Everybody’s cup of tea

The History of Britain’s Favourite Hot Beverage

Drinking tea has is so ingrained in British daily life that few seldom stop to think about the origins of their favourite drink. Although tea is now quintessentially English, we have only been drinking it for 350 years. Britain was in fact one of the last countries in Europe to brew a pot.

The history of tea spans thousands of years, and it is thought to have originated in China during the Shang dynasty as a medicinal drink. Hot water was poured over the cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub. It then spread to Japan and small quantities were taken West.

It was the Dutch that brought tea to Europe, arriving on tall, slow-moving ships called Tea Clippers. It would take the ships over a year to make the voyage from China, remember that they next time you run out of tea bags and complain about the trek to the shops! Imports of tea into Britain began in the 16th century with the marriage of King Charles II to a Portuguese princess, who brought the tea drinking habit to court. The British introduced tea production and consumption to India, in order to compete with the Chinese monopoly on tea. The East India Company was possibly the most powerful commercial organisation that the world has ever seen, and was pivotal in the history of the tea trade. Tea gained popularity in English coffee houses and today, aside from water, is the most widely consumed beverage in the world.

A Type of Tea for all Occasions

There are different teas for different needs. From green to chamomile, they all claim to benefit your body.

#1. Green tea is meant to help with weight loss as well as having anti-cancer properties.

#2. Peppermint tea relieves bloating and relaxes your muscles to reduce stress. It is also a natural decongestant so can be used to ward off troublesome colds.

#3. Ginger tea is your stomachs best friend, it soothes nausea, stomach upsets, and stimulates digestion.

#4. It is not just stomach problems tea can help with, chamomile tea can be helpful for insomnia and the antioxidant properties in rooibos tea can relieve skin concerns like eczema.

New Crazes

6847954_origThe newest tea to hit our high streets is bubble tea, a Taiwanese milk drink filled with small balls of tapioca. You can choose from an assortment of flavours and colours, from honeydew to lilac taro root. It is drunk with a thick straw with a spoon-shaped tip to scoop up the jelly balls – a mouthful of tea and chewiness. Although this may not sound very appetising, it is a trend that is fast picking up followers. The first UK bubble tea shop opened in Soho in London in 2011 and since then, it’s being slurped up in Chinatown in London and Sheffield.

Next time you boil the kettle, throw a thought to the world of tea, steeped in history and being reinvented year on year.

Hannah Holmes



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