Curry finds favour…
… plus, it’s thanks to cheaper Indian tea that the Great British tea break is invented
It was during the Victorian period that Britons fell in love with curry, a culinary concoction that is today Britain’s favourite dish. Though it was initially the preserve of the elite, by the 1860s spicy food had percolated down into the middle and working-class diet. During that same period, curry powder, pastes, chutneys and pickles became available on a mass scale, manufactured by companies such as Crosse and Blackwell. Curry was also perceived to be nutritious and economical – particularly when used with leftover meats.
Curry wasn’t the only Indian delicacy to delight the British palate. By 1900, Indian and Sri Lankan tea accounted for 90 per cent of Britain’s tea imports, a fact reflected in a marketing campaign for Lipton tea, which featured an Indian female plantation worker and sandwichboard men dressed as Indians.
Like other colonial goods from India, tea was no longer restricted to an affluent minority. In fact, it became a staple of Victorian Britain, playing a central role in the rituals of daily life. It helped to structure the working day in the form of the tea break, and, among working-class families, it was even employed as a term to describe the meal at the end of the day. New forms of sociability developed around the beverage, which was drunk in a wide range of locations, including family gatherings, political meetings and, of course, tea shops.