How Tea Came To Britain August 21 2014

Despite the fact that tea drinking is considered quintessentially English, coffee drinking was originally much more popular. Tea first arrived in Britain in 1662 when King Charles II married the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza. Catherine brought tea chests to England as part of her wedding dowry and soon popularised the custom of taking tea at court. And 50 years later tea drinking became still more popular, once again, thanks to the Royal Family, when Queen Anne started drinking tea with her breakfast rather than the customary beer.

When tea first arrived in Britain it was brought from China in huge, tall ships called Tea Clippers. It would take the ships over a year to make the long crossing from China to England. Indeed the pressure to get tea to Britain that led to the glorious age of sail and Clipper ships were some of the most beautiful and fastest sailing ships ever built. They had wonderful names like 'Ariel', "The Flying Dutchman', "The Fiery Cross' and
"The Stornoway', and used to race against each other to see who would get home and unload first. These great epic voyages ended with the invention of steam-powered boats at the end of the 19th century and with the opening of the Suez Canal.

Taking tea was considered a very special affair. The water for the tea would be boiled at the table by the mistress of the house using a large silver water kettle or urn. The tea would be kept under lock and key in a wooden tea caddy and was carefully measured into a teapot when needed.