It’s not as though many of us need an excuse for a cup of tea. But National Tea Day on the 21st April is certainly an event worth celebrating.
St. Katharine Docks was once the dropping off point for 32,000 tonnes of tea each year, from as far afield as China, India and what was then Ceylon. A point commemorated by The London Tea History Association’s plaque near Ivory House.
A history of tea
At one time, the City of London managed over 85% of the world’s tea trade – so it’s no surprise that, as a nation, we seem to be synonymous with the drink!
Tea clippers like the Cutty Sark used to drop off an astonishing 120,000 tea chests a year into St Katharine’s. Much of which off the British East India Company’s ships, thanks to their control over the Chinese and Indian trade routes. No small monopoly, as tea was then the second largest commodity, after wool.
Before the Docks were around, it’d take a month to unload an 800 tonne East Indiaman. St Katharine’s men – on around two-and-sixpence a day in 1848 – could empty one in just five days. They’d then sort and package the loads on the docks, before ushering then off to be enjoyed all over the country.
A properly brewed party
Today, 165 million cups of tea are gulped, savoured, nattered over (and sadly left to go cold) every day in the UK alone. That’s almost two and a half cups per person, including babies! So National Tea Day is arguably the most British day of the year.
WIN a bottle of Fortnum & Mason's Sparkling Tea!
We would usually mark the day with one of our renowned Tea Dances, however for the second year running, we've had to cancel due to the pandemic. Instead, we're offering you the chance to WIN a bottle of Fortnum & Mason’s Sparkling Tea!
All you need to do is snap a photo when you’re picking up a tea (or coffee!) at the Docks before the 30th April, tag us on our social media handles and we’ll select one at random. Please note that you will need to provide us with a mail address so that we’re able to post your winning bottle straight to you. Good luck!