English Tea

By Agata P. | Updated: Jan 16, 2020

English Tea

For nearly two hundred years, since the first tea leaves made their way to the United Kingdom, tea was enjoyed only by the British upper class and the noble families. It wasn't until the 17th century that tea became affordable for the average English citizens. Throughout the years, its popularity has expanded so much that today Britons have one of the highest rate of tea consumption in the world, along with Turks and Moroccans.

TEA HAS BECOME AN INSEPARABLE PART OF ENGLISH IDENTITY AND A CULTURAL ICON ON ITS OWN.

What is English Tea?

Nearly all teas consumed by Britons are imported from India, China, or Sri Lanka, so the term English tea refers to the practice of drinking tea in the United Kingdom and the customs associated with it. It does not mean that tea has been grown on the English soil.

In the past, drinking tea was a social activity, governed by an elegant tea etiquette and only enjoyed at certain times of the day. Today, British tea is consumed throughout the day with meals or between them.

The most popular way of consuming tea in the United Kingdom is with milk and a little bit of sugar.

Types of English Tea

Dark types of tea, such as Indian Darjeeling, as well as Ceylon tea, from Sri lanka, are most popularly consumed in Britain; however, lighter varieties of Oolong, as well as Pu-erh tea and green tea are also popular. 

In England, Scotland, and Ireland, the classic breakfast tea is made with similar black tea blends, but has some local variations. English Breakfast tea, for example, is the most recognized blend, with a bold and robust flavor.  The Scottish Breakfast tea, on the other hand, has a woody and slightly smoky aroma, and it is the strongest English tea type, whereas the flavor of Irish breakfast tea is somewhat in the middle and often described as malty.

Also a popular tea blend, Earl Grey tea combines various kinds of black tea and bergamot oil. In the recent years, many tea companies started producing Earl Grey with green and Oolong tea as well, which results in a slightly milder aroma. Prince of Wales tea is another blend of dark varieties and it is usually consumed in the afternoon hours with biscuits or scones. Its taste is described as strong and earthy.

Where to Buy English Tea?

All English tea types are available virtually everywhere and have become some of the most popular tea blends outside of the United Kingdom as well. Local stores, specialty tea shops, and online sellers offer numerous British tea brands of various quality and price.

Interestingly, there are two tea plantations in Britain, so it is possible to buy authentic English tea, which has been grown on English soil instead of being imported from other countries. Tregothnan Estate, in Cornwell, was the first British plantation, while the second one is Dalreoch Farm Estate, located in Northern Ireland, which has received worldwide recognition and numerous awards for its teas.

Sources

  • A Little Book of English Tea
  • The Great Tea Rooms of Britain
  • Where to Take Tea: A Guide to Britain's Best Tearooms