The Collections

Tea: breaking into the tea trade

Created: 05.09.11

The East India Company’s trading patterns changed in the late 1700s. By then it made most of its money from the trade in China tea, as tea-drinking became popular in Britain. But buying tea was tightly controlled by Chinese officials and paid for with huge quantities of silver exported from Britain.

The Company tried to bypass Chinese restrictions on trade to meet the growing British demand for tea. By encouraging opium production in India, the Company raised taxes from private merchants exporting the drug to China. This tax money then funded much of the Company’s profitable tea business.

However, selling opium broke Chinese law, leading to war between Britain and China.

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