Tea Clippers

Probably the most famous tea clipper that still survives today is the Cutty Sark which is located in the Greenwich Museaum of London.

Click here to visit their website

The age of the tea clippers lasted only two decades, but this brief reign was marked by such excitement and enthusiasm for the ships and their cargo that it has gone down in history, famed for its glamour and romance.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the East India Company had the monopoly on British trade with China and India.Because no other company could legally import goods from these countries, the Company was rarely in a hurry to transport its merchandise. Rather, its priority was to minimise costs by carrying as much as possible on each ship.

This meant that its ships - known as East Indiamen - were enormous, strong and very slow. By 1800, the average East Indiaman could carry 1,200 tons of cargo. The trading pattern for China tea usually meant the East Indiamen set sail from Britain in January, sailed round the Cape of Good Hope at the southern-most tip of Africa and arrived in China in September.

They would load up that year's tea harvest and set off again, and depending on the wind and weather, aim to arrive back in Britain by the following September. So even with favourable sailing conditions, the round trip took almost two years, and if anything went wrong it could take a lot longer.

For more on Tea Clippers please visit The UK Tea & Infusions Association - click here