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THE DRINK OF THE EMPIRE

If there is one country that is responsible for spreading the cultivation of tea outside of China, it is the UK. Until the 20th century, this nation was one of the colonial powers -and it used every ounce of its might to ensure that tea could be drunk by its subjects throughout the world Great Britain monopolised the tea trade with China from the end of the 17th century. The British East India Company controlled the trade in tea across oceans, buying it for silver from China before selling opium from Bengal to the Chinese and recouping the payment. The growing disillusionment of the British with Chinese trade restrictions led to this relationship breaking down in the mid-19th century, which resulted in the infamous Opium Wars. The British monopoly over the global tea trade ended in 1834, when other nations started making use of alternative sea routes to secure their own supplies. This prompted the British to encourage the cultivation of tea in other countries, notably Japan and Ceylon, in order to safeguard their supplies.

Given its important role in the global tea industry, it is perhaps unsurprising that the drink plays such a central role in British life. Black teas are favoured in the country and are usually brewed so that are very strong, with dark colour that is supplemented by milk and sugar. English Breakfast Tea and Earl Grey are the two most popular varieties, and both tend to be consumed most often either from a generously proportioned mug or a delicate tea cup and saucer. For high tea, British people use fine china teaware. This remains a highlight of tea drinking in the UK, with high and afternoon tea being a staple of the country's food and beverage industry. Whether enthusiasts visit a top-class restaurant or attend a quaint cottage tea garden, they gain most enjoyment from the tipple when it is accompanied by a plate or two of delicious sweet and savoury treats like scones and cucumber sandwiches.