The Truth About Queen Elizabeth's Favorite Tea

Collectively, the British drink about 100 million cups of tea per day, according to the UK Tea and Infusion Association. Of those 100 million daily cups, at least two go to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (via Taste of Home).

Now in the 60th year of her rule, Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning monarch in British history, having overtaken Queen Victoria in 2015, according to Britannica. More impressive still, the Head of the Commonwealth can trace her lineage back over a thousand years –– all the way to King Alfred the Great of the 9th century CE (via Britroyals).

While the Queen is in many ways larger than life, she also does all kinds of ordinary British things, such as drinking tea. According to Darren McGrady, a former chef of the royal household (quoted by Taste of Home), Her Majesty begins each morning like many another Briton: with a breakfast including a simple cup of tea (and some biscuits, too). She typically has a second cup in the afternoon at High Tea, served with an assortment of sandwiches and cakes.

Royal Tea and Builders' Tea

But what kind of tea? Perhaps some obscure luxury blend, shipped directly to the House of Windsor? Again, the truth is much more mundane. According to the Queen's head butler, Grant Harrold (as quoted by Hello! Magazine), Elizabeth II enjoys both Assam and Earl Grey, two of the most widely consumed blends in the U.K (via Tea How). It should be noted that the Queen prefers her tea prepared in a more traditional manner: with "tea leaves in a teapot and poured into a fine bone china teacup." On the question of the correct pouring sequence –– whether to add milk to tea, or tea to milk –– the Queen is unequivocal: tea first, then milk, according to Harrold.

The milk-first/tea-first debate is inseparable from another great British tradition: middle class infighting. In the 18th century, pouring "tea first" became a sign of social status (for reasons you could read about at greater length over at Hello!) and has remained so ever since.

With all its varieties, however, tea truly is a unifying force among the British. As reported by Hello!, the Queen herself once prepared tea for a builder at Buckingham Palace. After being offered a cup, the day worker requested "builders' tea": tea with two spoons of sugar and served in a mug, with "[none of] that fine china and all that saucer stuff."

Was he milk-first or tea-first? The debate was, fortunately sidestepped: the builder seems to have taken his tea black.