Search this blog

Wednesday 26 August 2015

A Social History of Tea by Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson - a review

Front cover of A Social History of Tea by Jane Pettigrew and Bruce Richardson

This is a comprehensive study of the growth of tea drinking in England with added sections in this new edition from Bruce Richardson about the history of tea in America. The book starts with the origins of tea and takes you through the centuries, right up to the present day with the development of specialist tea houses like Comins Tea House in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, where I bought this book.

The book is divided up by century and within these chapters, it looks at different subjects such as the sources of the tea that was drunk, the sales of tea, tea taxes, taking tea out and at home, smuggling, tea wares and how tea went from being an extremely expensive and elitist beverage to the drink of choice of the masses. I found that at times the book repeated itself in different sections and the breakdown of the chapters led to some chronological toing and froing, but overall, I found it very readable.

As you all know, my particular interest is in the Georgian period and I was impressed with the number of quotes from the household records and other contemporary sources which were included in the chapters on the 18th and 19th centuries.

I have now developed an interest in tea caddies and tea cups and look for them in the historic houses I visit. Reading this book also prompted me to visit Twinings historic shop in the Strand and the house of one of the most famous Georgian tea drinkers, Samuel Johnson.

Twinings tea shop, 216 Strand, London
Twinings tea shop, 216 Strand, London
Source used:
Pettigrew, Jane and Richardson, Bruce, A Social History of Tea (my edition 2014)


  1. Hello, it would be great if you could write an article about regency balls that families of the ton organised, like what time regency balls started and ended or what activities they did during those balls.