March 22, 2013
The British Love Affair With Tea
It has been said that the British people ruled an empire so vast that “the sun never set on the British flag.” The British Empire ruled land on every continent and until the late 20th century was the worlds leading superpower. This rise in power and dominance of the world was fueled and directed by the British Empires need to supply its people with a cheap source of tea. During the late 18th century, the people of Britain were exposed to a new beverage, tea. This beverage soon became the fashionable drink of the wealthy and elite. The wealthy devoted an entire new set of rituals and rules all pertaining to the drinking of tea. During this time period only the elite could afford tea because it would cost “the average laborer nine months pay (Kemp)” for a single pound of tealeaves. This cost was due to the high cost of transport from India, the place of teas origin. In order for the British to get tea, it first had to be bought by the Dutch from China where it was under heavy tariffs, and then sold by the Dutch to English merchants, who in turn sold it to the British Public (Standage 232). This convoluted and complex system added enormous price onto any tea brought into the country. This high price kept tea out of the hands of the common man and led to an ever growing demand for lower tea prices. To satisfy the demand for lower price the British royalty created by royal charter, the British East India Company. Its sole task was to streamline the trade of tea to the British Empire and create a direct route of trade between India and Britain for tea. It was awarded a complete monopoly on trade in the East Indies as part of the charter. By 1800 the East India Company had established trading forts in India and was beginning to ship back tea to Britain (UK Tea). The elite classes in Britain however did not want to relinquish their hold on tea and used their power to...