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How the British Fell in Love with Coffee

1960s 1970s British Culture Coffee Coffee Pots English Potteries History Hot Chocolate Meakin Mid Century Modern Scandiwegians Staffordshire Tea

The British may be famous as a nation of tea drinkers but sales of traditional tea in the UK (as opposed to green or herbal tea) have been declining for decades.

Although I’m Danish I grew up drinking tea. That’s because my parents have a cup of English tea, black with honey, as their first drink every morning. After that they drink coffee for the rest of the day. Especially my dad, he does love his coffee!!

And in Scandinavia coffee is often teamed with cake. It's an important part of our culture to enjoy coffee and cake with others, whether it's with friends, family or colleagues. The Swedish even have a name for it - fika. But in the UK it was tea, rather than coffee, that was the most popular hot drink until quite recently.

Coffee and tea have both been drunk in the UK for a few hundred years. The first coffee houses opened in England in the 1650s. The Lloyd's coffee house, established in London in 1688, gave its name to the globally important Lloyd's of London insurance market, that traces its roots to a meeting held at the coffee house. 

But despite coffee being available, it was tea drinking that gained widespread popularity in the UK and launched a whole culture of tea time, tea break, rich tea biscuits and tea houses. The afternoon break in cricket matches is called tea and in some parts of the country the evening meal is known as tea rather than dinner (or supper). Plus of course, there's a well known leisurely meal of tea served with sandwiches and cakes known by various names such as 'afternoon tea' or 'cream tea'. 

But the UK was surrounded by a continent of coffee drinkers, and as Britain's interaction with its European neighbours increased as the 20th century progressed, so did its exposure to coffee.

Coffee drinking greatly increased with the rise of fashionable Italian cafes in the 1950s. The Italian cafes of Soho in London were particularly trendy and were portrayed in glamorous films and magazine and associated with the rapidly developing youth culture. There was an increasing interest in European style cafe culture in general, and coffee in particular.

Overseas travel became more affordable for ordinary people through the rise of the package holiday in the 1960s/70s. This was greatly facilitated by the advent of larger, faster planes with the first Jumbo Jet, the Boeing 747, launched in 1969.

European destinations, that had once taken several days to get to by land and sea, could now be reached in a few hours. British holidaymakers enjoyed drinking coffee on relaxing breaks in places like Spain which, despite being under a dictatorship until 1975, had been opened to the outside world as a tourist spot in the 1960s.

As a result of these societal changes, coffee drinking became increasingly fashionable in the UK in the 1960s/70s and the ceramics companies of the English Potteries like J&G Meakin responded to this new popularity and started to produce coffee pots in the wonderful, bright designs of that era. 

We stock a great range of 1960s/70s coffee and teapots because we love Mid Century designs, but we particularly love British ceramic coffee pots.  That's because they not only capture the design credentials of those exciting, optimistic times but they also represent a whole change in British culture as it embraced the European love of coffee!

 

 

 

 

 

That said, I don't think the UK will ever match the coffee drinking levels of the Nordic countries, who are the largest consumers of coffee in the world!! And remember, the British may be starting to become a nation of coffee drinkers, but until very recently the vast majority of the coffee they consumed would have been of the instant variety!!! 


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