Before 1834, the vast majority of the tea shipped to Britain was from China. In that year, the East India Company’s monopoly on trade with China came to an end, a change that encouraged the company to consider growing tea in India – historically the centre of its operations.
The move was successful, and by 1888 imports to Britain from India overtook those from China. The end of the East India Company’s monopoly also turned the tea trade into a virtual free-for-all, which saw the famous tea clippers racing from the Canton River in China to the River Thames in London. Again, progress overtook the romance of the race when the Suez Canal made the routes to China viable for steamships