During the 18th century, tea was not particularly popular among the Canadian colonists. Coffee and chocolate were much more common, since these beans were comparatively easy to obtain from French colonies in the Caribbean.
Tea on the other hand had to be transported all the way from South East Asia, and typically make a stop in Europe first. This did however change with the British conquest.
The British dominated the tea trade with both China and India, and soon they began to ship large quantities of tea to Canada. As with most other exotic habits, it was the wealthy families that began to drink tea in Canada. The custom then spread down to other parts of society.
To begin with, tea was chiefly consumed as a remedy against various health problems. Its energizing capability was however soon discovered by the Canadians, and they began to drink it more frequently as a stimulating and invigorating everyday brew.
Tea was no longer reserved for the rich; lumberjacks, farmers, hunters and fur traders alike had taken a liking to tea.
The harsh Canadian climate and long work days made tea an essential part of Canadian life. It was not uncommon for workers to sustain on tea alone for the entire work day, and only eat prepared meals in the morning and evening.
If we take a look at the food purchases made by those working on the Lachine Canal during the 1820’s, we notice how tea and sugar form a substantial part of their diet. Using cane sugar to make the tea sweeter was also popular among the richer Canadian families. Between 1806 and 1910, the import of tea rose from less than 100,000 pounds to over 33,000,000 pounds. In 1916, over 40,000,000 pounds of tea were imported to Canada according to the Canada Year Book.