Tea and the British have been long interlinked in the minds of many across the world and yet very few know much about the really great varieties of tea on offer. Tea is anything but stereotypical; it offers such extraordinary options which would engage audiences far more effectively than most operators understand. It is time to change this understanding and engage with different thinking.
Most operators love afternoon tea for the margins it generates. Consumers love the afternoon tea for the scones, sandwiches and cakes; the tea is almost a passenger. Research shows that the average person can name around 5 varieties of tea. Just 5 given the British love for tea is surprising to say the least.
It definitely is time to change this.
The London Tea Exchange is an almost unknown global business which represents teas from over 40 countries and possesses, within its collection, some of the rarest and most special teas on offer. It works with a range of royal families across the globe as well as with some of the most prestigious organizations. We are excited by this new partnership.
In 2022, our aim is to work together to make tea the real story; to develop new concepts which challenge and inspire consumers and operators alike to learn and explore more. As many seek new alternatives to alcohol and coffee, it provides the perfect opportunity for tea to step forward in a whole new way.
Tea has sadly sat in the shadow of coffee over the last twenty years. The amount of tea purchased in the UK has consistently fallen year on year since the late 90s. Most restaurants report selling more than twice as many cups of coffee as they do tea. More than £1.4 billion was spent on coffee in high street stores in 2019, more than twice what was spent on tea.
It must be time for change.
2022 is a jubilee year and if ever there was an appropriate moment to embrace tea and the wonderful experiences it can offer it must be now. Our aim is to engage and inspire with new ideas on the afternoon tea. We have a team of chefs creating a variety of exciting new menu concepts. We are working with event professionals to create pop-ups across heritage sites. We are talking to leading operators across hotels, stadia, and in the City as to the new concepts and immersive experiences to excite and engage.
Wouldn’t it be great to see tea once again find its place as a leading beverage and to create new experiences where it is celebrated?
Britain and Tea – a genuine historic legacy
Tea first made its way to England in large quantities in the first years of the 17th century. Dutch and Portuguese traders were shipping tea from China and a few other Asian countries to Europe regularly by 1610.
Tea was being sold more widely in England by 1657, in London’s existing coffee houses. It was available on almost every street in London by 1659. When Queen Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II, introduced the custom of taking tea to the royal court in 1662 it became more than just addictive, it became fashionable. By the mid-18th century, Canton was exporting nearly 7 million tons of tea to Europe each year; nearly half of it on British owned ships.
The concept of ‘afternoon tea’ is said to have originated with Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford in the early 19th century. At the time the wealthy and merchant classes might not have their evening meal until 8 p.m. Of course, few people care to go 7 or 8 hours without eating, so the idea of a formal meal in the mid to late afternoon was a popular one. The working classes soon took to calling the main meal they had in the late afternoon ‘tea’ as well.
The concept of “High Tea” was common in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
It is time to restore Tea’s position.