Art & Design

Third Thursday Lecture: From Green to Black: How Black Tea Conquered Britain and the United States and Sencha Japan

19 June 2014, Norwich

Dr Robert Hellyer, Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow


n 1860, Britons consumed green and black teas, while Americans overwhelmingly preferred green teas—all of which were imported almost exclusively from China. For their part, most Japanese drank low grade bancha, a domestically produced green tea. Just two decades later, British consumers had switched to black teas, produced in India and Ceylon, while Americans preferred green teas imported not from China but from Japan. Yet by the 1930s, the United States had also become a black tea consuming nation, while Japanese drank more sencha, a mid- grade, green tea that remains the most widely consumed variety in Japan today.

The presentation will explain how marketing, as well as national/imperial trade agendas and racial stereotypes, helped shape tea consumption patterns in the three countries since the mid-nineteenth century. It will show how rising concerns about the “dangers” of Chinese green tea spurred British consumption of black teas, while an influx of inexpensive Japanese greens bolstered US green tea consumption from the 1870s. Beginning in the 1890s, British firms mounted a marketing campaign, again stressing the “dangers” of green tea, which in a few decades helped India and Ceylon black teas to dominate the US market. Facing a glut because of shrinking US demand, Japanese producers shifted attention to domestic and imperial markets, promoting the sale of previously exported sencha green tea, especially for its purported high content of Vitamin C.

Overall the presentation will suggest how tea offers a means to consider the malleability of cultures of consumption, and by implication, national identities inherent in them.

Admission is free and all are welcome. Booking essential.


To book a seat for this lecture please click here or alternatively you can email us at or contact us by telephone on 01603 597507.


Booking is essential. You are advised to reserve a seat in advance at least two days before the lecture. Please note if reserved seats are not claimed by 5.55pm they may be re-allocated. Entry cannot be guaranteed after 6pm. 

19 June 2014
Cathedral Hostry, Norwich NR1 4EH

Tel: 01603 597507




Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures