How Tea Took Over the World
Scots love their "cuppa" or their "elevenses," a cup of tea and something sweet like shortbread
or a slice of Dundee Cake in the late mid-morning. The drinking of tea originated in China. It spread from there, with Portuguese priests, merchants and royalty introducing the beverage to Europe in the 16th Century. But the Scots played a significant role in the popularization and commercialization of tea in the centuries that followed. It is said that the most popular blend of tea, English Breakfast, was concocted in Scotland and popularized by Queen Victoria, who had a love for all Scottish things. By the time Victoria began her reign in 1837, tea was already becoming something of an everyday household necessity. She helped add a regal charm to the practice of drinking tea.
One of the biggest figures in the global spread of tea as a beverage available to all was Sir Thomas Lipton, born in Glasgow in 1848, 11 years into the reign of Victoria. Lipton was a grocer who embraced the philosophy of cutting out the middleman, gaining success by supplying high quality goods at the lowest available prices. He happened to get into the tea business as the drink was exploding in popularity as a symbol of upper-class tastes. Lipton made the status beverage available to middle-class consumers. Lipton bought plantation lands in what is now Sri Lanka, establishing tea-growing hubs closer to Great Britain; allowing for a fresher product and thereby making the shipping costs cheaper as well. It's safe to say that in America coffee is more popular than tea as a hot caffeinated morning beverage, but Thomas Lipton did his part to get the Scots and Americans hooked on tea.
We've got a selection of the finest Scottish teas
, and they're not easy to find in the U.S.