What is English Breakfast Tea?
Today the habit of tea drinking is inexorably linked to the British despite the fact that the British were fairly late on the tea scene in historical terms. Ironically the first mention of tea in English literature is a translation of a Dutchman's travels to the east. Tea was first brought to England via Holland on Dutch ships.
Since tea was becoming an "in" beverage the British government became quite incensed that a tiny nation such as the Netherlands would control the shipment of tea to the UK. In 1651 the British government passed the Navigation Acts which forbade the importation of any products on non-British ships. Traders and Dutchmen, being resourceful, continued the trade in the usual manner but for one little wrinkle - The tea was transshipped in Holland onto British ships!
Early in British life tea was known as a health beverage and claimed all sorts of curative powers. In the 1650's, Garway's Coffee House proclaimed that tea amongst other things: "Tea makes the body active and lusty. Tea is declared to be the most wholesome: preserving perfect health until extreme old age". Afternoon tea was the invention of Anna, wife of the seventh Duke of Bedford. At the time custom dictated only two planned meals per day: a hearty breakfast and a late evening dinner. Anna in an effort to ease the "sinking feeling" began instructing her servants to prepare tea and cakes in the late afternoon. Thus began a fashionable habit which still exists today.
Britain is steeped in tea history. Think of: HIgh Tea, the Brown Betty, The American War of Independence, The Opium Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, The Clipper ship races from Fuzchou, China to Portsmouth UK, The Earl of Grey, and of course English Breakfast.
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