The Story of Beef

The Story of Beef


The tradition of eating beef has passed down generations to become an integral part for many of our regular diets. By providing precious protein, packed with fatty calories beef has come be regarded as an important ingredient for human survival. Here, we look at the ever-changing role of beef and it’s interesting history.

Ancient Beef

Beef has been a staple meat eaten around the world for millennia, dating back as far as prehistory. Cattle originated in the Old World, having been domesticated around 8000 BC when the material gains from the livestock became apparent. It is difficult to estimate the precise point where beef became a cooked delicacy, although it probably shortly followed the domestication of cattle. Following this, people were able to identify specific breeds suited to being used for their meat or dairy produce such as milk and cheese.

The British Beef Breeders

Beef consumption and farming has existed in Britain for a long time and the country is considered to be a pioneer in beef breeding. Britain is home to several cattle breeds, which serve different functions. These include the Aberdeen Angus, arguably Britain’s most widely-known cattle breed, known for its high-quality beef. The Hereford is another particularly notable breed, which exemplifies the innovative breeding techniques developed by the British

The Spanish Bring the Cow to the Andes

Despite its prevalence in the Americas today, Cattle was not endemic to the continent and was very much a European export. The Spanish are known to be the first exporters of the cow to the Americas. Christopher Columbus is credited with introducing cattle to the conflict in 1493, introducing the species to the modern-day Dominican Republic. Cattle quickly spread throughout Mexico and modern-day Texas as the Spanish colonial interest in the Americas expanded, laying the foundation for the famous Texan Longhorn breed.


The concept of the Gaucho dates back to the late 19th Century and remain national symbols in a number of Latin American countries, especially Argentina. They are not dissimilar to the American cowboys, essentially skilled horsemen known for being gifted in cattle driving. A sense of mythology soon developed around the Gaucho, like with cowboys in America, as they became romanticised figures and eventually cultural symbols.

5m5a0923Cowboys and Cattle Drives

The Cowboy is one of the most potent and widely-recognised symbols of Americana, bearing several similarities to Gauchos despite different aesthetic iconography. Cowboys arose to cultural prevalence in the 19th Century, known mainly for the vast cattle drives from Texas, the country’s main source of cattle to Chicago, the heart of the meat-packing industry and a hub for beef demand. This process emerged in the mid-19th Century. It is believed that a single herd of cattle numbered around 3,000 cows. As the population of the country grew and demand became more evenly spread across the country, the age of cattle drives and the cowboy by extension came to an end. Despite this, the cowboy remains permanently ingrained as a symbol of American popular culture, romanticised in the same way as the Gauchos in Latin America.

How good is it for you? Grain fed versus grass fed

Beef’s best-known health benefits are its rich source of protein. Despite this, it would be incorrect to describe beef and other forms of Red Meat as healthy. It is believed that the excessive consumption of red meat increases the risk of certain cancers, particularly that of the bowel. Furthermore, it is also believed that excessive consumption has a detrimental effect on the heart and can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. While there has been debate over whether grass-fed beef is more healthy than terrain-fed beef, there is little conclusive scientific evidence to support this. However, grass-fed beef is treated better, reared in more open spaces. From a moral standpoint, and in terms of quality, grass-fed beef is normally the better option.

Japanese Beef

While the superior beef breed is a matter of debate and personal preference, there is much to be made of the quality of Japanese beef, which many associate with a sense of prestige. The two most notable meats are Wagyu and Kobe, the latter being particularly notable. While Japanese cattle has its origins in China, the breeding innovations are wholly their own. Kobe Beef is the best known, a delicacy renowned for its flavour and texture. Kobe and several other kinds of Japanese beef are imported throughout the world, vaunted by many for their quality.

The Beef Industry Today

Beef is consumed around the world in the present day as the third most widely-consumed meat after poultry and pork. There is a near-universal, thriving market for the industry today. The United States, Brazil and China are the world’s largest consumers of the meat, with little to separate them in terms of consumption. Brazil and Australia are the world’s largest producers and exporters of beef. Beef is central to the economy of Latin America since its introduction by the Spanish. The industry has evolved exponentially and grown increasingly complex since its early popularity. Despite this, health concerns about the negative effects of beef consumption are becoming increasingly clear and well-documented. Although this shows no sign of halting the beef industry in the present day, it perhaps points to a future where the meat is less widely-consumed.

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Watch: The Story of… Beef

Global Cities: London

Global Cities: London

London is one of the most global cities on the planet, a real melting pot of different cultures, nationalities and religions. With many traces of the country’s former colonial reach still visible, the city has also opened up to a wealth of European cultures in the advent of the European Union. In addition, the city, with its rich history, vibrant culture and wealth of economic opportunities, has attracted immigrants from all over the world, providing an accepting atmosphere for those from all corners of the globe.


Indians comprise London’s largest ethnic minority population, encompassing 6.6% of the city’s total population, a large number of 542,900 people. British Indians form an essential part of the city’s cultural fabric. Due to the countries’ deep connections during the height of British imperialism, the entire country is home to a substantial Indian population, over a third of which is based in London. The British Indian population is overwhelmingly comprised of ethnic Punjabi Indians, who account for 45%. Other significant ethnic populations include Gujarati and Tamil Indians. The Indian community, while the most ubiquitous immigrant population in London, is highly concentrated in West London neighbourhoods such as Harrow, Hounslow and Brent.


Indian immigration to London dates back to the colonial era. The earliest incidence of Indian immigration to the city can be traced back to as early as the 18th Century. Early immigrants to the city were brought back from the recently-annexed Indian subcontinent along with modern-day Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans, as ‘lascars’, essentially seamen to fill in for British vacancies. Many of these displaced peoples were often left stranded in the United Kingdom, mainly London, with no means of returning home. They began to settle in large numbers of a result, many taking menial means of employment such as servants. The number of ‘lascars’ in the East India Company began to concern the hierarchy, who limited the quota with the Navigation Act of 1660. This only caused more Indians to settle in the United Kingdom, due to the lack of marine employment opportunities.

The population of Indian immigrants gradually grew over the course of the 19th Century, reaching around 4,000, the majority of which were based in London and port towns such as Southampton. London’s first Indian restaurant, the Hindoostan Coffee House was established in 1810 by Sake Dean Mahomed, a high-ranking seaman in the East India Company. By the early 20th Century, this number had increased more and although the population had professionally diversified, the bulk remained employed as ‘lascars’.

This changed following the end of the Second Work War, when the vast majority of British colonies were finally granted independence. India, amongst many other countries, were finally free from British rule. In one of the most important pieces of legislation in British history, the British Nationality Act 1948 allowed the subjects of the British Empire to freely emigrate to the UK without restrictions. At this point in time, this was a number of around 800 million people. Intended to cover up job vacancies in unskilled work sectors, this instead facilitated a significant wave of mass migration from throughout the British Empire’s former colonies. No country saw a greater increase in immigration than India. The majority of these were economic migrants looking for greater and better-paying work opportunities.

Since the end of the Second World War, Indian immigration to the United Kingdom and by extension London, has been continuous, albeit with notable high points. Prior to the onset of the Second World War, there around 7000 British Indians. In 1951, following the implementation of the British Nationality Act, this number had increased to 31,000. The 1950’s saw considerable immigration amongst the Punjabi and Gujarati populations, with many settling in industrial northern towns in the Midlands. In London, this period saw a large number of Sikh immigrants settle in the city’s West, particularly around Harrow and Hounslow, which were in close proximity to a number of factories as well as major employment hubs such as Heathrow Airport. Many Indians became eligible to work for the recently established NHS.

Southall, jo.sau, Flickr Creative Commons

Southall, jo.sau, Flickr Creative Commons

The Indian diaspora is now, by some distance, the largest within London and the United Kingdom as a whole. Within London, the population is highly visible throughout the city, although major enclaves have formed. In West London, Harrow, Ealing, Hounslow, Brent and Southall all boast substantial Indian communities. These are predominantly Sikh although the area is also home to a sizeable Hindu population. East London is also home to a large Indian population, mainly in the borough of Newham. East London Indians are predominantly Muslim and have close ties to the Pakistani and Bangladeshi populations in the area.

London’s Indian population is a major facet of the city’s cultural identity and is as diverse and vast as the country itself, acting as something of a microcosm of one of the world’s most culturally and historically rich countries.

Top Five Restaurants

To condense Indian food into a brief descriptor would be a pointless and unfair task. The country has a rich culinary culture encompassing a wealth of different styles, including Keralan, Punjabi, Tamil and Bengali. London is inarguably one of the finest cities in the world outside of India to sample this diverse range of food and is world-renowned for its high-quality Indian food. Furthermore, the centuries of cultural exchange between the two countries has seen Anglo-Indian cuisine develop into its own unique entity. Iconic dishes such as the Chicken Tikka Masala as well as condiments such as chutneys, have its origin traced to the UK. There are a wealth of different areas to sample the best Indian food in the city, including Brick Lane, Drummond Street and Southall, although a good curry house can be found in most neighbourhoods of the city, such is the quality of Indian food in London.

  1. Brilliant

Address: 72-75 Western Road, Southall UB2 5DZ

Opening Hours: 6pm-11pm (Tuesday-Friday), 6pm-11.30pm (Saturday-Sunday)

A Southall institution with a large seating capacity. This is one of the finest and most authentic Indian restaurants in London, known for its homemade chutneys.

  1. Dishoom
St Martin's Courtyard - Promoting Dishoom, EG Focus, Flickr Creative Commons

St Martin’s Courtyard – Promoting Dishoom, EG Focus, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: 12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9FB

Opening Hours: 8am-11pm (Monday-Thursday), 8am-12pm (Friday), 9am-12am (Saturday), 9am-11pm (Sunday)

A hugely-popular chain and an example of the ongoing cultural exchange between Britain and India. Serving street food against a vintage backdrop, the ‘bacon naan sandwich’ is particularly popular.


