The importance of tea in the British culture

Emanuela Lombardi

If 6 years ago you’d asked me what tea is, I would have probably answered something like ‘a drink’ or I would have even gone into more details saying ‘A hot drink I guess?!’ because that’s what it is right?! Well, not exactly – at least not if you live in Britain, because tea here is a ‘hot topic’ and a true cultural phenomenon.

I’ve started to realise how much of a big deal tea is in the UK when I first left Italy and moved to this country in 2011. But it’s only been in the last 3 years working at Breaking Blue, that I’ve really discovered what this hot drink means to the Brits amongst our team.

Brits don’t see tea as a mere drink, or at least none of the Brits I know do. The hot bevvie, which first arrived in the UK in the 17th century [1], is not only a tradition, but an intrinsic element of this country and a pillar of its culture. Brits just love tea, they’re literally obsessed with it – they even have a Tea Council… can you believe it?! From Afternoon Tea, to Teetotal and High Tea – you name it – there’s always the perfect time for a cuppa!

So what’s so hot about tea?

Well, from my perspective, as one of the many Italians in London, having ‘a brew’ in the UK represents a way of socializing and connecting with others. By asking your colleagues ‘would you like a cup of tea?’ you’re showing them you care and it’s also an opportunity to interact with one another. And how flattered are you when they remember if you like it with milk, sugar …or lemon if you’re weird like me. And the chats you have while making tea… oh my! According to the Tea Council, 80% of office workers say they find out more about what’s going on at work over a cup of tea than any other way – who needs the intranet and company meetings anymore right?!

A cup of tea to get through the day

The thing that struck me the most however, is the emotional value of drinking tea. I’ve realised that it is the first answer that comes to mind when dealing with difficult situations. Think about it, if someone comes to you looking a bit down and wants to have a chat, don’t you just feel like suggesting to them to make a cuppa? Or does it not make you feel better if you start your morning with this hot brew in your hand?  It’s literally a life saver! If like me you’ve watched Downton Abbey (no judgement please), you must have noticed that every single time there was an awkward moment or some drama going , so in all 52 episodes, they would break it by saying ‘shall we have some tea? Well if that’s what Mary and Lady Grantham do then we should all follow!

Interesting facts about tea

I was recently reading a research piece about tea bags we did for one of our great clients, Ahlstrom; that’s when I started doing some googling on the tea bag industry and found out about the Tea Council. I found lots of interesting facts about tea. For example: did you know that a cup of tea a day can help you keep the dentist away? Tea is a natural source of fluoride and can therefore help protect against tooth decay and gum disease. And did you know that because it’s a natural source of antioxidants tea can help prevent many diseases, including cancer? These and many more interesting things I didn’t know before – get in touch if you want to know them all!

The top tea drinkers in the world

One of things I found out about during my Google adventures was a bit disappointing however – it turns out that the UK are only 3rd in the list of countries who drink most tea [2]… I mean, how can that be? Well, it looks like Turkey and Ireland are much greater consumers. And hey – no wonder this tea thing overwhelmed me enough to write a blog about it – Italy didn’t even make it into the top 100! Anyway, even though the UK is not the top tea drinker in the world, it turns out that Brits drink 165 million cups daily, of which 96% is consumed from a tea bag and 98% is taken with milk [3].

Source of image: Quartz Media

I’m not sure about you, but I think it is enough to say that if I want to integrate into the British culture, if I want to keep my teeth healthy and, most importantly, if I want to find out what’s going on in our office… I’d better start brewing!

It’s settled then – objective for Q2: start drinking more tea.