Coffee or Tea – The New British Drinking Culture: From Tea to Coffee as the National Beverage

A remarkable transformation has taken place in the United Kingdom: coffee has replaced traditional tea as the national drink. This change is evident in current consumption habits, as 63 percent of Britons now regularly drink coffee. But what are the reasons behind the rise in coffee consumption and the decline in tea consumption?

Nearly 100 million coffee cups are enjoyed on the island every day, as reported by the British Coffee Association. Last year, citizens purchased 533 million packages in supermarkets, while tea packages numbered only 287 million. Statistics on international trade suggest that imported tea quantities have been decreasing for some time. A decade ago, the country imported over 150,000 tons of tea leaves and bags. Currently, the quantity stands at around 130,000 tons per year.

Britons invest about a quarter of a billion pounds in their tea imports each year. The first brews, then referred to as “China Drink alias Tea” in a newspaper advertisement, were likely consumed on the island in the early 17th century. Tea gained real popularity under King Charles II, especially after his marriage to Catherine of Braganza in 1662.

Reasons for the Increase in Coffee Consumption:

  • Trend of Coffee Bars and Coffee Shops: In recent years, a true coffee culture has emerged in the UK. More and more coffee bars and coffee shops have sprung up, offering a wide range of coffee specialties. These places serve not only as meeting points but also as popular work and relaxation spots for the British.
  • Availability of Coffee: The availability of coffee in supermarkets, cafes, and even gas stations has significantly increased. Coffee is now ubiquitous and easily accessible, leading to boundless and often unconscious consumption.
  • Changed Perception of Coffee: Coffee is no longer seen merely as a simple beverage but as a lifestyle product. It’s associated with pleasure, quality, and a modern way of life. Especially the younger generation identifies with this image and, as a result, prefers coffee more.

Reasons for the Decline in Tea Consumption:

  • Changing Taste Preferences: Tea is often perceived as old-fashioned and dull. Especially among younger Britons, other beverages like coffee, green tea, and even water have gained popularity.
  • Shift in Lifestyle: Tea is traditionally tied to the concept of Tea Time, primarily taking place in the afternoon. In contrast, coffee is consumed at any time of the day and is thus more flexible in integrating into daily routines.

Despite the rise in coffee consumption, tea remains an important beverage in the UK and a part of British identity. Tea Time and the traditional preparation of tea still hold their place in the country’s culture. Nevertheless, the trend is clear: coffee has established itself as the new favorite drink of the British.