So it’s been decided. The British are now “a nation of coffee drinkers.” I know. It came as something of a shock to me too, given that all this time I thought of the United Kingdom as one of the all-time great outposts of tea consumption. Of course, it’s just possible that it’s not quite that simple.

No Time for Tea (Screen capture from site)

No Time for Tea (Screen capture from site)

It’s remotely possible that a headline writer at one of the British papers was trying to spice things up a bit recently when they came up with this oneNo Time For Tea? How Britain Became A Nation Of Coffee Drinkers. Which sounds pretty alarming for us tea fans and the tea industry and the like, but if you jump down to the second paragraph you’ll see that the writer of the article was a little less inclined to go off the deep end, stating, “we are in danger of becoming a nation of coffee drinkers.”

I don’t spend a lot of time following the British press – aside from their tea news – but I gather that some of their papers have something of a reputation for sensationalizing things a bit. Thus, as I wrote here just a few months ago, you might find a situation where one day a news service reports on how tea is still the king of the heap there while a few days later a Scottish paper suggests that the UK has given up tea in favor of coffee.

All of which should probably be taken with a block of salt. However, for what it’s worth, the latest report quotes a trade publication that claims that “volume sales of shop tea are down by 6% in the past 12 months, while supermarket Nescafé sales have increased by 6.3%.” There’s not much other hard and fast evidence reported to support the decline and fall of Britain’s tea empire and the same article even reports that one popular British tea brand saw their sales increase by nearly seven percent.

I have to admit that I didn’t get too far in reading the comments section of this particular article, but opinions seem fairly divided on the matter. And the fact that 411 commenters have weighed in, as of this writing, indicates that it’s an issue that stirs up great deal of interest. I claim no particular expertise in the matter of tea’s demise in the UK, but perhaps we can paraphrase the great Mark Twain, who supposedly once claimed that the reports of his own demise had been greatly exaggerated.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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