The British Love of Tea


Nov 18, 2014 by British Blog

If you were to ask a random group of non-Brits what food or drink they most associate with the UK, the chances are that most would answer "tea.” Tea is so closely associated with our national identity that it has become a stereotype - which is quite ironic, since the British consumption of tea has been dropping steadily since the 1970s.

Britain is, however, still a tea-consuming force to be reckoned with. Here are a few interesting facts about our love of the Rosie Lee...

  • China tea was introduced to Britain (London, to be precise) in the first half of the seventeenth century. It was first sold as a novelty drink, in coffee shops.
  • Having started out as a drink exclusively for the rich, tea became increasingly popular from the beginning of the 1700s, being promoted as a 'pick me up' and cure for minor ailments. Sales rose particularly in the late nineteenth century, when major price drops made it affordable for members of all social classes.
  • British tea consumption now runs at around 2kg per person per year, and Brits drink around 165 million cups of tea each day.
  • Around 144,000 tons of tea is imported into the UK annually, and approximately 1,500 varieties of blends of tea are on sale here.
  • Although British people are considered distinctive for their use of milk in tea (98% of us add milk to a cuppa), the addition of milk to tea is actually a habit of French origin.
  • Approximately a quarter of all milk purchased in the UK goes into tea.
  • The tea bag is an American invention, dating from the early twentieth century. Tea bags did not really take off in Britain until the 1970s.
  • Although most tea is now made with tea bags, the people most likely to use loose-leaf tea are women aged 25-34.
  • Around 70% of British citizens drink tea very regularly.
  • About 30% of British tea drinkers add sugar to their brew.
  • Tea is good for health, since it contains antioxidants.
  • The average British person makes their first cup of tea at the age of seven.
  • Despite once having led the world in tea consumption, Britain now lags behind India, Russia and Turkey.
  • In 1961 the UK imported 42.6% of the world's tea, but by 2011 that figure had plummeted to 7.4%.
  • While tea drinking still outstrips coffee drinking by some way, the UK's consumption of tea has been on a steady decline since the 1970s. Both coffee and soft drinks are taking its market share.
  • The UK tea industry has a turnover of £748 million and employs 3,324 people.
  • Nearly two thirds of Britons travelling abroad take some of their favourite food or drink from home, and tea is the item most frequently packed.
  • Some high-end restaurants now offer carefully selected teas as alternatives to wine, for consumption with their dishes.
  • Apparently, there is scientific evidence to suggest that six minutes is the optimum brewing time for a cup of tea. Anything over 15 minutes is likely to result in bitter, 'stewed' tea. However, these timings can vary according to the type of tea used.