Tea in England: Catherine of Braganza and the British tea culture

The Portuguese noblewoman Catherine of Braganza (1638 - 1705) made tea popular in England from 1662 onwards. How did it come that a Portuguese woman laid the foundation for British tea culture? 

Catherine was the third daughter of the Portuguese king John IV. and his wife Luisa of Guzman.

Portugal had just regained its independence from Spain at the time. From 1580 - 1640 Portugal was a kind of Spanish province and therefore not an independent country. John IV. had been planning Katharina since her childhood to strengthen the young country by an arranged, political marriage.

Already at the age of 7 years a later marriage with the English king Charles II was arranged. After a lot of confusion for Charles II the two finally got married in 1662 without seeing each other before. Part of the marriage contract was, among other things, that England had to grant Portugal military protection from Spain (and France) if necessary.

John IV had achieved its goal of strengthening Portugal through marriage.

The first tea reaches Europe

Portugal as a seafaring nation was one of the first European countries (possibly even the first) to import tea. From 1557 onwards, potugies settled permanently in Macau (China), and by 1580 at the latest, tea arrived in Portugal, albeit in small quantities.

Catherine of Braganza knew the invigorating drink and she appreciated it very much. A box of tea was part of her trousseau.

Catherine is said to have asked Charles for a cup of tea when he arrived in Portsmouth, whereupon he replied, that they would not drink tea in England, and whether a beer would be enough for her...

Catherine remained however with her custom of drinking tea, and soon the Teatime became an integral part of the English court in the afternoon.

Tea had been traded before her wedding in England, but the importance attached to it was low. So it was she who prepared the tea in England for a national drink.

Queen Anne: Tea instead of beer

The drinking of tea was further promoted by Queen Anne / Anne Stuart (1665 - 1714).

Due to the poor water quality and the risk of infection, often thin beer used to be drunk throughout the day. Remember: Beer is boiled during the production process and is therefore normally sterilized. However, the alcohol content was problematic. Queen Anne switched from the usual morning "warm beer" to tea. The water for preparing tea is boiled and so it was possible to make a revitalizing, tasty and also germ-free drink.