A Taste of Empire, 1600-1800

James Walvin on how tea, sugar and tobacco hooked Britons into a fondness for the fruits of imperial expansion.

Advertisement for tea in The Illustrated London News, September 1892What could be more British than a sweet cup of tea? Has there ever been a more typical or ubiquitous presence in modern social life (until recently) than clouds of tobacco smoke? Wasn't the post-rationing rush for chocolate characteristically British? The consumption of luxury staples, notably sugar, tobacco, tea, coffee and chocolate – is part of the warp and weft of British life. Yet each and many more of these habits are British only by adoption.

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