Tea and Coffee: Part 2 – Going out for a Coffee

Yesterday I ran an article on the history of tea in the UK and the US, the first of two to try and determine which of these drinks is the more popular in Britain today: traditional tea or the seemingly more modern coffee. Today we’re talking coffee. 

With the rising popularity of coffee shop chains such as Costa, Starbucks, Cafe Nero and more, you might wonder: can the UK today even be considered as much a coffee drinking country as America, its long-associated home?

Believe it or not, coffee became a popular drink in the UK before tea did. The first coffee house opened in England in 1651, and they quickly became the most popular places to be seen in society. These coffee houses multiplied into chains of cafes, and become forums for discussion to the extent that they were dubbed “penny universities” (one penny was the price of a cup of coffee). At this same time, in a young and growing America, coffee was also gaining a strong commercial foothold. By 1668, coffee had replaced beer as New York City’s favourite breakfast drink, while in Britain, gin houses were beginning to suffer from lower sales thanks to the popularity of their coffee-serving competitors. Yet whilst it would remain most popular on the west side of the Atlantic, in Britain there would be a decline – see my previous article for more on that story.

Fast forward to today and The UK Tea and Infusion Association argue that, despite a huge surge in the popularity of drinking coffee in the last decade, the number of cups drunk in Britain every day is estimated at a mere 70 million, as opposed to 165 million cups of tea. However, coffee remains the most popular drink worldwide, with around two billion cups consumed every day. And despite the lesser actual consumption statistics, The British Coffee Association documents that in the UK alone, 80% of households buy instant coffee. The renaissance of coffee shop culture has seen s massive rise in consumption, with 80% of people who visit coffee shops doing so at least once a week, and 16% of us going on a daily basis.

Coffee grows in more than 50 countries and is the second largest export in the world after oil. Central and South America produce approximately two thirds of the world’s coffee supply, with Brazil contributing about 30% of the world’s total bean supply.

Putting our own coffee habit aside, you might be surprised to hear a few more statistics relating to America’s affection for it; Whilst the US has been linked to coffee drinking for hundreds of years, is it really as obsessed with it as we think? Research done by The Atlantic (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/here-are-the-countries-that-drink-the-most-coffee-the-us-isnt-in-the-top-10/283100/) online newspaper in 2014 found that compared with Scandinavia and The Netherlands’ the US hardly drinks coffee at all! That year, the The Netherlands were drinking per-capita 2.4 cups a day, almost the same as the US, UK, Spain, and France combined.

It is hard to imagine Americans not drinking coffee, however. Such is the nation’s dedication to the drink that, also in 2014, their astronauts in the International Space Station were given their first espresso machine in space, meaning they could have a decent cup of coffee, even in space. And unlike here, over there you often get refills.

So overall the stats say tea is still our favourite drink. But as you often hear said, sometimes statistics don’t tell the whole story. It may be that one day coffee takes its place. As I hope I’ve shown, tastes and times change.

The top two bestselling hot beverages in the UK and America are tea and coffee. But does the quintessentially English association with the cup of tea still hold true? And do Americans, usually associated with coffee, ever drink tea? I’m going to have a look at the history of each drink in each country to try and get an answer. I’ll talk about coffee in a second article soon, but first, it’s time for Tea…

The cup of tea was something of a latecomer to the shores of Britain. The custom of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China, but it was not until Portuguese and Dutch traders first imported tea to Europe in the 17th century that it appeared in England. And it wasn’t for another century that the biggest tea trading organization of the Industrial Revolution, the East India Company, began to make money out of tea’s rising popularity. Somewhat ironically, it was the London coffee houses that were responsible for introducing tea to England. Coffee house merchant Thomas Garway sold both liquid and dry tea to the public as early as 1657. Three years later he issued a broadsheet advertising tea as “making the body active and lusty”, and “preserving perfect health until extreme old age.”

By 1700 over 500 UK coffee houses were selling tea as well as coffee. By 1750 tea was outselling coffee and had become the lower classes’ most popular drink, being cheap and easily available.

According to the UK Tea and Infusions Association (https://www.tea.co.uk/tea-faqs), the British drink 165 million cups daily, amounting to 60.2 billion per year. Although China, India and Kenya produce the most tea in the world (China produced 2, 230,000 tonnes in 2015), it is the Republic of Ireland that drinks the most tea per head of population, followed by Britain. Of all the tea drunk in Britain, 96% is brewed by using a tea bag rather than tea leaves, and 98% of all tea made is served with milk rather than black with lemon, honey or single infusion.

