The leaves of the tea-plant, almost invariably of the dried, fermented black form, prepared into a hot beverage. Usually consumed with a little milk and sometimes with sugar, or, more rarely, milk-less with lemon.
Tea, from China, was known in England from the late 16th Century, under the name 'chaa', and began to be imported into Europe through Portugal in the 1580's. It is said to have been popularised in England by Charles II's Portuguese wife Catherine of Braganza around 1660. It was extraordinarily expensive, costing up to £2 per pound, equivalent to perhaps £400 today.
Tea was extraordinarily expensive
(Newcastle Courant - Monday 06 August 1711)
To avoid paying for tea using silver or gold, 18th and 19th Century British traders often illegally persuaded Chinese merchants to accept payment in Indian-produced opium. This led to widespread addiction and social problems in China, outraged the Emperor and caused two wars. An alternative was found by promoting production in India, where most English tea is now sourced.
Tea has rarely been grown in England, though the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall has a small commercial plantation.
There is, of course, no need to refer to tea as being of an English type if you are already in England, so that 'English Breakfast Tea' as a product name is first known in an 1843 advertisement by an apothecary from Hull called Richard Davies who established a tea warehouse in New York.
If you are cold tea will warm you
If you are heated it will cool you
If you are depressed it will cheer you
If you are excited it will calm you.
William Ewart Gladstone, Prime Minister
"The habit of drinking tea frequently, and in large quantities, cannot fail to be injurious, as it ... produces indigestion, nervous trembling and weakness, attended with a pale, wan complexion." (Eaton 1822)
Empire Tea Market Expansion Bureau
Evening Telegraph - Tuesday 12 October 1937
Earl Grey Tea
Tea with Eggs
Yorkshire Tea Cakes
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