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Sign advertising 'Nectar Tea', c 1920.
Legend has it that the idea of drinking tea was discovered in 2737 BC by the Chinese Emperor when some dried leaves blew into a pot of boiling water. Early European explorers and merchants who visited the Far East tasted the drink, and Dutch and Portuguese merchants introduced it to Europe in the 17th century. The popularity of tea in Britain increased rapidly after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, as Charles II brought the custom of tea drinking back with him from his years of exile on the continent. Tea quickly displaced ale as the national beverage.