A Short History of Tea: The World in a Cup

La bevanda caratteristica dei britannici in realtà viene da molto lontano. Coltivato principalmente in Asia, il tè arrivò nel Regno Unito nel sedicesimo secolo e con il tempo è diventato parte fondamentale della sua cultura.

Freddie Gay

Bandera UK
Daniel Francis

Speaker (UK accent)

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Britons are well known for the amount of tea that they drink. The average person in the UK consumes around 1.9kg of tea annually – that’s around 876 cups of tea! Tea is drunk by all sections of society, but it does not grow in the country. Tea is mostly grown in India and China. So, how did it become an important part of British culture? 


Tea arrived in London in the 1600s. At this time, British ships were exploring the world and came across the drink in China. It was not long before green tea was available to buy. However, this was only available to the richer sections of society. 

four o’clock tea

At the beginning of the 18th century, the amount of tea arriving in Britain increased gradually. Black tea arrived at this time. At first, people drank this tea exactly as it was in China. They soon discovered that it mixed really well with a little milk and sugar, giving the drink a special British characteristic. 

In the 19th century, tea was still a product enjoyed only by people with money. At this time they began to have afternoon tea. This involves drinking tea with a snack around 4pm to avoid feeling hungry between lunch and dinner. It is a tradition that is still going today, although it has become less popular in recent times. 


In the late 1800s, the price of tea decreased sharply as more tea began to arrive on ships from India and China. It was no longer a drink just for rich people. Tearooms – shops where you could buy and drink tea – started to appear across the country. People enjoyed drinking tea and socialising in these places. At the start of the 20th century, Britons began to make tea in their homes whenever they felt like it. A kettle became essential in every kitchen.

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