The Luxury of Tea

Tea kanji

Kanji meaning tea

Christina here. Despite being half British, I’ve never been much of a tea drinker. I don’t mind it, but it’s not my favourite beverage. It doesn’t work on me as a panacea or cure-all either, the way most British people seem to see it. If I have a cold or the weather is chilly and damp as now, however, I do occasionally enjoy a cup of Twinings English Breakfast with lots of milk and sugar. It’s cosy and yes, quite comforting. And we all take for granted how cheap and easy it is to buy it – but that wasn’t always the case!

Wooden_tea_caddy _Museum_of_Liverpool Reptonix free Creative Commons licensed photos  CC BY 3.0 httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby3.0  via Wikimedia Commons


Although nowadays we can buy tea bags of every variety in the supermarket, or loose weight tea in specialist shops without any problems, in the 18th century it was a luxury commodity. Housewives kept the tea in lockable tea caddies so that only they could dispense it. And there was a reason for that – importing it was quite an undertaking. While doing the research for my first historical novel, Trade Winds, I read about the journey an East India merchant ship had to make in 1731/32 order to go to Canton in China to buy tea and other goods to bring back to Europe. I couldn’t believe how complicated and hazardous it all was!

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