Why does Britain prefer tea to coffee? What’s the fascination with black tea instead of coffee?

Why does Britain prefer tea to coffee? What’s the fascination with black tea instead of coffee?

You can check the answer of the people under the question at Quora “why does british tea look like coffee

0 thoughts on “Why does Britain prefer tea to coffee? What’s the fascination with black tea instead of coffee?”

  1. I like the British way of making tea with milk and a teaspoon or two of sugar. I have been trying that in the afternoons and it is nice. I live in the Pacific Northwest so we also have a long rainy season. There is a reason Starbucks is from Seattle. I don’t like the American way of hot tea. Usually an a herbal tea bag or fruity flavored tea bag left in a mug while you sip it. Maybe with some honey and lemon added. For me , that is eww. Maybe because I associate that with being sick since that is what you are supposed to drink when ill. I do like green tea but don’t seem to crave it. Same with Yerba Mate. I am not from the American South so I don’t understand sweet tea. Iced tea is okay but not great. Coffee however is a full blown addiction that is needed in the morning before work. Although I think it is also an addiction to creamer. I love the hazelnut flavor.

  2. I’m guessing this question was posed by a fellow American. The underlying question may be : Why do Americans prefer coffee to tea?
    Pre-revolution colonists loved tea. In 1773 Great Britian levied the Tea Tax against the American Colonies. Rupert Baines points out that the Tax actually decreased the overall tax on tea – making smuggling less lucrative for people like John Hancock. So there seems to have been some deft propaganda about this to the advantage of a few revolutionaries. In any case, all hell broke loose.
    In addition to the Boston Tea Party, an organized effort ensued to stop drinking tea altogether and switch to coffee. From Wikipedia :

    In 1773, John Adams wrote a letter to his wife stating, “Tea must be universally renounced and I must be weaned, and the sooner the better.” Thus began the American shift from tea to coffee. In a concentrated boycott, the housewives of Falmouth, Massachusetts publicly united, vowing to serve only coffee in their homes. This inspired other households throughout the colonies, both in the north and south, to do the same.

    Soon it was seen as a betrayal of the colonies to drink or serve tea. In 3 years, the colonies were at war with Great Britain. The switch to coffee took permanent hold in American culture.
    Leading us to pose questions like this 🙂

  3. As a British person, I drink 5-10 cups of tea a day. I drink it more than water.
    But we don’t drink our tea Black. British people I would say most of the time have tea with milk.
    First thing I drink when I get up, last thing I drink before I brush my teeth at night.
    I do it because I love the taste and I prefer warm drinks to cold ones.
    (it is quite cold here most of the time)
    It Has to have lots of milk though.

  4. To me, an American tea drinker, it feels like it’s a matter of cultural differences. Most stereotypical Americans are so busy they can’t even stop to make dinner, or often even eat breakfast, so how could they be expected to sit down and make a cup of tea? Often people have their coffee on timers so they wake up to a fresh jolt of energy, whereas, to me at least, tea is a calming, and/or stress relieving ritual. It takes more time, effort, and concentration, and chemically contains less caffeine, which certainly wouldn’t do for the addicts of the constant rush.
    That’s my two cents. Not sure if it’s valid, but that’s what I’ve seen between myself and other tea drinkers, and with the coffee drinkers around me.

  5. I went to a short talk last week by Henrietta Lovell, founder of the Rare Tea Company (http://www.rareteacompany.com). She was talking about some of the history of tea here. When it first started being imported tea was one of the most coveted, valuable items in the household of those rich enough to afford it. The tea would be kept in a locked chest, with the key worn round the neck of the lady of the house so the servants couldn’t steal it. This tea would have been bought from china and brewed very delicately, served black, with no milk. Black tea was imported because it kept its flavour better on long journeys than a more delicate green tea.
    Tea was so expensive at first because the Chinese would only sell it to us for gold or silver – we couldn’t trade or barter with any other item. The British government got tired of seeing their gold resources dwindling, so In the 19th century our government started sending opium from India and Afghanistan into China so that desperate addicts would sell us tea for opium, causing Chinese life expectancy to fall. In the 19th century we also sent in a spy named Robert Fortune, a British man who disguised himself to look Chinese (incidentally, one of Henrietta’s ancestors!). He learned the secrets of tea production and smuggled a few plants out to India, where the British had colonies. We were then able to start making tea ourselves more cheaply in India. Yep, our ancestors were lovely people. These actions made tea more affordable here, although it was still a premium product compared to now.
    Milk started being added around the time of the second world war. We were surrounded by German u-boats, so importing tea got a little tricky. Because tea was so important for national morale, the government took over tea importation, adding it to rationing and importing lower quality tea from Africa. As rationing continued to the 1950s, we got used to drinking lower quality black tea here, which was higher in tannins. This caused the need to add milk to sweeten, and since then we have continued doing so.
    So we have a history with tea, but there are some signs that our love of tea is dwindling here. Recently there have been news stories about espresso cups outselling mugs: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/8884198/Espresso-cups-outsell-mugs.html. Walk around high streets and you will see an emphasis on coffee shops, where people can order all sorts of fancy coffee combinations. Tea choices tend to be more limited. But at my work people still mostly go for tea, not coffee. I don’t know why historically we might have preferred tea to coffee, but personally I prefer it because of the lower caffeine content (though tea contains more caffeine than coffee (by dry weight), a cup of tea usually contains much less caffeine than a cup of coffee, as tea is generally brewed much weaker), which leaves me feeling less shaky. It’s also not a diuretic, unlike coffee.
    Any ideas on why people don’t drink tea in America?

