One of the hottest topics among tea lovers is the differences between Chinese and British tea cultures. Comparing the two is almost unavoidable as China and the UK are two of the largest –and most popular –tea-drinking countries in the world.   

It’s common knowledge that tea originated from China and then spread across the globe. With how crazy the Brits are for tea, however, you’d think it was them who discovered this all-famous drink. 

So, how exactly are their tea cultures different from each other? Read on to find out.

Sources of Tea

When you’re in China, you’ll always have access to the freshest tea leaves as their tea is grown locally. British tea, on the other hand, is often imported from India and China.

Now, we have nothing against imported tea. When preserved well, they could be perfect for your tea time. But, preserved versus fresh? We’d always go for fresh –that is, of course, if we could afford to pack our bags and move to China.

For now, we’ll settle for high-quality imported tea.

Choices of Tea

China is blessed with an abundance of different kinds of tea. Some of the most popular choices are green tea (obvs!), black tea, herbal tea, yellow tea, and white tea. British tea are mostly black tea. Your options include Earl Grey (like duh!), English Breakfast, Ceylon, and Darjeeling.

Ways of Brewing

Another main difference between the tea cultures of the Brits and the Chinese is the way they brew their tea.

Depending on where you are in China, you’ll discover that each region has a different way of brewing their tea. Some would simply boil tea like how the rest of us do it while others pay closer attention to how long they boil their tea. There are also others who prefer to just soak the leaves in a cup of boiling water.

Another important factor when it comes to brewing tea the Chinese way is the kind of leaves you’re using. You can get the best flavor from your tea leaves by learning about them and finding out which method works best for them.

The Brits brew their tea the simpler way. Most of them just boil their tea for a few minutes.

Ways of Drinking

tea culture, drinking tea, tea time

If the Chinese has complex ways of brewing their tea, the way they drink it is completely the opposite. Unlike the Brits –who often add sweetener and milk to their cup of tea–, the Chinese takes their tea without other ingredients. This makes sense as Chinese tea are stronger in flavor than British tea.

Additionally, most types of British tea work well with milk and sugar, unlike Chinese tea.

Tea Culture Traditions

Drinking customs are also different between these two tea-drinking nations. 

Tea ceremony and tea art are the foundations of China’s tea culture. In a traditional tea ceremony, you need to be in a special environment to drink tea. Examples of places that are perfect for a Chinese tea ceremony is a small pavilion, bamboo groves on the mountains, or by a clear spring. You can also hold a Chinese tea ceremony in your garden.

For a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, you have to remember that the environment, the tea, and you should all be in harmon

British tea customs center on afternoon tea and high tea. In the old days, only the wealthy could afford tea. And since dinner isn’t served until around 8 PM, many would take a small meal in the afternoon that includes bread, biscuits, other pastries, and tea. 

A traditional English afternoon tea often happens sometime between 2 PM and 4 PM.

High tea is the afternoon tea of the working class. It often takes the place of a proper meal. Unlike the afternoon tea of the wealthy, high tea happens between 5 PM and 7 PM. It often comes with a couple of hot dishes, ham, cold chicken, and salad.

While there are significant differences between Chinese and British tea cultures, we love all kinds of tea equally – as we know you do too! The next time the topic comes up among your tea-loving friends, remember, there’s no need to go on full debate about which is better.

Broaden your horizons and experience both tea cultures!




Aileen is a content manager and tea enthusiast. If she's not crafting interesting content, she's busy searching for the perfect cup of tea and swooning over Earl and Troy, her cats.