Whether taken with milk or with some sugar, tea is a cure for all ills in Britain and one of the U.K.’s most favorite beverages.
So, what is the most popular tea in England? The quick answer to this is black tea. Black tea is the most consumed and most preferred type of tea in the United Kingdom. You will find it in virtually all supermarkets and is the most common beverage offered both at home and in teashops.
In this guide, we will look at this tea and other teas consumed by Britons.
To speak the truth, tea is a part of the daily diet for British people. Statistics reveal that British people consume close to 100 million cups of tea every day. The habit of tea drinking is richly rooted in the British people’s traditions and way of life. From their work breaks being called ‘tea breaks’ to the more formal ‘afternoon tea,’ British people put tea in high regard.
Most people enjoy their tea at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and this tea is mostly taken with savories and cakes. In most cases, British people like their tea mixed with milk, with only a few people liking it dark.
Before we discuss the major types of tea consumed by Britons, let’s look at its history.
History of British Tea
It is believed that the first tea was brought to Britain in the early 17th century. At this time, it was very expensive, and thus, only the rich could afford it. It was preserved in secure areas under lock and tea.
The culture of drinking tea was introduced to the English court by Henry 11’s wife, Catherine of Braganza. After several years, the habit became widespread among other aristocracies.
It was in 1717 that the first ladies tea shop was opened in England by Thomas Twinning, and within no time, many other tea shops began to emerge. They spread rapidly across Britain, and this was when the culture of drinking tea began to take shape.
As tea began to become a popular beverage, many people started to integrate it into their activities. There was an emergence of tea gardens where people from all over the country gathered on Saturdays and Sundays to drink tea and dance. This is where the idea of tea dance was incepted, and it became a popular activity in Britain for several years.
In the 19th century, Indians began to cultivate tea on a large scale, and Britain became its major market. Tea imports from India overtook Chinese imports.
In the 20th century, there was a major development that changed how tea was brewed- the invention of the teabag. This revolutionized the drinking habits forever, and the habit has persisted to date.
In the early days, British people resisted the use of teabags in an effort to preserve their tea brewing culture. However, after positive stories of Britons who visited America and served with cups of water with a tea bag on the side, people in the U.K. began to adopt it. Currently, over 96% of British people use tea bags to brew tea rather than tea leaves.
So, What Are the Most Popular Types of Tea Consumed In England?
Currently, there are over 1000 types of teas consumed in Britain, all of which have different tastes and flavors. The most popular ones in the U.K. include;
1. Black Tea
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, black tea is the most consumed tea, and most people prefer one packaged in tea bags. Many people take it with milk. It is preferred due to its faster steeping process that tends to produce stronger, punchier taste and aroma. The most popular types of black teas preferred include those from Kenya and Assam.
Related Article: 5 Proven Health Benefits of Assam Black Tea
As aforementioned, the use of teabags has remained to be the most preferred way of using tea in today’s society, and most British people like it that way. This is because it is quicker to make tea than using loose leaf tea, which calls for a lengthier time and procedure.
Brits often use loose leaf black tea when they have time and are looking for a more flavorful experience. In other instances, such as when you want a quick midday or afternoon beverage, many prefer to use tea bags for convenience.
However, traditional tea bags that use plastic materials are being wiped out in an effort to bring more organic materials for making tea bags. This is making recent organic tea bags produced pricier, which means in the coming years, many people may switch to using loose black teas as organic products are costlier to produce.
Related Article: Why Loose Leaf Tea is More Expensive Than Tea Bag
Let’s now talk about other popular tea leaves in no particular order;
2. Earl Grey
Named after a famous Charles Grey, a former U.K. Prime Minister, Earl Grey tea, was introduced to the U.K. in 1830. Earl Grey was originally a black tea, but as new varieties of tea came to be discovered, it was categorized as another type of tea thanks to its distinct flavor.
This tea takes longer to steep and is often served without milk. It is often made by infusing it with bergamot oil to mask its bitterness and add to its health benefits.
There are many versions of Earl Grey tea, and this makes finding the perfect variety of Earl Grey in Britain a bit of a hassle. The best way to get quality Earl Grey is to go for the loose tea rather than the standard teabags.
Related Article: Everything you need to you about Lady Grey Tea
3. Green Tea
Just like in most other places around the world, the demand for green tea has risen tremendously in the U.K. thanks to the recent discovery of the many health benefits this tea brings. The numerous health benefits associated with drinking green tea has pushed it to a level where many Brits terms it as a ‘healthier’ alternative to black tea.
Green undergoes less oxidation during its preparation, which enables it to retain more of its mineral properties.
It has a refreshing taste and is not as bitter as black tea, which means you can drink it easily without having to add sweeteners. Although some people add honey or natural sweeteners to this tea to make it drinkable, its natural aroma makes it palatable.
Related Article: How to Sweeten Your Tea Without Adding Sugar
This semi-fermented Chinese Tea is often taken in its loose form. It has varying tastes; from woody to fruity, depending on the natural flavors added during the manufacturing process. This tea has a lengthy process of preparation, which makes it quite expensive. This makes it an occasional beverage. However, it is still popular in the U.K.
Related Article: What is Oolong Tea, Origin, Taste and More
5. Herbal Teas
Herbal teas are the recent craze in the U.K., with many people preferring them due to the many health benefits they are associated with. By herbal teas, we mean teas that do not come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. These teas are made from fruit extracts and herbal-based plants.
They have recently become a popular option, and just like green tea, they are preferred because of the many health benefits they offer.
Related Article: Is There Tea in Herbal Tea
The Perfect Way of Brewing/Making and Drinking British Tea
Different people have their own way of making a perfect cup of tea. Some people insist on warming up water in a teapot and putting teabag to the boiling water, then leaving it to steep for a few minutes (not more than 4 minutes).
Some real tea enthusiasts find teabags low quality and insist on using loose tea to make their tea stronger, in terms of flavor and aroma. Loose tea is left to steep in a teapot with warm water for a few minutes to produce the desired aroma and taste.
There are people who prefer drinking their tea in Chinese teacups, while others prefer drinking from a mug. In other words, everyone has a ritual when it comes to making and drinking tea in Britain.
The Right Teapot for Making and Serving British Tea
This, too, is largely dependent on personal preference. Some Britons still use metal teapots as it helps to keep tea hot for longer. Others prefer using Chinese teapot/Yixing teapots to help preserve the original flavor of the tea without adding a metal taint.
Milk or No Milk?
In England, a cup of tea without milk is considered absurd, and nearly everyone put milk in their tea. This is unlike Europeans who prefer their tea natural- without sugar or milk.
The quantity of milk added to tea depends on personal tastes. In the past, milk was added before tea to prevent hot tea from cracking the fragile china cups.
However, today, most people add milk to hot tea as they say that it helps them judge how much milk is enough based on the color of the tea.
Related Article: What Kind of Milk is Better for Tea?
Tea is an important part of the British people’s diet, and the tea-drinking culture is rooted deep in their traditions. There are many varieties and types of tea consumed by people in the U.K., with black tea being the most preferred.
Another fact about British tea is that Britons like their tea with milk and sweeteners; it is very rare to find them drinking tea without milk.
Everyone has their ritual when it comes to drinking and making tea with some preferring to use modernized teapots and mugs while others, especially tea enthusiasts, opting for Chinese teacups and Yixing teapot.