Tea has been around for centuries, it's older than most British artefacts on display but how did it become a quintessential British favourite and an every day staple as part of our traditional British diet?
Tea made it's first appearance in the UK in the 1600's, the exact date can't be pinned down but it's sudden uptake as a must have drink in the UK came around later in the century, sometime around the 1650's when a London coffee house Sweeting's Rents in the City started to advertise it's addition of tea to their menu as a curious fancy which started the interest in tea in the UK. However tea didn't really take off in the UK until the 1660's when Charles II married Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess who was quite fond of her tea. Her love of tea helped to establish it as a fashionable beverage and it soon caught on.
Tea became a staple beverage of choice, drunk by business men in coffee houses, to women at home, it was still an expensive treat at first and it wasn't until the late 1700's that tea became more affordable, helping it to become more of a British staple. However it wasn't until the invention of the tea bag in the early 1900's that tea drinking became a truly everyday British essential.
Today tea is associated as a quintessential British item, something which tourists visiting the capital gulp in their thousands from tea rooms to hotel restaurants. We're lucky that there is such a splendid variety of teas today, with an abundance of tea rooms and houses creating their own signature blends. From the well known and long running companies such as Twinings and Whittards, to newer companies creating inventive blends such as Charbrew and Teapigs.
With such a wide range of choice for tea today just where do you go? As we know everyone has their preference for the traditional tea blend, some prefer Tetley to PG and Twinings to Yorkshire tea but when it comes to blends that are a little more enticing where do you turn to?
For Earl Grey you can't beat the traditional Twinings tea, it's said that their signature blend was created for Earl Grey, the Georgian Prime Minister, who was given a rather tasty blend in China and asked them to re-create it for him. It's bergamot and lemon flavour certainly is distinctive and makes for a perfect afternoon tea. If you prefer something a little fruitier their Lady Grey blend with it's orange notes is a refreshing alternative.
If you fancy a traditional blend you simply can't beat Fortnum & Mason's, their Royal blend was first made for King Edward VII and it's been popular ever since, it's smooth refreshing flavour is quite something.
If you prefer something a little stronger, Whittards Assam blend is simply delightful, a rich full bodied blend which is a great breakfast alternative. Their Spiced chai blend is also a great winter warmer with notes of cinnamon, ginger and black pepper coming through.
Those of you who prefer something a little more adventurous Tea pigs loose leaf teas simply have to be tried, their peppermint blend is certainly minty and refreshing, and their Roobios blend makes for a perfect caffeine free tea alternative, try it with a dash of milk and honey you'll soon be sold!
Images: Tea council