- Rachel Conroy discovered bill with one of the earliest mentions of tea in England
- Curator in Leeds found 1644 bill for ‘China drink’ in the West Yorkshire Archives
- Costing four shillings each, tea was a ‘novelty’ and ‘status’ symbol’ at the time
A curator made a discovery of a lifetime when she found a 374-year-old bill with one of the earliest mentions of tea in England on it.
Rachel Conroy, who curates at the Temple Newsam house in Leeds, found references to ‘bottles of China drink’ on a 1644 bill in the West Yorkshire Archives.
Bottles of China drink was the old name given for tea before it became popular across the country and became Britain’s national drink.
Ms Conroy told the BBC: ‘Back in the 1640s, tea had only just begun to make its way to England and would probably have been something of a novelty and quite a status symbol.’
Rachel Conroy, a curator at the Temple Newsam house in Leeds, found the bill from 1644 with one of the earliest mentions of tea in it in the West Yorkshire Archives
The bottle of China drinks on the bill cost four shillings each.
However, those with the money to spare would not have been able to order an earl grey, as William Gorman, of the UK Tea Association, said China drink would be an ‘extremely expensive’ green tea.
The discovery was made while Ms Conroy was completing research for an exhibition on beer.
The first ever mention of tea in England came in 1598, and it was referred to as ‘chaa’.
A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: ‘It is thought to be one of the earliest written references to tea in England’.
The ‘bottles of China drink’ cost four shillings each and would have been ‘extremely expensive’ green tea, according to William Gorman of the UK Tea Association (file photo)