Almost as old as England itself (or at least since the 17th century) is the caricature of the tea-obsessed Brit. According to the United Kingdom Tea & Infusions Association, tea’s stranglehold over the British imagination is an actual matter of fact:
A cup of tea is a vital part of everyday life for the majority of people in modern Britain—in fact tea is so integral to our routine, that it is difficult to imagine life without it!
Oh, but those cruel winds of change seem to be brewing. A study of consumer purchases mixed with decades of data from National Food Surveys reveal that tea consumption has fallen steadily over the course of two generations.
Since 1974, the BBC reports, weekly purchases of tea have “experienced almost a two-thirds fall” from 68 grams (2.4 ounces) per household per week to just 25 grams (0.88 ounces). As Sky notes, that drop suggests that “Britons are drinking on average just eight cups of tea a week today, down from 23 in 1974.”
So what gives? There are many factors that could help explain the decline. First and foremost is the rise of coffee culture. The difference between culture and consumption is an important distinction here because while coffee isn’t being consumed in wild quantities in the United Kingdom—each day, fewer than .4 cups per capita are drunk—coffee shops have become a trend, even replacing the storied pub as the preferred third place.