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The history of tea


Britain’s love of tea has its roots in ancient China and the East India Company.

Few people realise that the British institution of tea drinking has its roots in ancient China. Tea had already waxed and waned in popularity in China by the time Catherine of Braganza brought it to Britain when she married Charles II.

But the true development of tea as a national drink of Britain is thanks to the East India Company, who enjoyed a monopoly on trade with the East. They were the ones who started bringing tea in large quantities back.


Teas popularity in the next two centuries led to competition to get the tea back to Britain as fast as possible. In the mid-19th century, the famous Clipper ships were built purely to shorten the journey from China to London’s docks.

They began to race each other across oceans and seas.  Departure times were published in newspapers, and as they passed markers, telegrams would be sent to Britain recording their times. Huge crowds would gather down at the docks to see the end of the races.


Today, tea is as ubiquitous in Britain as it is in China.  It lives on not only in the kitchens and sitting rooms of Britain, but in the restaurants of Chinatown. Come down for your favourite Chinese meal and order a pot of tea.  Think back to those ancient days, and just how long of a journey it was for that tea to get to your table.

You can still enjoy tea the way it was back then in the many cafés in Chinatown.  But if you want to try the future of tea, head to the bubble tea cafes.

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