  1. Red Fort

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Currently relocating to a new venue, this is one of the finest Indian restaurants in London, known for its sleek interior and top-notch North Indian cuisine

4. Tamarind

Address: 20 Queen Street, Mayfair, London W1J 5PR

Opening Hours: 12pm-2.45pm, 5.30pm-11pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-2.45pm, 6pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

Notably the first Indian restaurant in the world to gain a Michelin star, this is a fine dining establishment a far cry from the curry houses of Brick Lane. It is also one of the finest restaurants in London.

  1. Veeraswamy

Address: Victory House, 99-101 Regent Street, Mayfair, London W1B 4RS

Opening Hours: 12pm-2.15pm, 5.30pm-11pm (Monday-Friday), 12.30pm-2.30pm, 5.30pm-11pm (Saturday), 12.30pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10pm (Sunday)

London’s oldest Indian restaurant still open. This is an essential piece of Indian history in the capital that offers some of the city’s finest Indian food amid a colourful and opulent backdrop.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Diwali

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

India is known for its wealth of festivities, celebrated across a variety of different religions and cultures. Diwali is arguably the most significant of all. The Festival of Lights, it is celebrated by the country’s Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh populations, which gives one a sense of its sheer scale. It is known for its huge cultural and spiritual significance and colourful celebrations. Trafalgar Square plays host to a major gathering during the festivities although a number of other celebrations exist elsewhere.

  1. Holi

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

The Hindu festival of colours, Holi is known for its message of positivity and high-energy celebrations. Holy is often marked by the ritual of people throwing coloured powders at one another in joy. Its celebration has grown increasingly prominent in London, with a number of different events being held throughout the city.

  1. Little Punjab
    Southall Station, PictureCapital, Flickr Creative Commons

    Southall Station, PictureCapital, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

London has a number of large Indian population enclaves. Perhaps none are as notable as that in Southall, which has earned the nickname of ‘Little Punjab’. The neighbourhood has an extensive Indian cultural history stretching back to the early 20th Century, with the majority of its current population being of Indian or Pakistani origin. Although the Punjabi community has been diluted somewhat in recent years, it is still indelibly woven into the area’s cultural fabric, as evidenced by the wealth of Indian businesses and restaurants.

  1. Boleyn Cinema

Address: 7-11 Barking Road, London E6 1PW

Opening Hours: N/A

Filling the vacuum left by the demolished Dominion Cinema, Newham’s Boleyn Cinema is the city’s premier destination to see Bollywood films. The three-screen cinema shows an extensive program of old and new Bollywood releases.

  1. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir London

Address: 105-119 Brentfield Road, London NW10 8LD

Opening Hours: N/a

The most significant Hindu temple in the country for a number of reasons. This Neasden landmark is considered to be the first authentic Hindu temple in the UK, as well as the biggest in the world outside of India. Opened in 1995, it is known for its immense size, authentic design and visual splendour.


Pakistani Britons encompass the second-largest ethnic minority in the country, numbering at nearly 1.2 million. The population is more widely dispersed throughout the country than the British Indian population. The largest Pakistani population in the country is in London, which numbers at around 224,000 or around 20% of the total population. However, Yorkshire, the West Midlands and North West England are also significant hubs with comparable population sizes. London’s Pakistani population is scattered throughout the city, with the main concentration being in East London districts such as Redbridge (31,000), Newham (30,000) and Waltham Forest (26,000) with major hubs being present in West London districts such as Ealing (15,000), Brent (14,000) and Hounslow (14,000).


Pakistani immigration to London, as with the case of other South Asian countries, began in earnest during the heyday of the East India Company. Many Pakistani seamen were recruited by the company as lascars and sailors. This caused a large number of Pakistanis to be displaced and stranded in the United Kingdom, with little means of returning home. Many remained in the country and intermarried, having families.

Some early Pakistani settlers overcame prejudice and achieved considerable success. A notable example of this is the modern-day country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who beams a successful barrister before becoming the leader of the successful Pakistani independence movement. He is considered to be the country’s definitive political icon whose legacy remains palpable in the country today.

Muhammed Ali Jinnah ,Sir Majid Ali, Wikimedia Commons

Muhammed Ali Jinnah ,Sir Majid Ali, Wikimedia Commons

The Pakistani population of the United Kingdom gradually increased throughout the 18th and early 19th Centuries, albeit at a steady rate. The early 20th Century saw many relocate to the industrial Midlands, where a number of new jobs opened up following the onset of the Second World War.

The post-war years saw a considerable immigration boom for Pakistan following the implementation of the British Nationality Act of 1948. This facilitated the mass movement of Commonwealth immigrants, a significant portion of which were Pakistanis. Pakistani independence was an additional factor in the drastic increase of Pakistani immigration to the United Kingdom. Pre-existing communities in London and the Midlands expanded significantly. With the post-war economy riddled with issues such as labour shortages, there was no shortage of opportunities.

The Midlands were a popular immigration destination due to the pre-existing Pakistani communities as well as the plethora of industrial employment opportunities available. London offered similar qualities. Many of the Punjabi Pakistani immigrants settled in enclaves such as Southall.

London’s Pakistani community is known for its diversity. In addition to Punjabi Pakistanis, immigrant communities have also formed from regions such as Kashmir and Pashtun. Unlike in other regions, the city has a high-number of educated, professional immigrants who arrived in the 1960’s. As a result, London’s Pakistani population encompasses a wide range of ethnicities, cultures and classes.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is British Pakistani, Centre for London, Flickr Creative Commons

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is British Pakistani, Centre for London, Flickr Creative Commons

Major enclaves exist in Southall, Ilford and Walthamstow. All of which boast overwhelmingly large Pakistani populations. However, there is not a traditional ‘Little Pakistan’ neighbourhood. The Pakistani cultural impact on the city is highly visible. Several major figures in the city’s history are of Pakistani descent. In modern times, London’s current mayor Sadiq Khan is of Pakistani descent, an insight into the prevalence of the community.

Top Five Restaurants

Pakistani cuisine is notably diverse and difficult to define, varying throughout the country. Pakistani restaurants in London reflect the regions of the owners’ origin. Particularly popular is Punjabi cuisine, which is known for its spicy and intense seasonings. Other varieties include Kashmiri, which is known for its meat-dominant dishes.

  1. Tayyabs

Address: 83089 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, London E1 1JU

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm

A Whitechapel institution, Tayyabs is immensely popular amongst locals and visitors. It is best known for its reasonable prices and high-quality, spicy Punjabi dishes.

  1. Lahore Kebab House

Address: 2-10 Umberston Street, Whitechapel, London E1 1PY

Opening Hours: 12pm-1am

Another Whitechapel staple. This is a large, no-frills restaurant offering some of the best kebabs and curries in the city.

  1. Jalebi Junction

Address: 93 The Broadway, Southall UB1 1LN

Opening Hours: 10am-10pm (Monday-Friday), 10am-11pm (Saturday-Sunday)

In the heart of Southall, Jalebi Junction is best known for its delicious deserts which come at an all-too-reasonable price.

  1. Original Lahore Restaurant

Address: 2-4 Gateforth Street, Marylebone, London NW8 8EH

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-11pm (Sunday)

One of London’s oldest Pakistani restaurants, this BYOB hotspot is known for its top-quality grilled meats while also offering an extensive vegetarian menu.

  1. Raavi Kebab

Address: 175 Drummond Street, Regent’s Park, London NW1 2HL

Opening Hours: 12.30pm-10.15pm

A low-key Drummond Street institution this is one of the best places for classic, no-frills Punjabi food.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. The Pakistan Society

Address: 8 Harriet Walk, London DW1X 9JH

Opening Hours:

The oldest organisation of its kind in the country, the Pakistan Society was established in 1951 as a means of educating British and Pakistani people of the latter country’s cultural history. The organisation has over 400 members and hosts a number of cultural events, often at the Pakistan High Commission.

  1. Fazl Mosque 
    The Fazl Mosque, Southfields, stevekeiretsu, Flickr Creative Commons

    The Fazl Mosque, Southfields, stevekeiretsu, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: 16 Gressenhall Road, Southfields, London SW18 5QL

Opening Hours: N/A

London’s oldest purpose-built mosque, it is often nicknamed ‘The London Mosque’. This is a culturally significant site for a number of different reasons. In addition to being the city’s oldest mosque, it is also the international headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a denomination of Punjabi origin. Additionally, it functions as the residence of its caliph.

  1. Baitul Futuh Mosque

Address: 181 London Road, Morden SM4 5PT

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the largest mosques on the continent, this is another hub of the Ahmadi Muslim community. The mosque is known for its distinct and striking design as well as its community activism.

  1. Lahore Literary Festival

Address: 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

Opening Hours: N/A

A recent cultural event, the Lahore Literary Festival has been held at London’s British Library for the last three years and features a series of talks and debates from a large number of Pakistani writers and intellectuals. There are few better opportunities to get a sense of the country’s rich cultural history than this.

  1. The Mehfil

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A
An organisation focusing on contemporary Pakistani culture, the Mehfil organises a number of different events whilst also offering community activities, such as teaching Urdu lessons.


London’s Bangladeshi community is one of the largest diasporas in the city, numbering at around 222,000, over half of the country’s total. Heavily concentrated in London’s inner city, the Bangladeshi community’s hub is in East London, particularly in the troughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham.


Early Bangladeshi immigration to the United Kingdom follows a similar pattern to that of Indian and Pakistani immigration. In the 19th Century, many Bangladeshi subjects were recruited as lascars by the East India Company. Displaced and without the means of returning home, many Bangladeshis settled in the UK, predominantly in London due to the superior economic opportunities.

The first significant wave of Bangladeshi immigration to the UK began before the state itself even existed. Prior to the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, the state was known as East Pakistan. In the 1950’s, a significant wave of Bangladeshis from the country’s Sylhet region settled in the UK. The partition of British India had caused significant unrest within the region and prompted population displacement. Many Bengali settlers were drawn to the United Kingdom due to better employment opportunities, higher standards of living and an absence of conflict. The borough of Tower Hamlets, specifically the Brick Lane neighbourhood, quickly emerged as a hotspot for this burgeoning immigrant population.

The next wave of Bangladeshi immigration occurred following the country’s declaration of independence in 1971. This, in conjunction with a relaxation in immigration laws, saw a significant wave of Bangladeshis arrive in the country. Many new immigrants sought employment in factory settings. In London particularly, many Bangladeshi settlers took advantage with the upsurge in popularity of Indian cuisine. Bangladeshi cuisine, synonymous with Bengali cuisine, soon became immensely popular with a clutch of restaurants opening in major population hubs such as Brick Lane, earning considerable attention.

The formerly Jewish neighbourhood of Brick Lane soon assumed a distinctly Bengali character, with the vast majority of the property falling under Bengali ownership. Restaurants, businesses and mosques soon began to become ubiquitous and reflected the changing demographics of the area. So central to the region’s cultural identity was the Bangladeshi population that the neighbourhood became nicknamed ‘Bangaltown.’

Despite this growing prosperity of the Bangladeshi community, racial tensions soon began to emerge. Violent attacks occurred while racist organisations such as the National Front began to have public outbursts. There were several incidences of violence against Bangladeshi people during this time, culminating in the murder of Altab Ali in 1978. This caused a series of demonstrations and intensified tensions between the community and racist factions of the right-wing.

Since this flashpoint of tensions in the 1970’s, things have generally settled down although issues do persist in some areas. The Bangladeshi community has dispersed throughout the city but retains its focal core in Tower Hamlets and Brick Lane. Many Bengali restaurants and businesses still thrive in the area, although recent gentrification efforts have seen its identity diluted somewhat by the arrival of big businesses.

Regardless, the Bangladeshi community remains one of the most vibrant and impactful in London, particularly in the city’s East.

Top Five Restaurants

Bangladeshi cuisine has a significant overlap with Bengali cuisine, which accounts for the vast majority of Bangladeshi restaurants in the UK. Bengali food is characterised by its spicy and well-seasoned curries, seafood dishes and Halal preparation. London’s Brick Lane is home to some of the finest Bengali restaurants outside of the Bay of Bengal but there are high-quality spots throughout the city worth seeking out as well.

  1. Aladdin Brick Lane

Address: 132 Brick Lane, London E1 6RU

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-1am (Friday-Saturday), 12pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

A Brick Lane institution, Aladdin specialises in the staples of Bengali cuisine such as curries and baltis. It is no-frills and BYOB.

  1. Kolapata

Address: 222 Whitechapel Road, Shadwell, London E1 1BJ

Opening Hours: 1pm-11.30pm (Monday-Thursday, Saturday-Sunday), 2pm-11.30pm (Friday)

In the heart of Whitechapel, Kolapata specialises in lesser-known regional dishes from Bangladesh whilst also serving classic staples such as curries and baltis.

  1. Taj Stores

Address: 112 Brick Lane, London E1 6RL

Opening Hours: 9am-9pm

An enduring staple of ‘Bangaltown’, Taj Stores has been open since 1936 and sells a wide range of Eastern foods and ingredients.

  1. Shaad

Address: 13 Brick Lane, London E1 6PU

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm

One of the finest Bangladeshi restaurants on Brick Lane best known for its top-quality curries and vegetarian options.

  1. The Bengal Indian Restaurant

Address: 62A Porchester Road, London W2 6ET

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday, Wednesday-Sunday), 12pm-2pm, 5pm-11pm (Tuesday)

A Bangladeshi outlier in West London, this is a top-tier curry restaurant specialising in the traditional classics of Bengali cuisine.

Top Five Things To Do
  1. Brick Lane

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Even if it is a shadow of its former self, Brick Lane is an essential destination in London for those looking to get a sense of Bangladeshis’ cultural history within the capital. There are still a vast clutch of Bengali restaurants and businesses that are well-worth checking out.

  1. East London Mosque

Address: 82-92 Whitechapel Road, London E1 1JQ

Opening Hours: N/A

One of Europe’s largest mosques, the East London Mosque is a significant hub of the city’s Muslim population. Given its close proximity to major Bangladeshi population hubs in East London, the mosque is a hugely important cultural hotspot for the Bangladeshi population and a focal aspect of the community.

  1. Boishakhi Mela

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A major Bangladeshi celebration, Boishakhi Mela marks the commemoration of the Bangladeshi New Year. It is the country’s second-largest street festival after the Notting Hill Carnival, drawing crowds of over 80,000. A relatively recent phenomenon, it is the definitive cultural event for the Bengali community and a true sight to behold as Bangaltown falls into an ecstatic, celebratory thrall.

  1. Language Movement Day

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Another major celebration amongst the Bengali community, albeit for more sombre reasons, Language Movement Day is a commemoration of those who died and sacrificed themselves to protect the Bengali language.

  1. Museum of London Docklands

Address: No. 1 Warehouse, Hertsmere Road, Canary Wharf, London E14 4AL

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm

While this museum is not wholly dedicated to Bengali culture and history, these topics do form a significant role here. Furthermore, the museum hosts an annual Bengali cultural festival, coinciding with Boishakhi Mela.


London is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in the Western world. The city has a Chinese population of over 120,000, encompassing 1.5% of London’s total population. London is home to over a third of the Chinese British population. Given the large size and diversity of the Chinese community in London, it is spread throughout the city across a number of major hubs. Aside from the current Chinatown in Soho, Camden, Hackney, Islington, Barnet and Tower Hamlets are also major population centres.


Chinese immigration to London has occurred as far back as the late 18th Century. Ties between the United Kingdom and China were established due to the advent of trade, facilitated by the trading routes of the Silk Road. The first Chinese British citizen was a sailor named John Anthony, who achieved naturalisation in 1805. Despite the presence of Chinese sailors in the United Kingdom, immigration did not substantially increase until the end of the 19th Century.

By the end of the 19th Century, Chinese communities had begun to form around London’s East End in the Limehouse and Poplar neighbourhoods, within close proximity to the docklands. Tensions emerged as racially-motivated charges of gambling and opium dens were levelled against the gestating Chinese communities. London’s first ‘Chinatown’ remained intact for over half a century, albeit with a transient population. Many of the settlers were living in London temporarily and sought to return home.

Limehouse and Polar, throughout the first half of the 20th Century, were the focal points of the Chinese community in London. Many new businesses and restaurants opened, attracting many other transient foreign populations. They were met with hostile racist responses and sometimes violence. The city’s first recorded Chinese restaurant opened in 1907. The first ‘Chinatown’ peaked just prior to the Second World War as the Chinese population hit 5000. It retained its predominantly transient character, although there were far more permanent settlers than there were at the beginning of the century.

Following the Second World War, Chinatown and much of the surrounding East End were left completely devastated by the Blitz, prompting the bulk of the Chinese community to relocate to a more central location in Soho. This coincided with a considerable increase in Chinese emigration to the United Kingdom. By 1951, the population had more than doubled to over 12,500. The growing popularity of Chinese cuisine had seen more restaurants open as many former sailors instead opted to settle and open businesses.

The 1950’s saw a considerable population boom and by the end of the decade, the population had increased to nearly 40,000. Many of the new settlers hailed from the British colony of Hong Kong and the population grew increasingly diverse. The transition of the central Chinese hub from Limehouse to Soho was completed in the early 1960’s as many new organisations and festivities were established in the area. Soho became the heart of the Chinese New Year celebrations, while a clutch or restaurants and businesses popped up. By the 1970’s, a new ‘Chinatown’ had emerged.

The 1980’s saw another significant wave of Chinese emigration to London, prompted by two major factors. Firstly, the Chinese government relaxed long-standing emigration retrictions, which saw the diaspora increase significantly throughout the world, including London. More significantly to the case of the United Kingdom, Hong Kong was to be handed over to China, which prompted emigration to the United Kingdom. By this point, the population had assimilated far more deeply into British society. The 1990’s saw a major demographic shift in the Chinese immigration population. Whereas historically Chinese immigrants in the United Kingdom had been from poorer backgrounds, the major economic upsurge in China had seen wealthier immigrants begin relocating to London and sending their children to prestigious schools and universities in the United Kingdom. At the beginning of the 21st Century, it was estimated that there were over 80,000 Chinese students enrolled in British universities.

The Chinese community of London remains one of the most ubiquitous immigration populations in the city. While Soho’s Chinatown is arguably its cultural centre, the population is dispersed throughout the city. Ultimately, it would be reductive to characterise Chinatown as the heart of the Chinese community due to its sheer vastness.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. The Gold Mine

Address: 102 Queensway, London W2 3RR

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

Queensway is well-known for its wealth of Chinese restaurants. This is one of the best, a no-frills, BYOB Cantonese stalwart specialising in classic staples such as Peking duck.

  1. Silk Road

Address: 49 Camberwell Church Street, Camberwell, London SE5 8TR

Opening Hours: N/A

A Camberwell institution specialising in the lesser-known, Middle-Eastern Xinjiang cuisine. Fiery dishes at ridiculously reasonable prices.

  1. Baozi Inn

Address: 25 Newport Court, London WC2H 7JS

Opening Hours: 12pm-10.30pm

Chinatown’s restaurants are a mixed bag, but this is a clear standout. Known for its cheap prices and specialisation in Northern Chinese dishes, this is one of the city’s best.

  1. Royal China

Address: 13 Queensway, London W2 4QJ

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm, (Monday-Saturday), 11am-10pm (Sunday)

For those seeking out a more high-end dining experience, Royal China is the place to go. A Dim Sum specialist amid an opulent setting.

  1. Xi’an Impression

Address: 117 Benwell Road, London N7 7BW

Opening Hours: 11.30am-10pm

A North London neighbourhood staple specialising in Northern Chinese dishes at reasonable prices.

Five Things to Do
  1. Chinese New Year

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Given the massive size of London’s Chinese community, the city is one of the best places in the Western world to glimpse Chinese New Year celebrations. Central London is home to a major Chinese New Year parade, equipped with floats and performances. However, there are several other major performances and festivities around the city also worth checking out.

  1. Dragon Boat Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the oldest Chinese festivals in existence, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat festival is celebrated with considerable vigour along the river Thames. In addition to the exciting races, the festival also hosts food stalls, musical and costume performances and various ceremonies. One of the most exciting Chinese cultural festivals to see in London.

  1. Ming-Ai Institute

Address: 1 Cline Road, London N11 2LX

Opening Hours: 9am-5pm (Monday-Friday)

One of the most significant Chinese cultural institutions in London, the Mang-Ai Institiute was established in 1993 with the intention of preserving links between the two countries and cultures. The institute offers a variety of courses, including cookery, calligraphy and language. For those who seek to immerse themselves in Chinese culture and history, this is the pre-eminent place in the country to do so. The institute also hosts a number of talks and events about Chinese culture and history.

  1. Shaolin Temple UK

Address: 207A Junction Road, N19 5QA

Opening Hours: 4pm-9.30pm (Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Friday), 4pm-8.30pm (Wednesday), 10am-5pm (Saturday)

One of the most popular Chinese exports in the UK has been martial arts and the surrounding culture. This is the best place in the city if not the country to practice Chinese martial arts such as Kung Fu and Gong Fu, amongst other forms. The temple also offers Buddhist meditation classes.

  1. Karaoke in Chinatown

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Chinatown is often a hit-or-miss area for food, but it is home to a number of great karaoke bars. Royal Dragon and Plum Valley are two of the major standouts, both located on Gerrard Street. After a lovely Chinese meal, a night of karaoke with friends is one of the more memorable nights out one can have in London.


Britain’s Afro-Caribbean population refers to immigrants from the former colonial territories of Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, the Bahamas and Barbados, amongst numerous other smaller islands. Jamaicans comprise the most significant Afro-Caribbean population in London, with 250,000 people in the city being of Jamaican origin. Major Afro-Caribbean enclaves exist in Notting Hill, Brixton and Lewisham, but the population is widely dispersed throughout the city.


Jamaica has a long relationship with the United Kingdom, stretching back nearly 400 years. Annexed from the Spanish in 1655, Jamaica remained a British colony for over 300 years until its independence in 1962. Despite this long period under British rule, Jamaican immigration to the United Kingdom only began in earnest at the beginning of the 20th Century. While there was evidence of a transient Jamaican population prior to this, the first Jamaicans to permanently settle in the country did so in the aftermath of the First World War, many of whom being war veterans.

Many Jamaicans and other Afro-Caribbean peoples served in the British West Indies Regiment, fighting in campaigns in the Middle East and East Africa. The majority of this wing of the military were Jamaican and many subsequently settled in the United Kingdom, particularly in London. Following the First World War, communities and enclaves began to form but growth was generally low. It was not until the 1940’s when Jamaican immigration reached its high point.

This was a major turning point in the history of the Afro-Caribbean community in the United Kingdom. The Second World War had left a major labour vacuum, which opened up a number of employment opportunities for immigrants, particularly those from the colonies. Jamaicans and other Afro-Caribbean immigrants were particularly drawn to the United Kingdom during this period. This group became known as the ‘Windrush Generation’, named for the HMS Windrush, the vessel which transported a large number of Jamaican immigrants in 1948.

The 1950’s and 1960’s saw an explosion in the Jamaican population of the UK, with 191,000 Jamaicans relocating to the United Kingdom, motivated primarily by economic opportunities. The pre-existing communities within major cities such as London expanded significantly and became focal points of the city’s cultural identity. Jamaican immigration continued throughout the rest of the century, but at a slower rate than the peak of the mid-20th Century.

The Jamaican community of London has been met with considerable difficulties during its lifetime and has found itself at the heart of racial tensions, which have reached a number of flashpoint over the course of the latter half of the 20th Century. Most famous were the Notting Hill Race Riots of 1958, which occurred at the high-point of Jamaican immigration to the United Kingdom. This saw an escalation in tensions between white working-class gangs and local black families in West London’s Notting Hill neighbourhood. Black families were attacked in a wave of violence that lasted over a week. The Metropolitan Police were criticised for their poor treatment of the incident. Further incidents included the 1985 Brixton Riot, which was sparked in response to a case of police brutality against a Jamaican-British woman.

More recently, the ‘Windrush Scandal’ has illustrated the underlying hostility directed towards the Jamaican and Afro-Caribbean communities of the country. 63 individuals were wrongly classified as illegal immigrants despite having resided in the country since as early as the mid-20th Century. The scandal caused considerable outrage throughout the country and underlined the point that racial tensions are sadly still present within the country.

Despite these setbacks, the Jamaican community of London has cemented itself as a major cultural force within the city. The Notting Hill Carnival (discussed further below) illustrates the immense impact of Jamaican culture and music upon the city and the unifying force that it represents. Furthermore, the city has been a vital hotbed for Jamaican artists and musicians, while their influence resonates clearly amongst black Britons.

The Jamaican community is one of London’s most essential cultural minorities, having played an absolutely integral role to the city’s identity over the past 50 years.

Top Five Restaurants

Jamaican cuisine is a unique melting pot of different cultures, exhibiting a combination of indigenous, British, African, Indian and Spanish influences. Seafood is a particularly focal point of the country’s cooking style, as are ingredients such as plantains and ‘rice and peas’. Jerk cooking is integral to the country’s culinary identity, a unique, spice-heavy means of seasoning. Jamaican cuisine, given the major population in London, is hugely popular in the city, which is one of the best places outside of Jamaica to try it.

  1. Smoky Jerky 2 Ltd.

Address: 158 New Cross Road, London SE14 5BA

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday-Saturday), 1pm-9pm (Sunday)

An unassuming, small restaurant in Southeast London’s New Cross neighbourhood, this is one of the finest Jamaican joints in the city, known for its cheap prices and top-notch jerk cooking.

  1. Negril

Address: 132 Brixton Hill, London SW2 1RS

Opening Hours: 5pm-10.30pm (Monday-Friday), 12pm-10.30pm (Saturday-Sunday)

In the heart of the historically Jamaican Brixton neighbourhood, this is one of the finest Jamaican restaurants in the city. Specialising in classic, traditional dishes in a no-frills atmosphere.

  1. Cafe Caribbean

Address: Brushfield Street, London E1 6AA

Opening Hours: 10am-7.30pm (Monday-Friday), 11am-5pm (Saturday), 11am-4pm (Sunday)

One of the best Jamaican take-out joints in the city, Cafe Caribbean also offers a catering service.

  1. Fish, Wings & Tings

Address: Brixton Village and Market Row Markets, London SW9 8JL

Opening Hours: 4pm-10pm (Tuesday), 10am-11pm (Wednesday-Saturday), 10am-7pm (Sunday)

Another Brixton staple, this is a small yet top-notch Jamaican restaurant with a high reputation known for its classic dishes.

  1. Rudie’s

Address: 50 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 7XB

Opening Hours: 6pm-10pm (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-11pm (Friday-Saturday), 12pm-9pm (Sunday)

One of the more recent additions to London’s catalogue of Jamaican restaurants, Rudie’s is known for its quality ‘Jerk’ cooking and cocktail list.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Notting Hill Carnival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Without a doubt the definitive cultural event of London’s Afro-Caribbean community, the Notting Hill Carnival is by some distance London’s largest street festival. Drawing crowds of over one million spectators per year, the carnival is a major cornerstone of Black British culture and one of the most festive times of the year in the city.

  1. Caribbean Food Week Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A more recent cultural festival that turns a spotlight on the Caribbean community’s culinary identity, this is a small yet insightful gathering of the nation’s finest Caribbean-influenced chefs that also features live music.

  1. African & Caribbean War Memorial

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A recently erected monument in tribute to African and Caribbean servicemen during the First and Second World Wars, whose actions were shockingly never commemorated. In the heart of Brixton Village, this memorial pays tribute to the importance of the country’s African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants to its history.

  1. Brixton Market

Address: 16B Electric Avenue, Brixton, London SW9 8JX

Opening Hours: 8am-11.30pm

While it is a shadow of its former glory amid ongoing gentrification efforts, Brixton Market is nonetheless a major hub of the city’s Jamaican population and still has a number of stalls specialising in Afro-Caribbean cooking and goods.

  1. Troy Bar

Address: 10 Hoxton Street, London N1 6NG

Opening Hours: 12pm-5pm (Monday), 12pm-5pm, 8.30pm-12.30am (Tuesday), 12pm-5pm, 8pm-1am (Wednesday-Thursday), 12pm-5pm, 8pm-3am (Friday), 8pm-3am (Saturday)

London is full of bars and music venues with a clear Afro-Caribbean influence. Perhaps none are more loved than Hoxton’s Troy Bar, a vibrant venue known for it’s open mic nights, happy hour and top-notch jerk cooking. A neighbourhood institution for many years, it remains one of the most important Afro-Caribbean cultural centres in the city.

Little Lagos

The United Kingdom has a large West African population, which comes from a number of different countries, including Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. The largest of these populations, by some distance, is Nigeria. There are over 200,000 Nigerian Britons in the UK, over half of which are based in London. The main hub in the city is the Southeast neighbourhood of Peckham, which boasts a wealth of Nigerian restaurants, businesses and places of worship.


Nigerian immigration to London can be traced back to the advent of the Transatlantic Slave trade. Nigeria was one of the major hotbeds of slavery during the 18th and early 19th Centuries, which caused significant population displacement. Prior to Britain’s banning of the slave trade in 1807, a number of Nigerians had ended up in the country as slaves, causing communities to slowly form.

Despite this, the slave trade continued unabated for several decades, causing the British Empire to intervene under suspicious motivations. The city of Lagos was annexed in 1861 and the colony of Nigeria was established in 1914, staying under British control until 1960. During this time, there was considerable population movement from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, and the pre-existing communities formed during the height of the slave trade expanded significantly.

It was during the latter half of the 20th Century when the Nigerian population in London and the UK significantly exploded. The 1960’s saw the country plagued by considerable political discord. Its declaration of independence in 1960 had led to a difficult transitionary period as many different parties vied for power, leading to corruption and inequality, ultimately culminating in a brutal civil war. This caused significant population displacement in addition to the millions of casualties caused by the conflict and its impact.

