General Interest

A Nice Cup of Tea - A Potted History
The British answer to any problem or crisis is often a cup of tea! If you have had a shock or an upset someone will make you a nice cup of tea. But how did the British love affair with tea start? It is a fascinating tale of adventure, taxes, criminality, temperance, rationing and a morale booster in World War I and II and of a Duchess who established the ritual of afternoon tea.  

The Great Tea Robbery 
Perhaps the greatest theft of trade secrets in the history of mankind. Robert Fortune, a young Scotsman went to China to steal the secrets of tea. Travelling disguised as a Chinese merchant by the name of Sing Wa, he went where no westerner had been before, into the interior of China. An amazing tale of 19th Century industrial espionage to bring the best tea to Britain.  

Spilling the Beans - A  History of Coffee 
In the 17th century it was believed that coffee had medicinal properties; in the 1600's Pope Clement gave his permission for Catholics to drink it and the first Coffee House opened in England. Our love affair with the coffee bean goes back several centuries, before becoming a popular drink on the high street.  

The Golden Age of Coffee Houses
Coffee Houses in the 17th and 18th centuries played a central role in life in the cities; they were where men met to discuss the new ideas of the time and conduct business with wits sharpened by caffeine instead of being dulled by alcohol. They were  where many of our national institutions began. It is said that they fuelled the Enlightenment and are still there today.

Food of the Gods - History of Chocolate
The Aztecs believed that cocoa seeds were a gift from the god of wisdom. The Spanish took the bean back to Spain in 1528 and kept its’ source a secret. By 1650 chocolate had arrived in England and the first Chocolate House opened in 1657. The Quakers were instrumental in making it popular, the Swiss refined it; and now we can’t seem to do without it! 

All for the Love of Sugar
Sugar influenced the slave trade and was used as a medicine; it was a luxury for the rich and now has the reputation as a comfort food and many people crave it. Elizabeth I was so fond of it her teeth turned black. Few foodstuffs have had such an impact on human beings as sugar. 

Drunk for a 1d, Dead Drunk for 2d
William of Orange, the pivotal European figure of the late 17th century and a busy chap, he fought France, the dominant power in Europe, and reunited the Netherlands and also became king of England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688: designed to bring a Protestant to throne, amongst other things he enacted a series of laws to encourage gin distillation which was to become the Protestant toast and the origin of our saying ‘Dutch Courage’ and caused the Gin Craze.