Making Tea in a London Coffee House

October 8, 2016 by Bruce Richardson
Green Dragon Tavern and Coffee House Boston

Green Dragon Tavern and Coffee House Boston

The citizens of both London and Boston often had their first taste of tea while visiting coffee houses where barrels of ready-made coffee, tea, and cocoa were prepared every morning for customers – mostly male – who visited throughout the day.

In the 1878 edition of The Coffee Publichouse: How to Establish and Manage it, the London author warns coffee house owners about making poor tea –

Inferior tea is not economical in use. The preparation of the tea should be very carefully attended to, in order that it may he strong, wholesome, and refreshing. It should be made like coffee, with water, in a boiling state, poured into a vessel previously warmed.

Coffee House Manual from the 19th century

Coffee House Manual from the 19th century

The tea should stand exactly ten minutes, and should then be drained off. In ten minutes the infusion will be of the full strength, and on no account, should the water be allowed to stand longer upon the tea leaves.

The proportions may be three-quarters of a pound of tea to seventeen pints of water, with three­quarters of a pound of sugar.

A small quantity of milk–two or three teaspoons–may be added to each cup when served. Assuming a pint of milk to be thus used the brew would produce eighteen pints at a cost of about one shilling per gallon.

It’s interesting to note that, a century after the Boston Tea Party, tea was still heavily sweetened and served with milk. The only difference being that the tea from this era was more likely to have been grown in India than in China.

Author: Bruce Richardson
Tea Master for the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum

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.