When was Tea First Taxed in England?

March 11, 2016 by Bruce Richardson

coffeehouse london 1770

When was tea first taxed in England? Tea first appeared upon the English statutes in 1660 during the reign of Charles II, in which an excise duty of eight pence was placed on every gallon of tea, chocolate, and sherbet sold. Act XXI required keepers of coffee-houses to take out a license at the Quarter Sessions and provide security for the due payment of the excise duty. Neglect to do this entailed a penalty of five pounds a month.

Tea was first served in coffee house – both in London and Boston – where large vats of beverages were made each morning and dispensed to customers throughout the day. In London, excise officers visited the coffee houses at stated intervals to gauge and take account of the number of gallons of each liquid that was made.

The plan had many disadvantages and was difficult of execution, as it was necessary for the excise officer to see and measure the taxable drinks before they could be sold. It was customary to infuse an ample supply of tea to outlast the period between inspections and to store it in kegs to be drawn off and heated as required.

In 1669, imports from Holland, the first European tea brokers, were prohibited by English law, thus creating a monopoly for the English East India Company.

On account of the scarcity of small change, coffee house keepers and other tradesmen of the 17th century put out large numbers of tokens, or trade coins. They were of copper, brass, pewter, and even of leather, gilded. They bore the name, address, and calling of the issuer, the nominal value of the piece, and some reference to his trade. They were readily redeemed at their face value, were passable in the immediate neighborhood, and seldom circulated farther than the next street. Only tokens of London’s Turk’s Head mentioned tea, although tea was sold at all coffee houses.

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

Accomplishments
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.