All about tea in the UK
About 84% of the British population drink it…The British drink 165 million cups of it daily…The average age when a typical Brit begins drinking it is when they are 9 years old…What is it? Why, it’s tea, of course!
The UK is predominantly a tea drinking nation and has been since the 18th century. The British Empire was instrumental in spreading tea from China to India. While in its early days, tea was predominantly an upper-class drink, Great Britain was responsible for introducing it to all the different socioeconomic classes in the UK. Tea has played and still does play a very important role in British culture and history.
In the UK, the way that people drink tea varies quite a bit depending on the socioeconomic class, as well as geographic region. For example, tea can be served with milk, or then served black or with lemon. Sugar is usually added with all the different varieties of tea. Also, strong tea served in a mug with milk and sugar is a popular combination and is known as Builder’s Tea.
There are also many varieties of tea available in the UK, from English Breakfast Tea, to Earl Grey. Most of these varieties come from the plant, Camellia Sinensis, and are simply processed in different ways. While 98% of tea drunk in the UK is taken with milk, increasingly, black tea is becoming very popular. Black tea can be from Twinings, Lipton, Tetley or PG Tips and the leaves have been allowed to oxidise before drying, which is why they take on a darker colour.
Certain varieties of tea, especially green tea has gained a reputation for being healthy. Also, tea contains certain antioxidants such as polyphenols and flavonoids, which retard oxidation and soak up free radicals. Free radicals are harmful to the body, and have been implicated in cancer and heart disease. Despite popular folklore, both green and black tea contain the same amount of antioxidants and both come from Camellia Sinensis. In fact, there are almost 1500 different varieties of tea that come from this plant.
Tea also refreshes you in hot weather, because it raises your body temperature momentarily so that you perspire and this perspiration on your skin creates a cooling effect. Also afternoon tea, that quintessential British custom, is surprisingly a relatively new tradition. It was not until the mid-17th century that the custom of drinking afternoon tea emerged.
Afternoon tea was first introduced in the UK by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford in 1840. The Duchess would become hungry at around 4 pm and therefore, asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter, and cake be brought to her room in the late afternoon. Soon, this became a habit and she began to invite friends to join her, and thus was born the tradition of British Afternoon tea.
Soon, this pause for tea became a fashionable social event and during the 1880s, upper-class and society women would change into gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea, which would be served in their drawing rooms between four and five o’clock.
Tea today is as popular as it was in the 17th and 18th centuries in the UK. It can be served hot or cold, taken in the morning or in the evening, and then served with or without milk. There are as many varieties of teas as there are diverse cuisines in the UK. So, the next time you order a cuppa, do reminisce a bit about its rich history and tradition. Here’s to a great and refreshing cup of tea!
To order English Breakfast Tea or for a reservation, do contact the Veri Peri restaurant in the Bradford, UK at 01274721155