Posted in Kafevend Blog

Tea and the Industrial Revolution

We've got an interesting blog lined up for you today, folks: tea and the Industrial Revolution- no, honestly, it is! We are going to see how one of our favourite drinks helped shape an important part of our history, and how it in turn affected our tea drinking habits. If you have yet to run for the hills, then please read on!

Good for your health, and mechanising your country's industry

The Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the late 18th century. Aside from the need for bright minds to develop the technology for this new age, the other thing that was needed was a work force- and a big one at that. It seems that tea may well have had a role to play in the big rise in Britain's population preceding the Industrial Revolution, which provided this work force.

From its introduction to Britain in the middle of the 17th century, tea had gradually become more accessible to the wider population from its beginnings as a luxury for the rich. It was the very act of making tea that had an effect on the population. As you may remember from your history classes, water wasn't always a safe option when it came to drinks, with all manner of dieseases to be found in it. Thankfully, boiling water gets rid of many of the gribblies hiding in it. Thus, boiling the water to make their tea could very well have prevented many people from becoming ill- perhaps fatally so- thus leading to an increase in the population!

Aside from saving the population, tea was also super-charging it. When we consider caffeine, many of us these days will think of coffee. It's important to remember that tea also contains caffeine, and so can also provide a boost. The tea break was a good way to keep the workers ticking then, as they filled up on caffeinated tea- similar to the coffee break in Italy where the espresso fuelled their own workforce.

Slow and steady wins the race

The Suez canal was opened in 1869, linking the Mediterranean to the Red sea, removing the need to circumnavigate the entirety of the African continent. For the tea clipper, this development signalled the end of those last glory days of the Age of Sail. Steam ships- one of the new fangled creations of the Industrial Revolution- were now the dominant force on the sea, whether in a merchant or military role. For the purposes of our little blog, this development was hugely important for getting tea to the shores of Britain. Not only could steam ships travel from India and China to the UK faster than the tea clippers, they were also able to carry more of it. This huge supply of tea, combined with a heavy reduction of the tax on tea from many decades earlier, allowed a much wider swathe of the British public to indulge in drinking tea- and plenty of it.

Understandably, their was a big push for the public to buy tea from British tea estates in India as opposed to the estates in China. This established the preference for strong, black tea from regions such as Assam. Such was the drive behind the marketing of the time that it is only in recent years that black tea has begun to fall back in the face of a glut of alternate teas, whether other types of tea itself or one of the many tisanes and herbal teas on offer.


Tea and progress
Tea and steam

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