Many refugees settled in London due to the pre-existing communities and the historical links between the two countries. Immigration plateaued throughout the 1970’s as the country reaped the economic benefits of a major oil boom following its joining of OPEC. This economic prosperity was short-lived and the 1980’s saw an explosion in Nigerian emigration to the UK as military juntas solidified their grip on power and introduced a number of repressive measures. A wealth of new immigrants arrived in the UK seeking asylum and the Nigerian community in London and the rest of the country continued to grow.

The Nigerian community of London is dispersed throughout the city but its core hub remains in South London, particularly Peckham, which is sometimes nicknamed ‘Little Lagos’. One of the most ethnically can culturally diverse parts of the city, over 50% of its population is black and the majority being of Nigerian extraction.

‘Little Lagos’ is home to a high concentration of Nigerian restaurants and businesses, the community’s cultural impact on the neighbourhood being immediately clear to visitors. Despite recent gentrification efforts, the neighbourhood retains its distinctly Nigerian character.

Top Five Restaurants

Nigerian cuisine is incredibly rich and multi-faceted given the immense cultural diversity within the country itself. It is defined by its heavy use of spices, herbs and palm oil. It has strong flavours and is known for its striking colours. Yams and potatoes are major ingredients and the cuisine is also very meat-heavy. One of the national dishes is suya, a grilled meat heavily spiced. Given the large Nigerian community, Peckham is one of the best places outside of Nigeria to sample authentic cooking,

  1. Obalende Suya Express

Address: 43 Peckham High Street, Peckham, London SE15 5EB

Opening Hours: 12pm-1am

A stalwart of ‘Little Lagos’ since its establishment in 1991, Obalende Suya Express. Named for the Lagos neighbourhood of the same name, the restaurant, as its name implies, specialises in ‘suya’. Massively popular with locals and visitors alike, it opened a second location in the Dalston neighbourhood in East London recently.

  1. Cafe Spice

Address: 88 Rye Lane, Peckham, London SE15 4RZ

Opening Hours: 9am-9pm (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 9am-10pm (Friday-Saturday)

Another local institution, this is a no-frills take-away spot that specialises in a range of different Nigerian dishes including Suya and seafood at very reasonable prices.

  1. 805 Bar and Restaurant

Address: 805 Old Kent Road, London, SE15 1NX

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am (Monday-Saturday), 1pm-12am (Sunday)

A more recent addition to Peckham’s canon of top-notch Nigerian restaurants, 805 Bar and Restaurant has a less-specialised oeuvre, offering a wealth of different West African dishes amid a contemporary backdrop.

  1. Enish

Address: 228 Lewisham High Street, London SE13 6JU

Opening Hours: 1pm-12am

In the nearby suburb of Lewisham, Enish has emerged as one of the finest Nigerian restaurants in the city. Known for its contemporary decor and top-notch cooking, a second location opened recently in the Finchley Road neighbourhood.

  1. Ikoyi

Address: 1 St. James’s Market, St. James’s, London SW1Y 4AH

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 5.30pm-12am (Monday-Saturday)

The most recently opened restaurant on the list and certainly the most unique (and expensive). Ikoyi is a fine-dining establishment known for its Nigerian and West African-influenced dishes.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Peckham Library

Address: 122 Peckham Hill Street, Peckham, London SE15 5JR

Opening Hours: 9am-8pm (Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Friday), 10am-8pm (Wednesday), 10am-5pm (Saturday), 12pm-4pm (Sunday)

One of London’s most striking and celebrated public libraries, the Peckham Library won the Stirling Prize for architecture upon its opening in 2000. An innovative design and a vital hub for the community, the Peckham Library is one of the area’s major attractions.

  1. CLF Art Cafe

Address: 133 Rye Lane, London SE15 4ST

Opening Hours: 5pm-11pm (Tueday-Wednesday), 5pm-2.30am (Thursday), 5pm-5am (Friday), 12pm-5am (Saturday), 12pm-11pm (Sunday)

One of South London’s most important cultural institutions, the CLF Art Cafe is a warehouse space that functions as a theatre, nightclub and art gallery. The CLF Art Cafe is an important fixture in Peckham, promoting local artists while also offering a platform for more well-known cultural figures.

  1. African & Caribbean War Memorial

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A recently erected monument in tribute to African and Caribbean servicemen during the First and Second World Wars, whose actions were shockingly never commemorated. In the heart of Brixton Village, this memorial pays tribute to the importance of the country’s African and Afro-Caribbean immigrants to its history.

  1. Ife’s Closet

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the best retailers in the city for West African clothing, this is a business owned and operated by two British-Nigerian sisters. The store offers a hugely colourful range of clothing, each individual piece a carefully considered tribute to Nigerian culture and fashion.

  1. Yinka Ilori

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A British-Nigerian furniture designer whose works reflect his heritage. His work is a great example of the cultural exchange between the two countries. His works are available to buy through appointments at his London studio.


One of London’s largest and longest-lasting immigrant communities, the Turkish population of the city numbers at nearly 350,000. With ties to the city stretching back nearly 400 years, the Turkish population is one of the most notable and focal to London’s culture. The Turkish population of the UK is overwhelmingly based in London, with over 90% calling the city home. North London is the main population hub, with Wood Green, Haringey, Stoke Newington, Islington and Palmer’s Green being the major centres although South London is also home to a number of enclaves.


Turkish immigration to London can be traced back to as early as the 17th Century. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, an alliance was forged with the Ottoman Empire in order to overcome the increasingly dominant Spanish Empire. Many of the first Turks to settle in London were in fact freed slaves from defeated Spanish vessels, as a gesture of goodwill to the Ottomans by the British.

Ties between the two countries continued to develop over the course of the 17th Century and more Turkish immigrants began to settle in London, working in specialised areas such as tailoring. The advent of Turkish coffee and its subsequent popularity in the United Kingdom also caused a spike in Turkish emigration to London. The population steadily increased over the next few centuries.

The late 19th Century saw another major Turkish population boom in the city, this time specifically from Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus was annexed by the United Kingdom in 1878, which caused significant mass movement. This spiked again in the mid-20th Century following a period of civil and political unrest on the island nation. With tensions flaring between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, many of the latter fled for the United Kingdom due to its diplomatic links.

Conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots continued well into the 1970’s and spiraled dangerously out of control as nationalist Greek forces attempted to seize control. As a result, even more Turkish Cypriots fled the country as political refugees. As a result, a significant portion of London’s Turkish community is comprised of Turkish Cypriots.

Following this period of political instability, mainland Turkish emigration to the United Kingdom began in the late 20th Century. This included a diverse range of peoples, both working class and upper class, both rural and urban. Given the huge cultural diversity of the country, the London diasporas have assimilated with one another very well, with no tensions emerging between them.

In modern times, the Turkish diaspora in London is scattered throughout the city with a major hub being in North London, particularly in the borough of Haringey. The high street Haringey Green Lanes is known for its enormous wealth of Turkish restaurants and businesses, offering some of the finest Turkish cuisine in the country. Dalston is another major Turkish hub, with its own collection of top-notch restaurants. The Turkish community has assimilated well into the city’s cultural fabric and remains one of the most vibrant and rich immigrant communities in London.

Top Five Restaurants

Turkish cuisine is a successor to Ottoman cuisine and given the immense size of the former empire, is highly eclectic. It combines elements of Middle Eastern, Balkan, Eastern European and Central Asian styles whilst being its own distinct entity. Notable dishes include various forms of Kofte, a meatball-esque dish, Lahmacun, or as it’s colloquially known, a ‘Turkish Pizza’ and Pilaf, a seasoned rice. London is one of the finest places in the world outside of Turkey to sample the country’s cuisine in all its forms.

  1. Gokyuzu

Address: 26-27 Grand Parade, Harringay, London N4 1AG

Opening Hours: 8am-1am

Probably the most well-known fixture in Harringay’s Turkish hub, Gokyuzu is known for its massive portions, family-friendly atmosphere and meat-heavy dishes.

  1. Cyprus House

Address: 630 Green Lanes, Harringay, London N8 0SD

Opening Hours: 9am-6pm (Monday-Thursday), 9am-11.45pm (Friday-Saturday)

One of the lesser-known restaurants in Green Lanes, Cyprus House is the best Cypriot specialty spot in the city, known for its broad menu and reasonable prices.

  1. Antepilier

Address: 45-46 Grand Parade, Green Lanes, Harringay, London N4 1AG

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm

A major Turkish staple with another of specialities including meat grills, mezzo and Turkish pizza against a no-frills backdrop.

  1. Mangal 2 Restaurant

Address: 4 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 8BH

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday, Wednesday, Sunday), 12pm-12am (Thursday), 12pm-1am (Friday-Saturday)

The best of many Turkish restaurants in Dalston, this restaurant also lays claim to serving London’s best kebab, a lofty achievement indeed.

  1. Black Axe Mangal

Address: 156 Canonbury Road, London N1 2UP

Opening Hours: 6pm-10.30pm (Monday-Friday), 11am-3pm, 6pm-10.30pm (Saturday), 11am-3pm (Sunday)

For those seeking something different, this is the place to visit. Boasting a pedigree of modern British chefs, Black Ace Mangal is an experimental restaurant drawing influence from Turkish staples such as flatbreads and kebabs.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Pasha Spa & Turkish Moroccan Hammam Bath

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: 10am-8pm (Monday-Friday), 9am-8pm (Saturday-Sunday)

London has plenty of great Turkish baths, but these Camberwell-based ones are a notch above the rest. Known for its affordability and its high quality, it is a quintessentially Turkish experience.

  1. Turkish Film Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

An annual cultural fixture celebrating Turkey’s rich cinematic heritage.

  1. Anatolian Cultural Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A striking cultural festival celebrating the rich heritage of the country’s Anatolian region. Points of interest include Turkish cuisine, an Ottoman Marching Band, theatrical performances and puppet shows.

  1. Republic Day

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

Regularly drawing audiences as large as 50,000 people, the Turkish Day festivities are a major cultural event amongst the community, offering live musical and theatrical performances and featuring special guest speakers.

