Why does England drink more tea than coffee? Before the British East India Company turned its thoughts to tea, Englishmen drank mostly coffee.
Within fifty years of the opening of the first coffee house in England, there were two thousand coffee houses in the City of London, alone!
It is interesting to note that just as America started out to become a nation of tea drinkers, only to boycott it for coffee, so England, once the largest coffee consuming nation, became the world’s largest tea consumer. Men and ships brought this about, but particularly such ships as those which graced the coat of arms of the old East India Company—“three ships in azure,” they were called—these and the graceful white-winged tea clippers of the era that followed on.
Toward the close of the seventeenth century, however, the East India Company was much more interested in tea than in coffee. Having lost out to the French and the Dutch on the “little brown berry of Arabia,” The Company engaged in so lively a propaganda for tea that, whereas the annual tea imports from 1700 to 1710 averaged 800,000 pounds, in 1721 more than one million pounds of tea were brought in; in 1757, some four million pounds were imported. And when the coffee house finally succumbed, tea, and not coffee, was firmly entrenched as the national drink of the English people.
While it is often said that the British East India Company owed its birth to pepper, its amazing development was due to tea. Its early adventures in the Far East brought it to China, whose tea was destined later to furnish the means of governing India.