Tea culture

Tea culture in the United Kingdom

Since the 18th century the United Kingdom has been one of the world's greatest tea consumers. At first tea was a drink for the upper-class in Europe, during the 18th century it became a drink for everyone. Tea was first mentioned in english by merchants abroad. Green tea came to the UK from china, the beverage was called Tcha by the Chinese. Tea was sold in almost every street in 1659. Black tea became more popular than green tea in the 1720s when people started adding sugar and milk to the tea. During the years between 1720 and 1750 the imports of tea to Britain multiplied by four. Tea was became so popular because it was so easy to prepare and it cured mild colds. Thomas Twining was the one who opened the first known tea shop in 1706 in London. The company created its logo in 1787, still in use today. The logo is one of the world's oldest commercial logos that has been used since its inception. Tea also helped killing water-borne diseases like cholera, that was because they had to boil the water and that kills bacteria.

The tea is usually served with milk but it's also common to drink it black or with lemon. A popular thing to add to your tea is both sugar and milk, the combination is known as builder's tea or working man's tea.

Different types of tea meals

Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea is a small meal, often eaten between 4 and 6pm. Afternoon tea developed into its current form inn the end of the 19th century. Some researchers think that tea had a part in the British industrial revolution. Afternoon tea became a way to increase the working hours, the tea and sugary snacks gave the workers more energy to finish the day's work. Anna Maria Russell (duchess of Bedford) is known to be the inventor of the afternoon tea because she used to invite her friends over for a light meal served with tea.

Tea as a break

British workers have the right to have at least one 20-minute break in six hours. Government guidelines describe this as a lunch or tea break. Builder's tea in a mug is the typcial quick break on work days. Tea break is a chance to relax for 10-15 minutes and get a break from work. This break is in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Tea as evening meal

The evening meal is also know as meat tea or high tea. The evening meal is eaten between 5 and 7pm, the meal is often associated with the working class. In rural and working class areas the midday meal is called dinner and the evening meal tea. The upper social classes calls the midday meal lunch and the evening meal dinner or supper. High tea typically consists of one hot dish and cakes and bread with butter and jam after that. Sometimes there would be cold meat. The term high tea was first used in 1825, it was used to signify that the meal was taken later in the day than afternoon tea.

What does tea mean to British people?

In a study, a person asked brittish people about what the word "tea" mean to them, most of the people, 61%, said that to them it's a baverage, which is kind of obvious, but 20% of the people said that to them it is a part of the day, 13% said it's a meal and the rest 7% said it's supper. In the same study the people where asked what they usually drink tea with, where the result was that 50% drink it with biscuits, 27% drink it on it's own and 9% drink it with cake.Many other questions were asked too, one of them was when the people remember starting to drink tea. The average age that the people gave was at age 9, but many of them couldn't remember an certain age and just answered "as long as I can remember".

Tea today

The four biggest producing countries of tea are China, India, Sri Lanka and Kenya. Even tho the UK is not the country who consumes most tea in the world, hey still drink a lot of it, they daily drink about 165 million cups of tea.


Tearooms are small restaurants which you can find in many countries all over the world. These tearooms or tea shops serves light meals and of course tea. In Europe they serve different meals with different types of tea, For example, in London, to afternoon tea they serve different types of sandwitches or smaller cakes and to high tea savoury meals are served. In Scotland they mostly serve the tea with scones, pancakes or different types of cakes.

A tea room can also be the name used to describe room in a workplace where the workers go on their tea break. Traditionally, the tea is served by a tea lady. Except for England, tearoom are also common in other European countries, for exapmle, in France the tearoom are called Salon de thé and in Germany Teehaus

Text: Wilma Snickars and Moa Tallgren