The history of tea
Where British tea derived from?
Welcome to the last part of our Leafy Bean tea history. A history-tea, if you will, about how the humble cup of tea evolved from a Chinese infusion to life the spirits to become the UK’s number one favourite hot beverage.
As we discovered in our last blog, the arrival of tea in Britain during the 17th century altered the drinking habits of our nation forever. In the late 18th century black tea overtook green tea in popularity for the first time. Meaning that people started to add MILK to their leafy brew (and the odd biscuit too, if they were lucky).
One hundred years later, with the British Commonwealth controlling large parts of India and the UK’s growing addiction to tea, imports of Indian tea into Britain overtook the imports of Chinese tea.
But it wasn’t until the 20th century that we would see a huge development in our tea-making habits. Something that would radically change our lives forever – the invention of the humble tea bag!
The story of the tea bag
Rumour has it that the tea bag was created by accident! By American tea importer Thomas Sullivan, who shipped out samples of his product in silk pouches in 1908 – as a form of containment.
His customers used the tea in the pouches and asked for more of the same. Although seven years earlier, Roberta C. Lawson and Mary Molaren of Milwaukee filed for a patent for a “tea leaf holder”. Which also resembles what we use today. “By this means,” they wrote, “only so much of tea-leaves is used as is required for the single cup of tea,” making less waste. So clearly more than one person had the grand idea of making tea-drinking easier…even though with ease came loss of quality!
As the century progressed, and two world wars came and went, the American population took to tea bags with enthusiasm. However, the British were wary of such a radical change in their tea-making methods. This was not helped by horror stories told by Britons who had visited the USA. Who reported being served cups of tepid water with a tea bag on the side waiting to be dunked into it. Well, we’re not one to judge, but that’s still the case in many European countries too!
It was not until the 1950s that they really took off. Big tea brands began supplying their tea in little bags with strings to dunk them with.
In the early 1960s, tea bags made up less than 3% cent of the British market. Now teabags make up a phenomenal 95% of the British market.
But as every tea aficionado knows, loose-leaf is the best tea. Which is why the passion for loose-leaf tea is taking shape again. After years of the coffee craze, tea is beginning to forge a path and we’re proud that Leafy Bean is part of that movement. We’re excited that we can now bring you a staggering choice of tea options from around the world, while ensuring that only the best goes in our (sustainable) bags and boxes.
Our national British, all-time drink
Finally, the British public has started to appreciate that tea is more than a quick cuppa before work. Each blend has its own nuances and tastes. Much like terror in the world of wine, tea also has so many contrasting qualities depending on the region, climate, soil and elevation.
So check out a vast array of teas in our new online shop. Let us know which ones you like best! We even offer our quality loose-tea wrapped up in our sustainable teabags – because we understand that sometimes practicality is key. But that doesn’t mean you need to lose out on the flavour!