Curry finds favour…

… plus, it’s thanks to cheaper In­dian tea that the Great Bri­tish tea break is in­vented

BBC Earth (Asia) - - History -

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.

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