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Biography

Biography

Find out here all about when tea first came to England, the international tea trade, and how the drink rapidly became a national icon

Tea: the basics

From the mug of hot Rosie Lee in the caff to the beverage served in delicate bone china with cucumber sandwiches at the Ritz, tea can still lay claim to being our national drink.

Tea: the basics
The Tea Trade

The Tea Trade

England was the last of the great European seafaring nations to establish a foothold in the Chinese and Indian tea trades. It was the Portuguese, founding the colony of Macao on the south-east coast of China in the 16th century, who first developed a taste for it. They were followed by the Dutch and French. The first imports of tea to England came in the mid-1650s, the period of Cromwell’s rule.

Becoming an Icon

One of the things that makes the cup of tea iconic is the many ways that it appears in popular culture. Children sing about tea from an early age. 'Polly, Put The Kettle On' is a favourite and also features in Charles Dickens’ book 'Barnaby Rudge', where it is quoted by Grip the Raven.

Becoming an Icon