National Tea Day in the UK Date in the current year: April 21, 2024

National Tea Day in the UK Although tea originated from China, a lot of people associate it primarily with the United Kingdom, since it was the British who helped popularize tea in Europe. As a result, tea drinking became a big part of British culture. It even has its own holiday, National Tea Day, celebrated on April 21.

Contrary to popular misconception, tea wasn’t introduced to Europe by the British; it was Dutch sailors who first brought it to the European continent from China. The earliest known mention of tea by an Englishman was by an agent for the British East India Company in 1615.

English coffeehouses began to serve green tea in the mid-17th century. The new drink was popular mostly among the upper classes and merchants, since it was several times more expensive than coffee, and very few people could afford it. Charles II’s Portuguese bride, Catherine of Braganza, made tea popular as a court beverage, making it an acceptable drink for both ladies and gentlemen.

In 1667, the British East India Company began to import Chinese tea through their agent in Bantam (present-day Indonesia). The first tea shop in London was opened by Thomas Twining in 1706. It still operates today at No. 216, Strand, making it the longest-standing ratepayer in London. Twinings holds a royal warrant, which means it supplies tea to the royal family.

In 1720, the British Parliament banned the import of Asian textiles, and many merchants decided to focus on importing tea instead. By the mid-18th century, tea became the main import of the British East India Company. In addition to importing tea from China, the British began to grow it in India. As a result, tea became more affordable and therefore more popular among the middle class. At certain point, it was more popular than coffee, chocolate, and alcohol.

By the early 19th century, the working class could afford tea as well, and the drink transformed from luxury to commodity. Black tea overtook green tea in popularity, and many people started to drink it with sugar and milk. And so the UK became and still remains one of the biggest tea consumers in the world, with an average annual per capita tea supply of 4.18 lbs.

While the British usually serve tea with milk and sugar, it is not uncommon to drink it with lemon or black. Tea is often accompanied with biscuits (which are dunked into the tea), scones, crumpets, cake and/or sandwiches.

National Tea Day in the United Kingdom was first observed in 2016. It is celebrated on April 21, coinciding with Queen Elizabeth II’s actual birthday (her official birthday was celebrated on the second Saturday of June while the Queen was alive). How very British! And the next year saw the inaugural FeasTeaVal which has since become a traditional event for British tea lovers.

National Tea Day events are organized across the country by tea companies and shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, tea rooms, hotels, snack providers – in other words, by businesses engaged in producing, selling or making tea. At numerous tea parties, fairs and tastings, tea lovers can sample and buy new teas, learn the secrets of brewing different kinds of tea, try delicious snacks and desserts, and, of course, have a great rime in the company of fellow tea aficionados.

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