When and why did tea become the national drink of England? Throughout most of the 1700s, tea was affordable only to the wealthiest classes. But immediately after the War of Independence, in 1784, the British tax on tea was lowered from what amounted to a 100% tariff to a flat 12.5 per cent of the value of tea imported.
Why was the tax cut so dramatically? The motivating factor was ale. This was precipitated by bad harvests and high grain prices that drove up the price of ale, the staple drink of the poor.
In an era of without adequate public supplies of clean drinking water, the boiling of water or its fermentation into ale were necessary in order to make it reasonably safe.