08 May 2019

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.

Doubly so, if you’re anywhere near St. Katharine Docks. After all, this 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. And after their storming performance at last year’s event; we’re inviting the Rag Roof Players (ragroofplayers.co.uk) back to help us celebrate it once more, on Friday afternoon 20th April.

Expect dancing, biscuits, fancy dress, cake and, of course, the odd cuppa or three. Find out more here.

St. Katharine Docks

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