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Tea Trade in London

Tea Trade in London


The following text is taken from the Shoreditch plaque:

This plaque commemorates 350 years of the tea industry in the City of London. The industry was spread over Plantation House (now Plantation Place), Mincing Lane, Fenchurch Street, Great Tower Street, Leadenhall Street, St. Katharine Docks and Commodity Quay. It all began with the British East India Company who had a monopoly over tea from China & India and at one point, the City of London controlled over 85% of the World’s tea trade.

Discovered in China in 2727 BC tea, known as ‘Green Gold’ was traded in ‘tea lanes’ and ‘streets of tea’. Tea auctions commenced in the City on 11 March 1679 initially with the import of tea from China, followed by India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Africa to name just a few. From that point on, the tea auctions continued with the final auction on 29 June 1998. Initially the auction was housed at the East India House at Leadenhall Street (1680 – 1835), followed by the Commercial Salerooms on Mincing Lane (1836 – 1935) before peaking at Plantation House (1936 – 1970). The auctions then moved to Sir John Lyon House (1971 – 1990) and finally at The London Chamber of Commerce (1990 -1998). There were 126 tea growing companies worldwide in 1897, which increase to 341 in 1933 and then to 239 in 1969. In London there were 75 tea brokers, 44 tea warehouses and it is estimated there were 20,000 tea merchants across the UK. In 1897 the investment in tea in just India and Ceylon was £35m!


The following text is taken from the plaque at St Katharine Dock:

This plaque commemorates 335 years of the tea industry in the City of London, which in its heyday controlled over 85% of the world’s tea trade.

The City’s trade opened with the British East Indian Company which had a monopoly over the importation of tea from China & India. As a result of the growing tea trade in the City, St Katharine Docks opened on 25th October 1828, with Butler’s Wharf following 65 years later in 1893 on the opposite side of the River Thames. At this time, St Katharine Docks was at the centre of Britain’s roaring commercial trade and, alongside Butler’s Wharf, was recognised as the main tea storage and processing centre in London.

During its 140 years as working docks, St Katharine Docks regularly welcomed tea clippers such {sic} the famous ‘Cutty Sark’ in addition to more modern steam ships. The Docks gained prominence due to its prime location on the River Thames, ensuring ease of access to the main tea companies in the City.

Tea trading was central to Britain’s commercial trade in the 1800s as tea was the second largest commodity after wool, with tea warehouses receiving 120,000 tea chests annually. These chests were transported by ships into the docks and then lifted by manual chain pulleys to the platforms and storage floors. At its peak, Butler’s Wharf handled 400,000 tea chests a year.

The working docks ceased to operate in 1968...

We really appreciate all the work that the London Tea History Association has done, researching the history of the tea trade and erecting these plaques in sites important to their industry.  But it's odd that they are uncertain whether the City of London has been involved for 335 or 350 years. Perhaps one of the numbers is an error.

See other memorials in this area

This section lists the memorials where the subject on this page is commemorated:
Tea Trade in London

Information Commemorated at

Tea industry - Shoreditch

Now, where's the best place to attach this plaque? Oh, there's a lamppost clo...

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Tea trade - St Katharine Docks

The Tea Trade at St Katharine Docks This plaque commemorates 335 years of th...

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