A Brief History of Tea Drinking
Although tea drinking has become inextricably linked with Englishness, it was in fact introduced to Europe by the Portuguese and Dutch traders in the early seventeenth century. Tea had reached London by 1658, although it took the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza (a Portuguese princess) to make it wildly fashionable at court.
By the eighteenth century tea had become a national passion, and, even though it was so expensive, was brewed throughout the country. The amount of tea drunk in England grew by a staggering 225 per cent.
Once gentlefolk had drunk the first brew, their servants would make tea for themselves from the used leaves, and then in turn sell the twice-used leaves at the back door. Tea had a great deal to do with improving the national health, too, requiring water to be boiled, and ousting cheap gin (advertised at the time as a good way to get ‘Drunk for a penny, dead drunk for twopence’).