In America, it is coffee that is considered the national beverage. It poses the question, why haven’t they embraced tea in the same way as the UK? America was introduced to tea at the same time as the British discovered the country, after all. However, the War of Independence between Britain and America that erupted shortly afterwards meant that trade routes providing tea were restricted. Britain controlled the shipping routes to and from America and so very little tea reached the US, making it hard to get, and therefore expensive. As a result, during this time a lot of Americans switched over to drinking liberty tea, which is mainly made from a goldenrod plant. When the American Revolution was over, the shipping lines did return, and Americans did go back to drinking tea, but a new war broke out in 1812 and the lines closed again. It meant that the next generation of Americans had grown up during the American Revolution and spent a lot of their formative years not drinking tea. And because they’d grown up without much of the drink, they didn’t consider it as important as the British did.

Today, tea is a popular drink in the US, especially in the American South, but they usually drink it iced rather than hot. Although cold or iced tea is drunk in the UK, it has had little impact on the traditional hot cuppa, whether served in a cup and saucer, a mug, or a takeaway beaker.

The development of the beach-side town as a popular leisure resort began in the 18th century when members of the aristocracy were encouraged by doctors to visit the seaside often for restful recreation and for the benefits that sea air gave to their general health.

One of the earliest of these resorts was Scarborough in Yorkshire. Although it had been a popular spa town for some time, where the wealthy had “taken the waters,” in 1720 the beach also started to become a popular location for seaside visitors. And in 1735 its sands became the site of one of the first bathing machines (large machines on wheels in which the wealthy could sit and bath in the seawater in safety and privacy).

It was with the dedicated opening of a seaside resort at Brighton, under the patronage of King George IV, that the seaside stopped being a place just to improve health but also a destination to escape daily worries and enjoy a holiday.  It wasn’t just King George who endorsed the seaside resort, either; Queen Victoria also established the Isle of Wight as a popular holiday destination during her lifetime.

The development of the railways in the 1840’s meant the seaside holiday industry grew further, and this time they were within the means of the middle classes. Cheap and affordable rail fares alongside low cost guest houses meant more people could escape to the beach for a few days a year. This development saw Blackpool’s rise, becoming one of the fastest growing resorts in Britain. As more visitors arrived by rail each year, so too did a huge demand for new accommodation and entertainments on the beachfront. By the 1850’s, a multi-million pound holiday industry was born. Hence came the statement from writer John K. Walton in his paper The Seaside resort: a British cultural export, that “The seaside resort became the fastest-growing kind of British town in the first half of the nineteenth century…”

After the development of the seaside resort came the rise of the holiday camp. The first holiday camp had in fact been built back in 1894, on the Isle of Man. Called the Cunningham Camp, it only allowed men to stay and offered merely basic tent accommodation with a little food. Not something which would have much to recommend it, you might think. However, in the years after the Second World War, people craved open spaces and the freedom to travel wherever they liked, so the affordable and now much improved holiday camp idea gained popularity; it bridged the gap between the resort holidays the wealthy and middle classes could afford and what the working class could afford. The new camp’s prices were reasonable, food was good, and entertainment was provided, even when it rained.

Billy Butlin, possibly the name most associated with holiday camps, opened his first camp at Skegness in 1936. Unlike the popular seaside boarding and guest houses, where visitors had to stay out of their accommodation during the day whatever the weather, he built camps where people could come and go. Far bigger than any holiday camps that had come before, he could accommodate up to two thousand guests at a time; not only providing holiday locations, but a huge number of job opportunities for those in the area as well.

Over eighty years later, the British still enjoy a seaside holiday, even with our highly erratic weather. And despite the easy availability of flights abroad, camps such as Butlin’s remain very popular.

The so called Cold War was a state of dangerous tension between the USA and the Soviet Union (USSR) that lasted from 1945 until 1991. Distrust and suspicion were at the root of the Cold War. The political and economic systems of the capitalist USA and communist USSR were incompatible. In a capitalist state, the economy is largely free from state control, while the government is democratically elected and freedom of speech is allowed. In contrast, a communist state government has complete control of its economy and society. Each side (the “superpowers”) in this ideological war wanted the other to conform to their own political system.

The Cold War began shortly after World War II ended in 1945. Although the Soviet Union was an important member of the Allied Powers during the war, there was great distrust between them and the rest of the Allies. Britain, France and the USA were particularly concerned about the brutal leadership of the USSR’s Joseph Stalin. The Allies were always unsure of Stalin’s loyalty as he had previously allied himself with Hitler in 1939, through the Nazi-Soviet Pact. There was also a growing concern about how fast communism was spreading. This mistrust was a great source of anger to Stalin because, since the British retreat at Dunkirk, the Soviets had been left fighting the German Army single-handed. It was only on D-Day in 1944 that the British and Americans went to help the Soviets; by then thousands and thousands of Russians had been killed.

