Ask anybody to comment on a trait of the Brits, and it won’t be long before tea is mentioned. Brits are synonymous with breakfast tea, and it has become an institution for them. However, what is the history behind English breakfast teas? How did the tradition begin?
Like many stories throughout history, this one has been debated over the years. However, it’s generally accepted that tea first made its way over to the UK by Charles II’s Portuguese wife. It’s believed that Catherine of Braganza grew up on tea, which didn’t change even as she became a foreign princess in the UK.
In 1662, she went to the UK, and the story goes that she took a large casket of tea. Suddenly, the drink spread around the royal family. Of course, anything the royal family did, the upper classes emulated, and this is how tea disseminated around the country.
At this time, the tea was either green or black and would be enjoyed as a treat in the afternoon. Yet, the upper-class secret was just about to fall further down the class structure in the UK, and it became one of the rare products that people of all backgrounds would enjoy. Even today, it remains a drink that busts all notions of class.
English Breakfast Tea
With this, your next question is likely to be how it was brought forward in the day and consumed at breakfast. In truth, nobody really knows. All historians know is that tea was a common feature at the breakfast table once we reached the middle of the 18th century.
According to some, the successor to Charles II’s throne, Queen Anne, chose to remove ale as the traditional morning drink and have a cup of tea instead. As a result, all her subjects followed, and, as before, the habit spread throughout the country.
Of course, English Breakfast Tea is now a particular blend and one available around the world. Despite the name, a Scottish man called Robert Drysdale is responsible. In 1892, Queen Victoria stayed at Balmoral and praised the blend of tea she had there and claimed it to be superior to any other blend. Consequently, she took some back to England and it gradually became known as English Breakfast Tea.
What was the difference? According to Drysdale, a tea master, no tea on the market was strong enough. Therefore, he was inspired to create a stronger blend and provide a more significant component of the standard breakfast. Rather than washing down a breakfast, he wanted it to become a feature in and of itself.
As you can imagine, the fact that the blend was renamed to English Breakfast Tea was highly controversial at the time. In fact, there’s still debate today as to the ‘Englishness’ of the product since it was developed and made in Scotland and variants of the tea were being sold as organic tea in Australia. Today, tea can be found in all parts of the world, enjoyed by vast cultures of people young and old.
Despite the many debates, the link between royalty and tea has been strong for many centuries. At first, the world had Catherine of Braganza to thank for tea. Then, Queen Victoria is a big reason for English Breakfast Tea making its way into homes worldwide. Would Drysdale’s blend have been so successful without the support of Queen Victoria?
According to Statista, around 100,000 tonnes of tea is sold each year in the UK. Meanwhile, even Australians like a cup of tea when the time is right. Now, you’ll know the story behind the often-confusing English Breakfast Tea name when you next see it!