ABSTRACT

Unlike milk, tea, coffee and chocolate were exotic commodities new to Britain in the seventeenth century, imported from great distances and initially restricted to a wealthy clientele that thirsted for luxuries in an age of embryonic consumerism. Tea in particular was to pass into mass consumption to become the national drink of British people of all social classes, having revolutionary effects on their dietary patterns. This chapter explores the processes by which tea acquired this position of primacy among hot beverages and the reasons why, in recent decades, its dominance has been challenged by other drinks.