BUT IT WASN’T A BRITISH STAPLE UNTIL THE 19TH CENTURY.
We may associate afternoon tea with the British, but tea hasn’t had that long of a history in the UK. Tea became fashionable to drink among English aristocrats in the 17th century, but it was relatively expensive and subject to government taxes. During the 18th century, tea smugglers brought supplies of tea into the country without paying any duties, selling it for cheaper prices. In 1785, tea taxes were lowered to stamp out smuggling, and tea became affordable. In the 1800s, the temperance movement began encouraging working class Britons to sip tea rather than liquor, and the first tea shops opened up. By the late 1800s, tea was popular across all social classes.