  1. Suleymaniye Mosque

Address: 212-216 Kingsland Road, London E2 8AX

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the most notable mosques in the city, the Suleymaniye Mosque is known for its distinct Ottoman-inspired architecture and importance to the city’s Turkish community.


Morocco has one of the world’s largest diaspora communities, with 5.6 million living abroad. The United Kingdom is home to 70,000 people of Moroccan extraction. The Moroccan community is heavily centred in London and consists of one of the largest Arab populations in the country. Over 50% of the country’s Moroccan diaspora is based in London, where the community is dispersed throughout areas such as North Kensington, Hammersmith and Hackney.


The United Kingdom is home to one of the largest Greek populations outside of Greece. It is home to over 400,000 ethnic Greeks, over 10% of which are first generation immigrants. The Greek community, as if often the case with most immigrant populations, is overwhelmingly centred in London. It is believed that up to 75% of the country’s Greek population resides in London, although it is difficult to specifically clarify these numbers. The population has a number of hubs throughout the city, including Bayswater and Chelsea in West London as well as Palmer’s Green, Wood Green and Edmonton in North London.


Greek emigration to the UK has lasted for several centuries, with early, albeit isolated and indirect contact occurring as early as the Roman invasion of the United Kingdom. Other instances of early Greek emigration to the United Kingdom occurred in the 17th Century. A number of Greek soldiers enlisted during the English Civil War, with many taking up long-term residence. Trade between the United Kingdom and Greece opened up during this period, which was an additional factor in Greeks settling in the UK. Small communities began to prop up throughout London and the foundations for a major diaspora began to form.

A second major population boom occurred in the 19th Century, prompted by major external factors. The Greek War of Independence saw a major wave of Greeks depart the country for opportunities overseas, many of which settled in the United Kingdom. Bayswater emerged as a major population hub for the nascent Greek community, with the Orthodox Church the Cathedral of Aghia Sophia opening in 1877.

The Greek community expanded significantly during the late 19th and 20th Centuries. Britain’s annexation of Cyprus in 1878 caused a significant number of Greek Cypriots to flee for the United Kingdom. The 1930’s marked the beginning of a major wave of Greek emigration to London and communities increased in size and sophistication as many institutions were set up such as Greek-language schools and more Orthodox churches.

The Greek population of London increased significantly throughout the 20th Century. As both countries joined the European Union, Greek emigration to the United Kingdom increased significantly due to the economic opportunities the latter country presented. More recently, a major spike in immigration occurred as recently as the last decade, with over 20,000 new Greeks settling, in part due to the ongoing economic distress in Greece.

The Greek population remains one of the lesser known immigrant communities despite its size. This being said, its contribution to the city’s cultural identity is clear throughout London.

Top Five Restaurants

Greek cuisine bears a number of similarities to other forms of Mediterranean cooking styles and places emphasis on simplicity and freshness of ingredients. A successor to forms of Ottoman cuisine, major ingredients include filo pastry, yoghurt, feta cheese and honey. Notable dishes include Spanakopita, a spinach and feta filo pastry, Tzatziki, a garlic and yoghurt dip and Souvlaki, a grilled meat dish accompanied with pitta bread or fried potatoes and various sauces. London is one of the best cities outside of Greece to sample the country’s cuisine due to the large diaspora presence.

  1. Lemonia

Address: 89 Regent’s Park Road, Camden Town, London NW1 8UY

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-3.30pm (Sunday)

One of London’s finest Greek restaurants, St. Johns’s Wood’s Lemonia handles the classic staples with panache against a beautiful Mediterranean-inspired scenic backdrop.

  1. The Life Goddess

Address: 29 Store Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7BS

Opening Hours: 9.30am-11.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 10am-10pm (Sunday)

A more recent Greek restaurant and deli known for its classic dishes in a contemporary, rustic space.

  1. Santorini

Address: 10 Moscow Raod, London W2 4BT

Opening Hours: 12.30pm-12am

In the heart of Bayswater’s Greek community is this traditional Greek restaurant, which offers a combination of the standard staples and more experimental dishes.

  1. Mazi

Address: 12-14 Hillgate Street, Kensington, London W8 7SR

Opening Hours: 6.30pm-10.30pm (Monday), 12pm-3pm, 6.30pm-10.30pm (Tuesday-Sunday)

Another recent addition to London’s canon of Greek restaurants, Mazi offers an alternative experience, specialising in experimental takes on Greek classics against a luxurious yet rustic backdrop.

  1. Babinodas

Address: 598 Green Lanes, London N13 5RY

Opening Hours: 6pm-12am (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-10pm (Sunday)

One of the best Greek restaurants in Haringey, the Greek Cypriot hub of North Lonodn, Babinodas specialises in meze and grilled meats in an informal atmosphere.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. Saint Sophia’s Cathedral

Address: Moscow Road, Bayswater, London W2 4LQ

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the oldest Greek Orthodox churches in London, this is the religious and cultural hub of Bayswater’s large Greek community. In traditional Orthodox fashion, Saint Sophia is a lavish and beautiful Byzantine Revivalist building with a recently opened museum in its basement focusing on British Greek culture and artefacts.

  1. Hellenic Centre

Address: 16-18 Paddington Street, Marylebone, London W1U 5AS

Opening Hours: N/A

The city’s definitive Greek cultural institution, which offers a wide range of programming encompassing musical and theatrical performances, art exhibitions, language courses and events.

  1. Athenian Grocery

Address: 16A Moscow Road, Bayswater, London W2 4BT

Opening Hours: 9am-7pm (Monday-Saturday), 10am-1pm (Sunday)

One of Bayswater’s many Greek restaurants and businesses, the Athenian Grocery is arguably the best place in the city to get your hands on Greek produce and products.

  1. Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies

Address: Senate House, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E &HU

Opening Hours: 9.30am-6pm (Monday-Friday)

Britain has a long-time academic interest in the Classical World, particularly Ancient Greece. Classics is a major subject at British universities and popular amongst younger school students. This institution was established in 1879 and has remained a major organisation in the promotion of study into Greek culture and history, living up to its name and missions statement.

  1. Floga Bouzoukia

Address: 47 Green Lanes, London, N13 4TD

Opening Hours: N/A

This Harringay mainstay is a restaurant and bar that puts on Greek musical performances. One of the best and lesser-known bastions of Greek culture in the city.


Poles constitute one of the largest European immigrant communities in the United Kingdom, constituting over 1 million of the country’s population. While Polish presence in the UK can be traced back to as early as the 16th Century, major immigration did not become commonplace until well into the 20th Century, during which time they became the most significant foreign-born nationality in the country. In London, Poles are dispersed throughout the city, with significant bases in the outer boroughs such as Ealing, Hounslow and Brent.


As mentioned above, Polish emigration to the United Kingdom began in some form in as early as the 16th Century when trading relations were established between the two countries. There is plentiful evidence of Polish merchants and diplomats visiting the United Kingdom. A number of upper-class Poles often visited and sometimes settled in the United Kingdom, but significant immigration did not begin for many years.

Political instability in Poland during the 19th Century saw the beginning of larger Polish population movement to the United Kingdom. The Uprising of November 1830 against the Russian Empire resulted in a number of insurgents being forced to flee their home, seeking refuge in the UK. The two countries had established a strong relationship fostered by centuries of trade and diplomatic relations. Tensions between Poland and the Russian Empire continued to simmer, with the January 1863 Uprising caused an additional wave of population displacement, with many Poles again turning towards the UK.

The political discord in Poland continued into the 20th Century and subsequently resulted in higher rates of emigration, with London emerging as a major centre due to the countries’ good relations and the pre-existing Polish communities there. The Russian Empire’s collapse in 1918 created an atmosphere of conflict and chaos but facilitated Poland’s return to independence. This proved to be short-lived as Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1939. The Second World War and the Holocaust devastated Poland, depleting the country’s population significantly and causing major displacement.

The aftermath of the Second World War saw the Polish population of the UK skyrocket. In 1931, the Polish population was recorded at over 44,000. 20 years later in 1951, the number increased significantly to 162,000, nearly quadrupling in size. Mainly settling in pre-existing Polish communities in areas such as Earls Court. The population gradually dispersed throughout the city, particularly in more suburban neighbourhoods such as Hammersmith, Hounslow and Ealing, the latter of which becoming a particularly notable hub.

The Polish community quickly became well-assimilated into London’s cultural fabric, with several restaurants and businesses popping up throughout the city. London soon became the main destination for Polish emigres, breaking the country’s historic association with Paris. The Polish population gradually increased throughout the latter half of the 20th Century up until the fall of Communism in 1989, which functioned as another major turning point in the history of Polish emigration to the United Kingdom.

As immigration restrictions were relaxed, there was a massive surge in Polish economic immigration, with many choosing London as their destination due to the opportunities as well as due to the large Polish community. Immigration increased again at the beginning of the 21st Century as Poland became a member of the European Union, which made immigration to other countries far easier. Since 2003, Polish employment in the United Kingdom has increased from 25,000 to over 400,000, indicative of the massive upsurge in immigration.

The Polish community has often found themselves the victims of persecution and racially-motivated violence in the UK, often shockingly scapegoated by nationalists for economic problems. Despite this, in more general terms, the population is one of the most well-assimilated into the country’s cultural identity.

Top Five Restaurants

Despite being relatively little-known throughout most countries, Polish cuisine is amongst the most rich and multi-faceted in Europe. Known for its heavy emphasis on meat, particularly pork, as well as vegetables such as cabbage. It also uses different kinds of noodles and soups such as borscht. It is very much a melting pot of Central European and Eastern European influences whilst very much being its own individual style.

  1. Baltic Restaurant

Address: 74 Blackfriars Road, South Bank, London SE1 8HA

Opening Hours: 5.30pm-11.15pm (Monday), 12pm-3pm, 5.30pm-11.15pm (Tuesday-Saturday), 12pm-4.30pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

Polish cuisine features heavily into this Blackfriars institution, which offers a diverse range of top-notch dishes from throughout the Baltic region.

  1. Bar U Matulki

Address: 230 Streatham High Road, London SW16 1BB

Opening Hours: 11am-8pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-8pm (Sunday)

A neighbourhood restaurant with reasonable prices specialising in classic Polish dishes.