  6. Tea is the national drink, true. When you give blood, you are given a mug of sweetened tea and a biscuit to recover afterwards, and the standard British response to bad news is to have a cup of tea and a sit down. The sugar and milk, and mild caffeine, calm your nerves, but it’s more about sitting quietly and reflecting before doing anything than anything else. I think one of the reasons tea became so popular was the fact that it’s a hot beverage that you can, unlike coffee, drink a lot of, so before the installation of central heating, the making and drinking of tea would have been a way to keep warm.
    However, certainly among the people I hang out with, tea drinking is declining.

  7. Answer from UsOfA:
    Some would be drinking tea if it had more caffeine than coffee. Some people just want caffeine and put up with disliking its bitterness. Me? I Love the bitter.
    It’s akin to cheap alcohol- still gets you just as drunk – mind-framework.
    Basically ppl in the UK probably drink tea for the taste. Both drinks are hella weak in effect imo – and next, better to not cheat your sleep anyway .

    Eight O’Clock

  8. As someone from China and lived both in London and LA before, I would say I prefer tea over coffee. They are both caffeinated but tea has less caffeine, so to some extent it calms you down while sharps your mind. But coffee contains too much caffeine and sometimes it makes you feel shaky.
    And London and Shanghai have one same thing in common—cold and rainy winter, so drinking black tea is helpful to warm your body, in Chinese Medicine term, black tea prevents the cold moisture from entering your body~ For my experience, drinking tea does make a difference for human body in cold weather.

  9. This topic, the question and some of the answers are loaded with myths.
    Christopher Reiss , as clarified by Rupert Baines , explained why Americans learned to like tea, and then turned against it. Add to that, tea became difficult to obtain in America when Britain restricted trade between different colonies, and tea became more expensive than coffee. I believe that this also led to the American preference for watered-down coffee, when compared to the way the rest of the world drinks coffee.
    Emily Heath recounts what she learned from a lecture on the history of British tea consumption. (Black tea and green tea come from the same plant, and differ in the picking and processing.) After tea from China became popular and proved to be costly, Britain tried substituting tea from the India colony, but that tea was inferior to China tea until Robert Fortune pirated the seeds and technologies and sent them to India. I recommend the book All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History , by Sarah Rose. Jim Gordon’s answer to What are some good books for someone who liked Guns, Germs, and Steel?
    British tea consumption, conjoined with sugar from Caribbean colonies, became an essential part of the changes that allowed Britain’s industrial revolution of the 19th century. The break for a “cuppa” replaced a drink of ale or beer, greatly increasing productivity and allowing a continuous workday schedule.

    Victor Allen’s

  10. I’m from the U.S. and my family drinks both tea and coffee in about equal amounts. We drink coffee in the morning and then tea (iced, warm, sweet, unsweet, caffeinated, or decaf, usually made with an iced tea maker) in the evenings. I’m not sure if our level of tea consumption is typical, though. I have tried many types of tea before in my time, even British-style tea with milk in it (so good). I also attended monthly ladies’ tea parties at my church with my mother and grandmother when I was a kid. Iced tea is definitely the preferred drink after water of most Americans at restaurants, and you can typically see a server walking around with a water pitcher and an iced tea pitcher ready to fill up drinks. Bottled tea is sold at convenience stores and sweet tea can be found in almost every soda fountain in the U.S., and sometimes unsweet and green tea too. I guess my point is that while Britain may beat us on tea consumption, we too have a bit of a tea obsession that for some reason seems to be overlooked by cultural stereotypists.


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