Empire in a Cup: the History of Tea

(3 customer reviews)

Bank Underground Station, Exit 1 (the meeting point is underneath the clock of the No. 1 Poultry building).

Guided by Lisa

Walk Times

Day Walk Type Start Time End Time
4 May 2024 Special 10.45 am 12.45 pm Summer Reserve Online
29 June 2024 Special 10.45 am 12.45 pm Summer Reserve Online
15 July 2024 Special 10.45 am 12.45 pm Summer Reserve Online
6 September 2024 Special 10.45 am 12.45 pm Summer Reserve Online
As an accompaniment to Lisa’s East India Company tour, she has brewed a new tour for you all about tea.  The British love their cuppa, but the former Governor of St Helena will tell you there is nothing British about your cup of char. Rather that tea has a dark and intriguing history and the global impact of this innocent brew will astound you.  After this tour, putting the kettle on will take on a whole new meaning.

Lisa will take you to see where tea was first served in London and will explain how, from those small beginnings, the thirst for the tea and its profits turned tea into a national and global obsession and shaped the Empire.

You will see where tea auctions were held, where tea was stored, and where well-known brands eg. Tetley, PG Tips, Brooke Bond, etc. operated from.

You’ll hear about tea clipper races, and how one of the most notable examples of corporate espionage led to India becoming the tea-growing nation that it is today. As you walk through the City you’ll see where the East India Company – those architects of Empire – operated its tea trade from.  You’ll hear how tea drove them to become drug smugglers as well as, unknowingly, the catalyst for the American War of Independence.

“The British never seem to do anything until they’ve had a cup of tea, by which time it’s too late” Lauren Bacall in North West Frontier (1959)

The history of tea is hidden amongst the City streets and alleyways.  Lisa will uncover it with you and will also take you on a fascinating journey through time.

“London Walks puts you into the hands of an expert on the particular area and topic of a tour” The New York Times

Your guide is the distinguished former diplomat Lisa Honan CBE, the former Governor of St Helena – a British Overseas Territory governed by the East India Company for 200 years


The walk finishes at St Katherine dock near the Tower of London.

“If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are excited, it will calm you” 19th century British statesman and Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone

3 reviews for Empire in a Cup: the History of Tea

  1. Bernhard C

    Lisa is a top class tour guide, very entertaining and very easy to follow and understand. She has clearly researched her topic in depth and is able to make it come alive and relevant to today. I strongly recommend this walk where you will find out many new fascinating facts about tea. Thank you Lisa

  2. Linda Nissim

    Nothing less than 5-Stars. This is my second walk with Lisa who is the most congenial and knowledgeable of Guides. Her enthusiasm for the subject is infectious and her tours are so well paced. She has a meteoric knowledge yet she doesn’t overwhelm with reams of dates. She certainly captured the imagination of everyone on her walk as she peppered her talks with fascinating stories giving a real flavour, in chronological order, of the global impact of The East India Company history. I cannot recommend Lisa more highly. Looking forward to her next. Thank you

  3. Lisbeth Nilsen

    I just took Lisa’s tea tour today and it was absolutely fabulous. I’d never have realised how much of a part tea has taken in the history of the world without going on this tour, but Lisa told the story beautifully and kept it interesting the entire time. One of my favourite London Walks for sure!

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