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Lloyds of London Began in a London Coffee/Tea House

Catherine of Braganza
Catherine of Braganza

Lloyds of London, one of the oldest insurers in the UK, was birthed at Lloyds Coffee House on Tower Street in 1688, soon after a tax was placed on tea brewed in coffee houses.

A tax was first levied not on the dry leaf tea, but on brewed tea found in coffee houses.

Charles II continually found his treasury out of money. His Portuguese bride, Catherine of Braganza, was the first tea drinking queen and it must have cost him a pretty pence to keep his young bride’s tea caddy well stocked.

In 1660, the Crown was granted the right to collect excise duties on certain beverages served in coffee houses. This might have been all right for ale, cider and sherbet, but for tea, coffee and chocolate it was ridiculous. The duty was assessed at 8d. per gallon (the daily wage of an unskilled worker).

Gallons of tea, brewed in the morning, had to await the Excise Officer who measured the amount once or twice a day. Tankards of tea were dipped out and served to customers – all male – who frequently the popular establishments throughout the day as they conducted business.

The image of tea slowly cooling and blackening in barrels as the hours dragged on, and being reheated for customers is not very appetizing. Yet the laborious system of taxation was carried on for years with the tax being raised to two shillings per gallon a decade later.

Interior of a London Coffee House
Interior of a London Coffee House, c. 1700.

Eventually, the expense of measuring barrels of beverages and collecting taxes became too great, and in 1689 a duty of five shillings was placed on dry leaf only.

Politicians and Kings, including George III, played with that duty with varying degrees of success until it was finally put to death in 1964.


Bruce Richardson

MSN calls Bruce Richardson "A leading tea expert involved in tea's American renaissance for over 25 years." The native Kentuckian is a writer, photographer, tea blender, and frequent guest speaker at tea events across the globe. He can often be found appearing on television and radio talk shows, or as a guest speaker at professional seminars such as World Tea Expo and China Global Tea Fair. He is the author of over a dozen books on the subject of tea. Mr. Richardson serves as Tea Master for the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

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