Although it is called The Cold War, no direct warfare took place between America and the USSR. However, they did fight each other in proxy wars. These were wars fought between other countries, but with each side getting support from either Russia or America, such as in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The scars of Vietnam, to which the US deployed their own troops, are still felt in America today, whilst the legacy of the Korean war left open wounds to fester until they became dangerously significant, as any current news report will testify.

As well as fighting these proxy wars and maintaining an uneasy disapproval of each other’s way of life, the Cold War was fought out in the arena of power and technology. Each country wanted to prove that they were the most technologically advanced and held the most powerful weapons. This led to both the Arms Race and the Space Race.

The Arms Race saw each side try to possess the best weapons – and the most nuclear bombs. The theory was that a large stockpile of weapons would deter the other side from ever attacking them. Although some have been destroyed since the end of the Cold War, both America and Russia still have a huge arsenal of them as a result.

As well as the Arms race, the USA and USSR competed in the Space Race. Each side tried to show that it had the better scientists and technology by accomplishing certain space missions first. Both countries wanted to be the first to get a rocket into space and to get a man on the moon. Russia achieved the former, with the first man in space Yuri Gagarin. However, it was the US who succeeded in getting the first man on the moon. Interestingly, in terms of the amount of money put into the American Lunar Space Programme, it is unlikely NASA would receive enough from its government to repeat the feat today. It would not now be regarded as important enough to warrant the still huge expense.

It wasn’t until the economic and subsequent border collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the Cold War officially came to an end. Today, as the issue of state-authorised cyber-hacking becomes increasingly prevalent, and when words and treaties become ever more difficult to be agreed on with Russia, some people are suggesting we are entering a new type of “phoney” cold war, one for the digital age. If that is true, judging by the first, it is not an appealing prospect.

Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, provides a home educated families scheme, giving you access to its incredible array of castles, houses and monuments. The only problem is deciding which to visit first.

Caernarfon Castle, at the very north edge of Wales in the county of Gwynedd, is one of the most impressive Norman fortresses in Britain. Built on the site of an existing Norman mote and bailey castle on the orders of Edward I, it was to become his largest Welsh castle.

Caernarfon was built with polygonal towers rather than the usual cylindrical ones, made with colour coded stones carefully arranged in bands. The Eagle Tower is the most impressive of these.
Built to stamp Edward I’s power over the region, Caernarfon Castle’s appearance was designed to intimidate the locals into accepting English rule and to warn off any potential attackers. Standing at the mouth of the Seiont River, the fortress still dominates the walled town.

An educational visit to Caernarfon Castle can teach you about the architecture of medieval fortresses, battle tactics, building techniques, and what it would have been like to live and work in both the castle and the stone walled town that surrounded it. Not only can you learn about the medieval way of life at Caernarfon, you can also visit the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum, which is housed in two of the castle’s towers and gives insight into the life of the modern soldier. Classes will be able to compare and contrast fighting techniques, weaponry, and the country at large by visiting both the castle and the museum.

In 1284, the very first Prince of Wales, the future Edward II, was born at Caernarfon. Centuries later, in 1911 and 1969, Caernarfon Castle was used for the investiture of the Prince of Wales; thus continuing its role as a royal castle.

Details about booking an educational experience as a home studying family can be found at http://cadw.gov.wales/learning/educational-visits/home-educating-families-scheme/?lang=en

The National Trust provides Education Group Membership to home-educating families during school terms time. There are hundreds of properties and gardens for you to explore and learn from across England, Wales and Scotland. The only problem is which to visit first.

The Battle of Culloden (marked by the monument above) was one of the most famous battles between Scotland and England. Now managed by the Scottish National Trust, the battlefield of Culloden, on Drummossie Moor, is an excellent place to discover the story of the Jacobites, information about the battle itself, and its implications for the future of Scotland.

The Jacobite Rising was an attempt to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the Scottish House of Stuart to the British throne. Having failed in their attempt to gain support in England, the Jacobites had left London and retreated back to Scotland.

On 16th April 1746, the Battle of Culloden, which was to be the last ever pitched battle fought on British soil, saw an 8000 strong Hanoverian Government army led by the Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II, fight the 6000 man force of the Scots Charles Edward Stewart.

