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A Brief History of Tea - Part Two
Courtesy of The UK Tea Council.

The History of Tea in the United Kingdom - 300 years and More

The early beginnings of tea in Britain are obscure. The East India Company, under their charter granted by Elizabeth I to the Directors, Ray Ban Sunglasses Outlet had the monopoly of importing goods from outside Europe and recorded ships reaching Britain in 1637, but no record of tea dealings with Chinese merchants appears until 1644. Sailors bringing back packets of tea from the Far East as presents, led to its introduction into London's coffee houses.

First Sale

The merchant Thomas Garway was among the first to trade tea in Britain. He offered it in dry and liquid form at his coffee house in Exchange Alley in the City of London, holding his first public sale in 1657. In 1660, Garway issued a broadsheet selling tea for sale, extolling it (at 6 and 10 per pound) as "wholesome, preserving perfect health until extreme old age, good for clearing the sight," able to cure "gripping of the guts, cold, dropsies, scurveys" and claiming that "it could make the body active and lusty."

First Advertisement

The first tea advertisement - announcing the sale of "China Tcha, Tay or Tee" - appeared on 30 September 1658, in the newspaper Mercurius Politicus, booked by the owner of The Sultaness Head Coffee House. Tea rapidly gained popularity in these establishments and by 1700, was on sale by more than 500 coffee houses in London. Tavern keepers were dismayed as the coffee house vogue swept into being, Replica Watches UK as was the Government by the decline in the revenues from hard liquor sales.

By the middle of the 18th century, however, tea had replaced ale and gin as the drink of the masses and had become Britain's most popular beverage.

First Tea Laws

In 1675, Charles II forbade by proclamation the sale of tea, coffee, chocolate and sherbet from private houses. Designed to suppress sedition and intrigue, this act was so unpopular that it never became statute law. Six days later he repeated the proclamation. Act XII of 1676 imposed duty on the sale of such beverages and required licenses of coffee house keepers: but this also proved impossible to enforce. Taxes on tea nonetheless remained punitive until 1784 when it was reduced by the Commutation Act to counter smuggling into the UK.

British Tea Drinking Customs - from Barrel to Table

Afternoon Tea

Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, is reputed to have originated the idea of afternoon tea in the early 1800s. She conceived the idea of having tea around four Replica Louis Vuitton Handbags or five in the afternoon to ward off the hunger pangs between lunch and dinner. Some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread. These habits soon became a good reason for social gatherings, and started a trend that is still an integral part of British life.

High Tea

For the working and farming communities, afternoon tea became high tea. As the main meal of the day, high tea was a cross between the delicate afternoon meal enjoyed in the ladies' drawing rooms and the dinner enjoyed in houses of the gentry at seven or eight in the evening. With the meats, bread and cakes served at high tea, hot tea was taken.

Tea Shops

In 1864 the manageress of an Aerated Bread Company shop persuaded her directors to allow her to serve food and liquid refreshments in the shop. She dispensed tea to her more favored customers and soon attracted many clients clamoring for the same service. Not only did she unwittingly start the fashion for tea shops but also one foundation of women's emancipation, since an unchaperoned lady could meet friends in a tea shop without sullying her reputation. Tea shops spread throughout Britain, becoming as much a tradition as tea itself: Replica Louis Vuitton Handbags and even today, despite the plethora of fast food and drink outlets, this tradition remains, attracting huge numbers of UK and foreign tourists.

Tea Break

Tea breaks are a tradition which have been with us for approximately 200 years. Initially when workers commenced their day at around five or six in the morning employers allowed a break in the morning when food and tea were served. Some employers repeated the break in the afternoon as well. Between 1741 and 1820 industrialists, landowners and clerics tried to put a stop to the tea break maintaining that the imbibing of this beverage made working people slothful. Although it was before the inception of trade unions the workers made a stand and the tea break remains with us to this day.

Tea makes Smuggling Respectable in 18th Century Britain

By the middle of the 18th Century, the tax on tea had reached 119% - much higher than most British taxes today - and naturally enough, was very unpopular among a tea drinking population. Smuggling into Britain began in order to evade taxation. Because of the popularity of tea, many types of people became involved in the smuggling, from farm workers and shop keepers to priests and politicians. Syndicates were formed to help move jewelry distributor and sell the smuggled tea all around the country. Smuggled tea came mainly from Holland and Scandinavia, brought over by Dutch and Scandinavian merchant ships which anchored off English and Scottish coasts. Taken ashore by fleets of small craft crewed by local fishermen, the tea was smuggled inland, often through underground passages or along hidden pathways. Above ground, carters drove the tea to secret hide-outs for storage in secret passages, under covered trapdoors or behind false walls. Often the best place for storage was the local church! Even smuggled tea was expensive, however, and by 1777 could cost anything up to 53 pence per pound - about one-third of the average weekly wage at that time. Because of this cost, and because tea was both popular and profitable, the practice of adulteration began, even though banned by Act of Parliament in 1725. Black tea had willow, licorice, elder and sloe leaves added to it or 'smouch' made from ash leaf and sheep's dung! Even old tea leaves, already used and then dried, were mixed with new tea. Adulteration was a highly profitable business in which people were prepared to risk the heavy fines imposed by special laws. Smuggling continued to increase, so that in 1784 Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger had the Commutation Act passed by Parliament which slashed the tax from 119% to 12.5%. This effectively ended tea smuggling in Britain. Adulteration remained profitable however, and continued until the English Food louis vuitton replica handbags and Drug Act of 1875 imposed heavy fines or imprisonment against the practice.


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