Elsie & Fleur

As a nation we have been drinking tea for more than 350 years, however tea in other countries predates this by more than four millennia.

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 at around four or five in the afternoon to ward off the hunger pangs between lunch and dinner. Sometime 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 very much a part of British life.

The popularity of tea spread and it became an essential part of people’s entertainment outside the home.

By 1732 tea would finish off an evening spent dancing or watching fireworks in Vauxhall or Ranelagh Gardens. Following this, tea gardens opened all over the country on Saturdays and Sundays, with tea being served as the high point of the afternoon.

Dancing was included as part of the day’s festivities, so from the tea gardens came the idea of the tea dance, which remained fashionable in Britain until World War II when they lost popularity. Tea dances are still held in Britain today.

Tea was first traded in Britain by merchant Thomas Garway. 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 at £6 and £10 per pound. Garway claimed tea was “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.”

On September 20, 1658 the first tea advertisement appeared – announcing the sale of “China Tcha, Tay or Tee”, in the newspaper Mercurius Politicus, booked by the owner of The Sultaness Head Coffee House

By 1700 tea was on sale by more than 500 coffee houses in London. Tavern keepers were dismayed as the coffee house vogue swept into being, as was the Government by the decline in 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.

With thanks to the Tea Council for their facts.SaveSave

Written by Sarah Johnstone — September 12, 2016

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