a tea addict. It was her love of the drink that established tea as a fashionable beverage first at court, and then among the wealthy classes. Capitalizing on this, the East India Company began to import tea into Britain, its first order being placed in 1664 – for 100lbs of China tea to be shipped from Java.
In 1851, when virtually all tea in Britain had come from China, annual consumption per head was less than 2lbs. Bt 1901, fuelled by cheaper imports from India and Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon), another British colony, this had rocketed to over 6lbs per head.
Britain, always a little suspicious of continental trends, had yet to become the nation of tea drinkers that it is today. Since 1600, the British East India Company had a monopoly on importing goods from outside Europe, and it is likely that sailors on these ships brought tea home as gifts.
But the first dated reference to tea in this country is from an advert in a London newspaper, Mercurius Politicus, from September 1658. Catherine of Braganza – she made tea fashionable in Britain. It announced that ‘China Drink, called by the Chinese, Tcha, by other Nations Tay alias Tee’ was on sale at a coffee house in Sweeting’s Rents in the City. The first coffee house had been established in London in 1652, and the terms of this advert suggest that tea was still somewhat unfamiliar to most readers, so it is fair to assume that the drink was still something of a curiosity.
Rich tea biscuit
Rich tea is a type of sweet biscuit; the ingredients generally include wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil and malt extract. Originally called Tea Biscuits, they were developed in the 17th century in Yorkshire, England for the upper classes as a light snack between full-course meals.
In the UK we drink 165 million cups daily 60.2 billion per year Around the world 2 billion people will drink tea every morning.