On a desolate moor near Inverness, in what was to become the final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite Rising, Charles Stewart ignored warnings that the marshy, rough ground might favour the larger Government forces. Although slowed by the land, many of the Highlanders did manage to reach the Government lines, but in the fierce hand to hand fighting that followed, the new English tactic of bayoneting the exposed side of the man to the right rather than confronting the one directly in front had a catastrophic effect on the Scottish troops. The Highlanders fled, and when they did so, it was found that the entire battle had lasted less than an hour.

Culloden is now respected as a war grave, with more than 1,300 men losing their lives there, and is a place where children can get a feel of the human cost of battle. While visiting Culloden, you can take advantage of the marked paths around the battlefield. You can imagine the battle in progress by following the lines of red flags which indicate the front line of the government army, or the blue flags, which show the position of the Jacobites.

In the years before Culloden, the Jacobite plotters had met in secret. They had developed a number of Jacobite symbols so they could work out who was on their side without risking asking out loud. Visitors to Culloden can therefore enjoy cracking the code of Jacobite symbols as they go round the exhibition, such as a red rose and rose bud. The rose symbolises the exiled King James; (spoiler alert…) the buds are his heirs, Charles and Henry.

Amongst other treasures to discover, there is also a white cockade, a ribbon worn by many Jacobites, which is said to have been derived from the wearing of a white rose in earlier Jacobite risings, a moth, a butterfly, and an oak tree and acorns.

There are many learning opportunities at Culloden for home schooled children. For more details, email the National Trust of Scotland’s learning team Culloden@nts.org.uk.

Code-named Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Dunkirk took place during the Second World War, between 26th May and 4th June 1940.

The decision to trigger Operation Dynamo was made when large numbers of Belgian, Canadian, British, and French troops were cut off and surrounded by the German army during the Battle of France.

In England, hundreds of small vessels came forward to assist in the evacuation after an order was issued via BBC Radio to “all owners of self-propelled pleasure craft between 30′ and 100′ in length to send all particulars to the Admiralty”.

Although a handful of fishing boats did travel over to Dunkirk to help in the rescue, the idea that hundreds of civilians travelled across the channel to help is largely a myth. Most of the boats surrendered by fisherman and boat owners were crewed by naval reservists and were used, not to cross the entire channel, but to help ferry men from Dunkirk’s beaches to waiting Royal Navy destroyers. In all, a flotilla of 900 naval and borrowed civilian craft went across the Channel under RAF protection.

The German air force, the Luftwaffe, made the evacuation as difficult as possible. In their attempts to halt the Allies efforts, the town of Dunkirk was reduced to rubble, and 106 Allied aircraft and 235 boats were destroyed, leading to the death of 5000 soldiers. However, despite the attempts of the German troops to sabotage the evacuation, Operation Dynamo saw the rescue of 338,226 people. A further 220,000 Allied troops were rescued by British ships from the French ports of Cherbourg, Saint-Malo, Brest, and Saint-Nazaire.
When the rescued men arrived in England they were welcomed as heroes, but the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, although proud of his troops, admitted that the events that led to the evacuation having to take place had been a “colossal military disaster.” A large amount of equipment had been left behind, and France was considerably weakened, leaving Britain vulnerable to invasion by the Nazi troops. It was this threat of German invasion that led to one of Churchill’s most memorable speeches:
“We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”

Churchill’s determination paid off, and Hitler never managed to invade Britain. The Second World War however, would not be over for another five years.


  –  A major film centring around Dunkirk is due in cinemas soon, directed by Christopher Nolan. 

You wouldn’t think so, would you? Surely these huge, historic, grand buildings are safe now and will be for a long time to come? So what’s going on? Why should we be worried?

Cathedrals are a permanent part of the very fabric of the nation. Especially when other things might be in doubt. They are impressive architecturally, and although their original religious significance may well be altering, their presence is welcomed by most people.
A lot of people will have their favourites. Perhaps St Paul’s in London (above), for its royal associations; Canterbury as the ‘boss church’; Liverpool for its sheer size; or maybe Coventry as a post war symbol. In fact the new cathedral maintains a post war theme of reconciliation: the ruins of the old one are kept open as a reminder of the horror of war. Each has a different history, each a different background and associations. Some, like Ely, also known as “The Ship of the Fens”, are great local landmarks.

