Scotland and Tea

Is it a coincidence that a number of key figures from tea history hail from Scotland? Perhaps so and perhaps not, but it’s true. Take for instance the man who gave the tea world what might be one of its most recognizable names – Sir Thomas Lipton.

Scottish shortbread makes tea time tasty! Great for gift baskets, too! (Photo source: The English Tea Store)
Scottish shortbread makes tea time tasty! Great for gift baskets, too! (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Several decades before Lipton became a household name another pair of Scotsmen – Robert and Charles Bruce – were instrumental in setting a foundation for British tea production in India, in the early part of the nineteenth century. Then there’s Robert Fortune, another hardy tea pioneer of yesteryear, who traveled extensively in China for various reasons, not the least of which was to try to uncover their closely guarded secrets of tea growing and processing.

These days the Scots are responsible for consuming their fair share of the world’s supply of tea. As part of the United Kingdom, they rank seventh among the world’s countries for annual per capita consumption, putting away a little over four pounds of tea per person per year. Like tea drinkers in the rest of the UK, the Scots are particularly fond of black tea.

Along with the English and the Irish, the Scottish have a breakfast tea they can call their own. Some research I did a while back indicates that the exact components of the latter is hardly set in stone. While one merchant might mix Indian tea with Chinese Keemun, another will sell a “straight” Assam as Scottish Breakfast and a third will do the same thing with a Darjeeling tea.

In the case of the English Tea Store’s Scottish Breakfast, which was reviewed here a while back, the component teas include Indian varieties such as Assam and the aforementioned Chinese Keemun. Taylors of Harrogate is among a number of companies who make a Scottish Breakfast tea that is specially formulated to counteract the ill effects (for tea drinkers, that is) of Scotland’s notoriously soft water.

If you’re heading to Scotland and you’re looking for someplace to take tea while you’re there, check out these suggestions from tea expert Bruce Richardson, author of The Great Tea Rooms of Britain.

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