Empire and tea
The rise of the British Empire and the rise of tea drinking went hand in hand.
Although tea’s been around for over 5,000 years, it didn’t reach Europe until the 17th century. In those early days it was only for the very rich as it was eye wateringly expensive, costing around £1,000 a pound, and it only came from one source – China.
But that was all to change in the 19th century when one of the naughtiest acts of corporate espionage ever recorded; performed by one of Britain’s most determined spies… brought tea to the British masses.