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What Could Be More British Than A Cup of Tea?
Here at H.R.Higgins, we love tea, just as much as our coffee, but how did ‘tea’ become more than just a drink? Over the course of several hundred years, tea became so integral to our lives that it is difficult to imagine British people not drinking tea.   

Let’s take a look at a brief history of tea and some British tea traditions. 

A Brief History of Tea  

The custom of drinking tea, originates in China dating back to the third millennium BC. However, it wasn’t until the mid-17th century that tea was first introduced to England. Originally it was only for the rich, but there was a real turning point when Charles II married Catherine of Braganza, when she introduced drinking tea to the English Royal Aristocracy.  

In 1717 the first tea shop for ladies opened and shops began opening around the country making it more available to everyone. In 1773, the tea act was passed. The British East India Company had found it difficult to sell their stock of tea, stored in London, at proper prices due to smuggling. Through passing the Act, the British East India Company could ship their tea to America without paying any duties or taxes for the shipping. As a result, British tea became less expensive.  

Over time the British started adding milk, and 1986 H.R. Higgins introduced tea to our product range. This was a project spearheaded by David Higgins who studied a tea apprenticeship with a tea importer.

Do you fancy a ‘cup of tea?’ - What are some British Tea drinking traditions and how did they begin?

Tea rooms   

Originally, tea rooms were a place for women to socialise outside the house, where they would enjoy fresh loose leaf tea, sandwiches, and cakes. The coffee houses were exclusively for men at that time. 

You can still enjoy some of the worlds finest teas in our tea room, situated in the heart of Mayfair, where you can indulge in freshly baked cakes and pastries. For us, it is your personal taste that really matters. We pride ourselves on offering a truly bespoke and individual service to our customers, helping you to find your perfect tea or coffee, and we have a wide range of gifts and accessories for you to treat friends or family. 

Tea Parties   

Tea Parties, garden parties, tea dance are all names referring to traditional tea parties. Often held in a garden the day involves tea, food, dancing and socialising. Their origins may lie in the tea gardens which became very popular in the 19th century where, on Sundays, people of the rising middle classes would gather to wander round the gardens while drinking tea. The Lord’s Day Act of 1780 had forbidden the use of buildings or rooms for public entertainment on the sabbath so for many there was little else to do other than attend church.


Afternoon Tea

A scone accompanied by clotted cream, jam and butter is a very British Tradition, accompanied by a pot of tea. The use of cream and jam together with bread was certainly eaten in Devon as long ago as the 11th century, but the invention of baking powder in the 19th century was the key to the scone and tea was a natural accompaniment. Now you only need to decide if the jam should be on top of the cream as Devon tradition demands or the other way around as Cornwall counters. The traditional ‘Afternoon Tea’ often offers a pot of tea, with a selection of cakes, sandwiches and scones, that we tend to enjoy in a hotel nowadays really began in the 19th century when the 7th Duchess of Bedford, prominent in society and a close friend of Queen Victoria, decided she wanted something to keep her going between lunch and dinner. Her influence was such that soon the upper class ladies were inviting their friends to afternoon tea. These were occasions when the host could use the opportunity to show off her status by offering the most luxurious teas available.   

High Tea  

A contrast to the upper class afternoon tea, High Tea usually included a mug of tea, bread, cheese, vegetables and meat. Historically, high tea was not a social occasion but a necessary meal for the working class who burned a lot more calories while working than many of us today.


Referring to the time, 11am, when Brits like to take a mid-morning break and have a cuppa (of tea or coffee) along with a biscuit.

Tea as a cure for everything

The British don’t need an occasion to have a cup of tea but more often than not a simple cup of tea helps our stress levels. We have all grown up hearing the words “I could do with a cup of tea” or “oh, let’s have a cup of tea”. Whether we’re stuck trying to sort out a problem, just back from a long journey, or even just a trip to the shops in a busy high street, a cup of tea allows us to sit back, maybe find a solution to the problem, or just relax.

Would you like to explore the world of tea a little more?

We have put together some taster kits to help you find your favourites, from Britain’s most beloved tradition. 

Try the Rooibos Tea Taster Kit, Indian Tea Taster Kit, Wellness Tea Taster Kit or our All Day Tea Taster Kit.


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