Category Archives: Tea history

Tea as a “debaucher of youth”

Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese queen-consort of Charles II, is typically given credit for the initial popularization of tea in England. Tea had been popular among the aristocracy in Catherine’s home country of Portugal for years, as it was considered an exotic luxury by the rich. Catherine’s affection for tea spread to her courtiers and eventually to the upper classes. Tea is a rarity in that it maintained its popularity even after spreading to the lower classes.

This proliferation of tea-drinking among all social strata in England also led to controversy over its effects on  health – both physical and spiritual. William Cobbett, an English farmer and journalist, expressed his views that tea was a “destroyer or health” and “debaucher of youth” in his 1821 book Cottage Economy. He asserts that tea “corrupts boys as soon as they are able to move from home, and does little less for the girls to whom the gossip of the tea table is no bad preparatory school for the brothel.” According to Cobbett, the man who drinks tea “makes his miserable progress towards that death which he finds ten or fifteen years sooner than he would have found it had he made his wife brew beer instead of making tea.”

It seems ludicrous today to claim that tea – beloved by nanas everywhere – was once decried as a beverage that led to a life of prostitution followed by a premature death.

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Tea for health, Tea history


Tags: , , ,

Tea Propaganda during WWII

This wartime film, titled “Tea Making Tips,” illustrates the correct way to make a proper cup of English tea. Released by Britain’s Empire Tea Bureau in 1941, the film is nothing short of propaganda. These “golden rules” of tea-making include correct storage, using fresh water each time, boiling the water to perfection, and giving the tea leaves enough time to infuse into the water.

The film features women working at counters making huge vats of tea and serving it to young, handsome, gleeful British soldiers. Another scene depicts wheeled tea carts being rushed to the scene of a bombed-out city square as a soldier hangs a Union Flag among the rubble. This film declares tea the British national beverage, and that correctly preparing a good cup of tea is an act of national pride. The production of such a film by a government bureau proves the British government not only acknowledged tea’s status as a nationally-beloved beverage, but also took action to perpetuate its status as such.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Tea culture, Tea history, Video


Tags: , ,

Tea in a Global City

London has the reputation of being the global bastion of tea-drinking – a well-deserved designation. Tea in the increasingly diverse city, however, can no longer be reduced to Twinings and PG Tips. Immigrants living in London have brought their tea customs with them, or have reinvented English tea to suit their cultural tastes and needs.

This diversification of tea in modern England is beautifully illustrated in the BBC film “For All the Tea in England,” by Kerry McLeod.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Tea culture, Tea history, Video


Tags: , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: