American Tea vs British Tea, Preferences, Taste, and Culture


Tea Chat, Tea Facts /

Wondering what the main differences are between tea drank in America and tea drank in Britain? Well, you’re in luck because here I’m looking at American tea vs British tea.

This isn’t a better or worse scenario, there are simply differences in tea preferences each side of the Altantic, so here’s my lighthearted way of exploring them both…

Americans favor a classic black, iced, light tea, consumed informally. British favor a strong, hot, black blend of tea, sometimes formal or ceremonial. Tea cultivars are the same, so tea varieties are interchangeable. The social culture and method of serving are the main differences

So this is a case of black Iced tea, or sweet tea in America vs hot black tea in Britain.

So do either American tea or British tea have a specialty when it comes to any teas? consumed.

What is the specialty? American tea vs British tea

American tea and British tea are derived from two very different tea cultures that each country has adapted to over centuries.

This includes, how these two countries brew tea, the preferences in flavor, how and when they consume it (occasions), and so on.

In other words, the specialty of these two teas comes from how, culturally, it’s incorporated into the American and British lifestyle.

Americans drink about 80% of their tea as Iced tea, and in the south, Sweet tea is a more regular beverage.

If you’re unsure on the differences, then you can find out more about Sweet tea vs Iced tea, Here’s more on how popular tea is in America.

In Britain, hot tea is really the only option. Mostly hot and black tea blends in the style of breakfast tea.

For more insight, here’s my article that discusses the most popular tea in England!

Aside from this, there’s no real specialty involved …such as special attributes or properties of the tea itself that are specific to American or British tea.

This means that at the end of the day, both American and British tea could be interchangeable, and could be brewed using the same brand or type of tea with differences in how they taste based on brewing and serving methods.

These different methods are derived from the additional flavors that either of these two countries adds to their cup of tea …or differences in how they brew it.

Here’s how many cups of tea you should drink per day.

american tea vs british tea
american tea vs british tea

Origins of American and British tea

The Portuguese have been well known for importing tea from Europe since the 17th century.

Catherine of Braganza a Portugal princess was known to be grown up drinking tea as her everyday beverage.

When Catherine married England’s King Charles II, she bought along with her own tea leaves and continued her daily routine of sipping tea.

At this time tea was only used for medicinal purposes among the British. When Queen Victoria continued her habit of “partaking in tea”, she vicariously introduced it to the British populace. From this, it became a widely adopted social beverage for the English …more so than just a healthy tonic.

And so the idea of the quintessential British tea-time came into its own. You can read more about this in my article what is Tea. Also, there is more on this in Cream tea.

Tea came to America

Tea also landed on American soil during the 17th century, traded by early Dutch settlers.

During this period, tea was popular among all immigrants to America, across all classes, and states. Both the rich and the poor consumed tea.

Most of the tea was imported by migrants from Great Britain. Alongside the large population movement of British immigrants who naturally passed on the – now ingrained – tea culture to the Americans.

From there, the idea – or cultural origin – of American tea then grew organically and came into being.

Where they are grown – American tea vs British tea

For anyone believing that American tea is cultivated separately from British tea, or vice versa, the truth is they’re both one and the same.

Both British and American tea are made from imported tea from many parts of the world.

There are small pockets of plantations now within the UK and the US that grows their own tea. These plantations operate just like any other form of tea cultivation. But, the vast majority of tea that both these countries consume still comes via international imports.

For the most part, both tea consumed in both Britain and America is made from tea produced in:

  • China
  • Nepal
  • India
  • Sri Lanka

So neither British nor American tea have any special cultivation backgrounds. Neither have specific plantations or processing techniques that are native to each country. Which makes American and British tea no different from one another.

The flavor of American tea

You can find out how popular tea is in America here. But when it comes to flavor, it’s one of the factors that separate American tea from British tea.

American tea drinkers favor a classic black tea over all other tea varieties. This also means that American black tea consumption is way ahead of any flavored or herbal tea infusions. A point which my survey largely confirms…

According to the current results from my ongoing Global Tea Survey – of which 40% of recipients were from the USA, the largest portion of respondents – 64.6%, gave Black tea as their most drunk tea. This is mostly down to Iced tea and Sweet tea.

On that point, why not fill in my quick Global Tea Survey. And if you choose to leave your email address you’ll be entered into the monthly prize draw to win a copy of my popular Tea Sommelier Course!

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The flavor of British tea

British tea on the other hand generally has a wider scope of tea offerings. From the different varieties of true teas like Black, Green, Oolong, or White. Through to Rooibos, and even the flavored and herbal infusions.

So when it comes to flavor, British tea takes a more cross palatable flavor profile. With a variety of available choices.

Find out more about what the tea the English drink here

How it’s brewed – American tea vs British tea

American tea is brewed mostly using tea bags rather than tea leaves and American tea is designed to make a lighter, weaker brew.

meaning that American tea calls for a lesser amount of tea to water ratio when compared to the British tea.

Apart from this, the steeping time for American tea tends to be less when compared to British tea.

British tea is also brewed mostly using tea bags, with a smaller section of the population using tea leaves. alongside the variety of herbal or fruit infusions.

However, British tea tends to be a stronger brew because it uses tea bags that yield a lot of tannins, and is usually steeped for a longer period of time relative to American tea.

The amount of tea used and the steeping time for brewing for both these tea comes from the flavor profile they prefer, and it’s pretty clear that American tea exhibits a simple and elegant flavor profile, whereas British tea is complex, varied and stronger.

How tea is consumed – American tea vs British tea 

American tea is most often drank cold, or iced. In some states of the US, tea is almost never served hot. Also, in some states, tea is drunk only during the summer months because it’s largely considered a cold beverage and is believed to make a perfect cool summer drink.

Surprisingly, British tea is almost always served hot, and having tea cold could be viewed as an unusual way of drinking tea … “it’s just not cricket my dear chap!”

British tea is preferred hot because it’s believed to bring out the exotic flavor and aroma the British tea is known for. This is why the English also believes having tea cold like the American tea is just not the right way to do or have tea.

With whom and when it’s consumed? American vs. British tea

Tea in America is almost treated like any other soft beverage. You can have it on the go or even alone or with a group of friends.

Tea is rarely seen as a beverage that takes center stage in any occasion, so you would not normally find you would be sitting with a group of friends to lpartake in tea drinking. Unlike coffee, which is seen much more a social drink.

This is why American teas are readily sold in cans, which is rare to find with the British audience. So, American tea is not generally a beverage that forms any social function, or drank in any formal setting.

By contrast, British tea is something you would usually partake in to relax, and enjoy. It’s less of a drink you would have “on-the-go”.

Social or solitary occasion

British tea is more like a social beverage that you can sit by with friends and family and brew taking your own time.

The fact that British tea is steeped for longer also connects with its lengthy brewing process that can be drank over a “chit-chat” around the table.

British tea can be enjoyed as a solitary pursuit, or it can be used to bring people together and connect them.

In Britain, more so than in America, tea is a drink you will often find in more social occasions and gatherings. Even builders gather round for their tea break.

In America, tea is (most of the time) a more personal beverage choice when deciding among a number of beverage options.

Fair to say too that the British have a more dedicated tea wares selection, tea pots and teacups of all kinds, glassware, ceramics, and stainless steel that they often hold quite dear, and even “best tea sets” for those special occasions.

Related articles…

These similar articles might also interest you.

What is the most popular tea in England?

Is Tea Popular in America?

To finish

There are, of course, a wealth of varieties. And I’m sure many will disagree with some of the aspects I’ve outlined here. Tea culture is both varied, social and personal. But some things are ingrained more so in one culture than they perhaps are in another.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this lighthearted view of American tea vs British tea …and as always, I’m happy to hear more from both sides, so I’d love to get your input in the comments., and please share it. And don’t forget to grab yourself a copy of my Tea Sommelier Course.

2 Replies to “American Tea vs British Tea, Preferences, Taste, and Culture”

  1. You haven’t mentioned that British tea is mostly brewed at higher temperatures using boiling water and drunk with milk by the British (and other former colonies).
    Whereas in the US and Continental Europe it’s drunk at much cooler temperatures without milk.

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