  1. The Polish Tavern Restaurant

Address: 62 Baring Road, London SE12 0PS

Opening Hours:  5pm-10pm (Tuesday-Thursday), 5pm-11pm (Friday), 12pm-11pm (Saturday), 12pm-9pm (Sunday)

A highly-popular and low-key Polish neighbourhood takeaway restaurant.

  1. Ognisko Restaurant

Address: 55 Exhibition Road, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2PN

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm

For those seeking a more upscale experience, this high-end Knightsbridge Polish fine dining restaurant is the place to go.

  1. Daquise Restaruant

Address: 20 Thurloe Street, Kensington, London SW7 2LT

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

A long-standing South Kensington staple, this is a unique and top-notch addition to the Polish restaurant canon.

Top Five Things to Do
  1. The Polish Institute & Sikorski Museum

Address: 20 Princes Gate, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1PT

Opening Hours: 2pm-4pm (Tuesday-Friday)

Arguably the most important Polish cultural institution in London, this venerable establishment was created in the aftermath of the Second World War and is in charge of a number of important cultural programs amongst the city’s Polish community. It is also home to a museum, which features a wealth of historical artefacts relating to Poland’s culture and history.

  1. Balham White Eagle Club

Address: 211 Balham High Road, Balham, London SW17 7BQ

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm (Monday-Friday), 12pm-9pm (Saturday), 11.30am-8pm (Sunday)

A major hub of Balham’s significant Polish community, the White Eagle Club serves top-notch Polish cuisine and hosts disco nights, often showcasing Polish music and artists. It is also available for hire.

  1. Polish War Memorial

Address: Western Avenue, Ruislip HA4 6QX

Opening Hours: N/A

Located in West London’s outer suburb of South Ruislip, the Polish War Memorial is a fitting and sombre tribute to the Polish airmen who died in service of the RAF during the Second World War.  Located amid a beautiful garden, it is a sobering experience and an important reminder of Britain and Poland’s close ties.

  1. Clement Danes

Address: Central Church of the Royal Air Force, Strand, London WC2R 1DH

Opening Hours: N/A

An Anglican church located along the Strand, St. Clement Danes has stood in its place since 1682, long before Polish emigration to the UK became common. It does have a long-standing association with the Polish community, featuring a Polish memorial within its interior.

  1. Days of Poland Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

London’s most significant Polish festival, the Days of Poland Festival takes place every May in Potters Day Park, featuring Polish musical and theatrical performances as well as a large food market. It is a family-friendly event with a wide range of entertainment.


British Italians are one of the lesser-discussed immigrant communities in the country despite numbering as high as 600,000. The two countries have an extensive shared history stretching back to the height of the Roman Empire. In more modern times, British Italians have settled throughout the city and are one of the more understated if ubiquitous immigrant communities in the country, particularly in the capital city of London.


As mentioned above, a precursor to Italian emigration to London occurred with the Roman conquest of Britain. A number of ethnic Italians settled in Britain following this as the island underwent considerable modernisation and transformation. Over the next several centuries, there was continuous contact with Italy due to the presence of the Catholic Church in Britain. Trade between the two nations was also maintained. However, the rate of Italian settlers did not increase in any significant way.

With the onset of the Renaissance, many members of the Italian intelligentsia settled in the United Kingdom as well as members of the upper class. These numbers were relatively minimal in the grand scheme of things but nonetheless notable, indicative of London’s future as a hotbed of intellectual and economic innovation. The early 19th Century saw a major turning point in Italian emigration to the United Kingdom as Italy was devastated by the Napoleonic Wars. Over 4000 Italians fled the economic distress left at home and arrived in the UK, the majority of which settling in London due to the plethora of work opportunities there.

Over the course of the 19th Century, the Italian community of Britain grew and expanded throughout the country, with hubs emerging in as far as Scotland. The heart of the community remained in London, specifically in the neighbourhood of Clerkenwell, which was nicknamed ‘Little Italy’ as a result. The community became increasingly ingratiated into the local population whilst offering a significant cultural contribution, setting up a wealth of Italian restaurants and businesses.

Anti-Italian sentiment emerged during the flashpoint of the Second World War as the actions of Benito Mussolini affected Britons. A series of riots occurred in 1940, with much violence directed at the Italian community. Thousands of Italians, who were presumed to be associated with various fascist organisations, were arrested and detained in camps. Despite these racial tensions, the end of the war saw an easing of relations as Italians again became an important fixture of Britain’s multicultural identity.

Since the end of the Second World War, there has been a steady increase in Britain’s Italian population without a significant boom. The establishment of the European Union clearly facilitated easier migration between the two countries. The rates of immigration however have generally remained stagnant, and the pre-existing communities have simply grown. Despite its extensive history, the British Italian story is a relatively under-explored one, yet their influence on the country is abundantly clear.

Top Five Restaurants

Italian cuisine is one of the most popular and ubiquitous cooking styles throughout the world. Known for its simplicity and emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients, Italian food is rightly celebrated throughout the world. London, is one of the more unassuming hubs of Italian cuisine outside of Italy, its accomplishments going relatively unheralded. Despite this, the city is one of the finest sources of Italian food in the world.

  1. Ciao Bella

Address: 86-90 Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3LZ

Opening Hours: 12pm-11.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 12pm-10.30pm (Sunday)

One of London’s best hidden gem restaurants. Ciao Bella is an authentic, no-nonsense traditional Italian restaurant known for as much for its reasonable prices and classic hospitality as well as its great food.

  1. Trullo

Address: 300-302 St. Paul’s Road, Highbury East, London N1 2LH

Opening Hours: 12.30pm-2.45pm, 6pm-10.15pm (Monday-Saturday), 12.30pm-2.45pm (Sunday)

One of London’s finest Italian restaurants, this is well-known for its fresh pasta and meat dishes. Set against a contemporary backdrop, Trullo is Italian fine-dining at its very best and offers a top bargain set menu at £12.

  1. Locanda Locatelli

Address: 8 Seymour Street, Marylebone, London W1H 7JZ

Opening Hours: N/A

For those looking for an alternative (and more expensive) experience, this is the place. An experimental, luxurious Italian restaurant.

  1. Cafe Italia Uno

Address: 91 Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 5PX

Opening Hours: 8.30am-10pm

There are an abundance of small, family-run Italian cafes throughout London and this is one of the best there is. Serving pastas, lasagnes, panini and the signature melanzane with panache and at a highly affordable rate.

  1. The River Cafe

Address: Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9HA

Opening Hours: N/A

One of London’s most acclaimed restaurants, the River Cafe offers some of the finest Italian dishes in the country amid a beautiful, scenic backdrop overlooking the River Thames./

Five Things to Do
  1. Peter’s Italian Church

Address: 136 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1R 5DL

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the most important Italian cultural sites in the country, this Catholic Church dates back to 1863 and has served as the historic heart of London’s Italian community in Clerkenwell. Purpose-built for the then-nascent Italian community of the city, it is known for its distinct and subtle design, reminiscent of a basilica.

  1. Estorick Collection of Modern Art

Address: 39A Canonbury Square, London N1 2AN

Opening Hours: N/A

A short distance from the historically Italian Clerkwenwell is this unique modern art gallery specialising especially in 20th Century Italian art. The best place in the city to glimpse this particularly field of Italian art, including futurist and figurative paintings.

  1. The Italian Bookshop

Address: 123 Gloucester Road, Kensington, London SW7 4TE

Opening Hours: 9.30am-6.30pm (Monday-Friday), 10am-6.30pm (Saturday), 12pm-5pm (Sunday)

A sub-section of ‘The European Bookshop, ‘The Italian Bookshop’, as its name suggests, is the leading place in London to get your hands on works of Italian literature. The organisation also runs a number of Italian cultural and literary events.

  1. La Fiesta della Madonna del Carmine

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

London is crammed with a wealth of Italian cultural festivals due to the large and prevalent community. This is one of the lesser known ones. A historic religious festival celebrated primarily in the Avigliano region of Italy, it has emerged as one of the Clerkenwell Italian community’s major annual celebrations, a time when the community bands together across all generations to celebrate their heritage.

  1. Italian Cultural Institute

Address: 39 Belgrave Square, Belgravis, London SW1X 8NX

Opening Hours: N/A

A government-sanctioned organisation which promotes Italian culture, history and language, organising a number of events and teaching courses.

Little Portugal

The Portuguese immigrant community of London, as is the case with many Western European countries, is relatively under-explored despite its size. London is home to 42,000 Portuguese, the majority of which are based in the South London neighbourhood of Stockwell. However, the population is widely dispersed throughout the city, with other major hubs including Ladbroke Grove.


Portugal and the United Kingdom have a long-standing relationship stretching back to the 14th Century. The two countries struck an alliance in the 1300’s to quell the rising influence of the Spanish Empire, a threat to both nations. Portuguese immigration to the United Kingdom has occurred in some form since this period, with positive relations facilitating easy trade as well as movement of people. That being said, it took many years for a Portuguese community to form. The first permanent settlers were Portuguese Jews, who fled the country due to Catholic persecution in the 16th Century. Many of these exiles settled permanently in the United Kingdom, introducing fried fish to the country, something which has become a ubiquitous aspect of British cuisine.

Despite this, a significant Portuguese community did not form in the United Kingdom until well into the 20th Century. While small pockets existed throughout London, the Portuguese did not represent an immigrant community of great significance. The mid-20th Century was a significant turning point in this narrative. A large number of Portuguese immigrants arrived in London during the 1950’s, prompted by economic distress in Portugal. This period saw a significant population movement away from Portugal, as workers sought better employment opportunities in the UK, France and Germany. This increased significantly during the 1960’s as Portugal’s economic decline continued. The Portuguese Colonial War was also a motivating factor in population movements as many young Portuguese men fled to avoid military service in the ongoing conflict.

