Timeline

This timeline charts major moments in the history of tea’s conquest of Britain.

1598: earliest known English reference to tea, in translation of Jan Huyghen van Linschoten’s Itinerario

1615: Richard Wickham, a merchant in Japan, the first Englishman to record his tea-habit

1658: earliest public advertisement for tea placed in Mercurius Politicus by Thomas Garway

1697: significant quantities of tea imported annually from this date

1723: annual British Tea imports reach 1m pounds

1750: the last time that green tea imports exceeded those for darker varieties

1784: Parliament reduces taxes on tea from 119% to 12.5%, to decimate tea smuggling

1823: wild tea identified growing in India by army officer Robert Bruce

1830: annual British Tea imports reach 30m pounds

1839: first Assam tea cultivated in colonial India arrives in UK

1862: annual British Tea imports reach 100m pounds

1889: Indian tea imports overtake Chinese tea imports

1946: George Orwell’s essay ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’ published

1953: Tetley becomes the first British firm to sell tea-bags

1956: Tea consumption in UK peaks at 2.9 ounces per person per week

2016: UK Tea & Infusions Association estimates 60 billion cups of tea drunk per year (still more than double the figure for coffee)

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