But what do they actually do? What are they for? How do they stand apart from merely being known as a larger sized church? Well, the Association of English Cathedrals is very helpful in defining this: Cathedrals start by being the place where you’ll find a bishop. They are of course traditionally places of worship and also of historical interest. And they do tend to be fabulous buildings, architecturally fascinating, and usually worth a visit. These days they get up to all sorts. The aforementioned Ely has a science fair going on with scientists from Cambridge University. Durham is doing its history in Lego. Manchester has been donating socks to a homeless centre. Canterbury has recently been the subject of a television documentary, and Norwich maintains a famous herb garden. Cathedrals are open all year round, and apart from worship they can be used for concerts, lectures, and degree ceremonies. They also have ‘visitor attractions’ like shops, museums and education! York does something called ‘Beef, Beer and Bubbles ‘ – one can only guess. In short, there are a wide range of constantly changing features amongst these buildings that all add to their main purpose and help make them even more valuable to their communities. So what’s the problem?

The answers is an all too common one, especially in our times: They need money. They’re not always specific about costs, but Ely says it needs over £300,000 a year just to maintain their music and their choir – which by the way is divine. You’d pay a small fortune to hear them in a concert. Other costs must be astronomical. So Cathedrals go in for shops and trading; managing investments; undertaking appeals and fundraising, and generally relying on collections and fundraising. And in a number of ways they’re up against it. This year’s British Social Attitudes Survey reports that only half of us call ourselves religious in any way, and only one million people go to church at all.

If you have read this but are not overly religious yourself, then you may ask, are they worth it? Would we miss them if they’d gone? I would suggest that anyone who is less than convinced at least go and see one for yourself before you decide. A judgement is best passed after seeing the evidence, after all.

On 1st May 1851, The Great Exhibition opened in London. This was the first ever large scale international exhibition of manufactured products.

Organised by Henry Cole and Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, the event was held in a purpose-built structure which became known as Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park. It was designed by Joseph Paxton and structural engineer Charles Fox, with help from many others, including Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The building was effectively a massive glass house, c.564 metres long by c.138 metres wide. It was made from cast iron-frame components and, rather obviously, glass, and was brought from the pages of a simple plan to life as a functioning building in only nine months.

Britain’s 19th century Industrial Revolution saw the country become a major manufacturing world power. The Great Exhibition of 1851 was intended to show the world just how powerful. Attended by celebrities of the day such as Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll and Charlotte Bronte, the exhibition was an instant success. A third of the entire population of Britain (approximately six million people) visited the Great Exhibition; with an average daily attendance being 42,831 people. The busiest day was on 7th October, not long before the event was due to close, when 109,915 people walked through the large glass doors to see the wonders of the age.

The profit made from the event, about £186,000 (£18,370,000 in modern terms), was used to found the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. Not only that, but many of the objects in the Exhibition were used as the backbone of the first collection for the South Kensington Museum which opened in 1857, now known as the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The remaining surplus was used to set up an educational trust to provide grants and scholarships for industrial research. This funding scheme is still in operation today.

In June 2017 the United Kingdom is to have an early general election. It has also been called earlier than law requires, and this makes it known as a “snap” election. Such elections usually occur when it is within the interests of the current ruling party to capitalise on a unique electoral opportunity, or when the country needs to decide on a pressing issue. And such a time is very much now.

The election is initiated by politicians (usually the Prime Minister in the case of the UK) rather than the voting public. In most cases, a snap election results in an increased majority for the party already in power. However, occasionally, when public opinion is seriously divided, or a major issue is at stake, the gamble of a snap election backfires, and the ruling power loses.

In 2011 the conditions for when a snap election could be called in the UK were restricted by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. This means that snap elections can now only be called when the government loses a confidence motion, or when two-thirds of the government’s MP’s vote in favour of such an election being held. Before 2011, the Prime Minister of the UK had the ability and unique power to call an election whenever they wished, by requesting a dissolution of parliament from the monarch.

The last time there was a snap election in the UK was in October 1974, only months after the general election the previous February. The original 1974 election was called by Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath to help him gain support to face down a miner’s strike. Rather than win as he’d expected, though, he lost the election to the Labour Party. However, because the Labour party only won by a narrow margin, and found themselves unable to form a coalition with the Liberal Party, Prime Minister Heath resigned, and was replaced by Harold Wilson. Only six months later Wilson called a snap election, which lead to him winning, and a much stronger Labour government.

Since 1923 there have been seven snap elections in the UK. Five of them have resulted in the party calling the election retaining their governance of the country. Whether the current Prime Minister, Theresa May’s, gamble will pay off, and the Conservative Party will remain in power, will be decided on June 8th.

With the world’s political system throwing up more than a few surprises in recent months, I’m not sure anyone would want to take a guess as to what the result will be.

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