The Portuguese population of London has steadily increased since the 1970’s and communities have formed throughout the city. Ladbroke Grove was the initial major Portuguese population hub, and traces of it remain intact today. There are a number of Portuguese restaurants, bars and businesses still present in the neighbourhood today. Despite this, rising property prices have driven much of the Portuguese community elsewhere. Today, the major hub is in the South London neighbourhood of Stockwell. Over 27,000 Portuguese call the neighbourhood home, nearly 75% of the city’s total population. There are a wealth of Portuguese bars and restaurants, which reflect the neighbourhood’s singular cultural character.

Top Five Restaurants

Portuguese cuisine is a unique culinary style, known placing high importance on seafood due to the abundant resources. Sardines are highly popular as is cod, which is utilised in a number of different ways. Meat is heavily used, particularly beef and pork. Portuguese food is known for its heavy use of olive oil, garlic and spices such as ‘piri piri’. Furthermore, it is known for its wide range of pastries and desserts. Chief among these is the iconic Pasteis de Nata, a custard tart that is highly popular in Portugal and throughout the world.

  1. Casa do Frango

Address: 1st Floor, 32 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TU

Opening Hours: 12pm-3pm, 5pm-12am (Monday-Friday), 12pm-12am (Saturday-Sunday)

Near London’s popular, bustling Borough Market, Cash do Frango is considered to be the city’s finest restaurant for the Portuguese speciality of Piri Piri chicken. A recently-opened restaurant run by a Portuguese family, it has already left a major impact.

  1. Lisboa Patisserie

Address: 57 Golborne Road, London W10 5NR

Opening Hours: 7am-7pm

Portugal is highly-regarded for its top-notch pastries and desserts. There are few places in London that serve these classic dishes as well as Golborne Road’s iconic Lisboa Patisseries.

  1. O Fumeiro

Address: 52-54 Wilcock Road, London SW8 2UX

Opening Hours: 7am-10pm (Monday-Thursday), 7am-11pm (Friday-Saturday), 9am-10pm (Sunday)

In the heart of Stockwell’s ‘Little Portugal’ is this top-notch Portuguese restaurant, which also houses a shop specialising in Portuguese goods.

  1. Pico Bar and Grill

Address: 74 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall, London SE1 7TL

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

Another Vauxhall staple, which offers classic Portuguese grilled dishes against a vibrant and modern backdrop.

  1. A Toca Restaurant

Address: 341 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2JH

Opening Hours: 9am-12am

Authentic Portuguese restaurant open until the early hours of the morning known for its tapas and mains.

Five Things to Do

  1. Sporting Clube de Londres

Address: 27 Elkstone Road, London W10 5NT

Opening Hours: 5pm-11pm (Wednesday-Sunday)

An institution just a short walk from Golborne Road, the Sporting Clube de Londres is a Portuguese social club, often hosting musical performances and club nights. There is no better place in town to watch Portuguese football matches. It is also known for its high-quality Portuguese cooking.

  1. Casa Madeira

Address: 46B Albert Embankment, Lambeth, London SE1 7TL

Opening Hours: 6am-9pm

A vibrant Portuguese restaurant in the heart of ‘Little Portugal’ that functions as a bar and club in the later hours. A major cultural epicentre of London’s Portuguese community.

  1. UK Portuguese Film Festival

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

An annual cultural fixture, which recently celebrated its 9th edition, the UK Portuguese FilMF Festival celebrates the very best of Portugal’s underappreciated cinema.

  1. Portugal Day

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

An annual cultural festival which unites the city’s Portuguese community to celebrate the country’s food, music and history.

  1. Supermercado Portugal

Address: 396 Harrow Road, London W9 2HU

Opening Hours: 9am-6pm (Monday-Saturday)

The best place in the city to get your hands on Portuguese food and goods.


Main Image: Pedro Szekely, London, Flickr Creative Commons

Global Cities: Berlin

Global Cities: Berlin
Daniel Grothe, #Berlin, Flickr Creative Commons

Daniel Grothe, #Berlin, Flickr Creative Commons

While historically overlooked in favour of more glamorous and traditionally beautiful European cities, Berlin has undergone a renaissance of sorts in recent years, cementing itself as the continent’s premier culture capital and trendsetting hotspot. The city has attracted a wealth of tourists and permanent settlers, attracted by its liberal attitudes, multiculturalism and accepting atmosphere. Berlin is one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities, embracing other cultures with an openness rarely seen throughout the world.


Turks comprise the largest ethnic minority in Berlin, with a population estimated as low as 200,000 and as high as 500,000. The city is one of the largest Turkish population enclaves outside of Turkey. The community is an essential aspect of the city’s multicultural identity and have established a wealth of successful businesses. The Turkish population is ubiquitous throughout the city but has major centres in the neighbourhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukolln.


The Turkish population of Germany has a long and rich history that can be traced back to as early as the 16th Century. The first Turkish settlers arrived as emissaries of the Ottoman Empire, who attempted to extend their territorial control into Western Europe. Following the Second Siege of Vienna in 1683, a number of Ottoman soldiers were left behind, many of whom captured as prisoners and forced to settle in the country.

Turkish Festival in Berlin (1909), Susanlenox, Flickr Creative Commons

Turkish Festival in Berlin (1909), Susanlenox, Flickr Creative Commons

Over the course of the next few centuries, a number of additional military conflicts occurred between the Ottoman Empire and various Germanic polities such as the Kingdom of Prussia. This inevitably caused significant population displacement on both sides, and caused the Turkish presence in Germany to slowly increase. While there were no major waves of immigration by modern standards, by the time of the early 20th Century, Germany was home to a sizeable Turkish population.

The mid-20th Century was the real turning point in Turkish immigration to Germany. In the 1960’s, Germany found itself divided physically by the Berlin Wall, which was constructed in 1961. Both a literal and figurative division between the Capitalist West and the Communist East, the division created a significant labour shortage in West Germany, which was now cut off from the flow of immigration from Eastern Europe. In order to compensate this shortage and stimulate the economy, West Germany struck an agreement with the Republic of Turkey, recruiting significant numbers of labourers. Initially settling in the country temporarily, many Turks stayed. A bill in 1974 allowed families to be reunified in West Germany, which removed incentive to return.

Since the mid-20th Century, the Turkish population of Germany has grown considerably, particularly centred in major urban centres such as Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. The population is concentrated mainly in West Germany. Despite the prevalence of Turks in Germany, tensions between the two ethnicities have been omnipresent since their arrival in the country. The population is very poorly integrated and has been subject to prejudice throughout their history in the country. Questions of nationality have plagued Germany’s Turkish population for several years.

Despite these issues, the Turkish population remains a focal aspect of Germany’s modern cultural identity, representative of the multicultural values the country champions. In Berlin especially, the Turkish population has thrived in a number of ways. One only needs to glance at the wealth of Turkish restaurants throughout the city to glimpse the Turkish community’s vast cultural impact upon the city.

Top Five Restaurants

Turkish cuisine is a successor to Ottoman cuisine and given the immense size of the former empire, is highly eclectic. It combines elements of Middle Eastern, Balkan, Eastern European and Central Asian styles whilst being its own distinct entity. Notable dishes include various forms of Kofte, a meatball-esque dish, Lahmacun, or as its colloquially known, a ‘Turkish Pizza’ and Pilaf, a seasoned rice. Berlin is arguably the best place in the world outside of Turkey to sample the country’s cuisine in all its forms due to the substantial diaspora.

  1. Fes Turkish BBQ

Address: Hasenheide 58, 10967 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 5pm-11pm (Tuesday-Sunday)

An iconic Kreuzberg institution known for its innovative approach to Turkish staples such as kebab.

  1. Defne Restaurant
Defne Restaurant,

Defne Restaurant,

Address: Planufer 92C, 10967 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 5pm-12am

One of Berlin’s finest Turkish restaurants. IN the heart of Kreuzberg, Defne offers a number of lesser-known dishes in addition to more iconic ones.

  1. Hasir

Address: Adalbertstrasse 12, 10999 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am

Founded by Mehmed Augun, believed by some circles to be the founder of the Doner kebab, this is one of the city’s finest and most iconic Turkish restaurants.

  1. Imren Grill

Address: Boppstrasse 10, 10967 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 8am-2am

Berlin is replete with numerous late-night kebab restaurants. This is one of the best, open deep into the night and serving some of the best and best-value kebab in the city.

  1. Cig Kofte Evi

Address: 37A Badstrasse, 13357 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-10pm

Another iconic Kebab restaurant known for its no-frills decor and reasonably-priced yet delicious food.

Things to Do
  1. The Turkish Market

Address: Maybachufer, 12047 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 11am-6.30pm (Tuesday, Friday)

A highly important Turkish cultural icon in the city, this is a must-visit sight in the Turkish neighbourhood of Kreuzberg which features an enormous wealth of vendors selling a variety of produce, food and household items.

  1. Sehitlik Mosque
Şehitlik-Moschee Berlin, cosmonautirussi, Flickr Creative Commons

Şehitlik-Moschee Berlin, cosmonautirussi, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: Columbiadamm 128, 10965 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: N/A

The city’s most significant and spectacular mosques, it is also the most widely-attended. IT is known as a highly important cultural hub for the Turkish community, who comprise the vast majority of its congregation. It is known for its striking appearance, inspired by Ottoman architecture of the 16th Century. It also stands on the oldest muslim burial ground in Germany, having been inaugurated in circa 1860!


  1. Islamic Cemetery

Address: Columbiadamm 128, 10965 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 8am-5pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday), 8am-6pm (Thursday)

Adjacent to the magnificent Sehitlik Mosque is Berlin’s Islamic Cemetery. Built in 1866, the cemetery is amongst the oldest of its kind in Europe and a hugely important cultural site within the city’s Turkish and wider Muslim population.

  1. Museum of Islamic Art

Address: Am Kupfergraben 5, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

One of Berlin’s great museums, this cultural institution draws from a vast resource of art and artefacts from throughout Islam’s history. There are over 93,000 distinct works in this museum, spanning the immense geographical and historical breadth of Islamic culture.

  1. Museum of Byzantine Art

Address: Am Kupfergraben, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

One of Berlin’s finest historical museums, the Museum of Byzantine Art has a vast collection of antiques and artworks from the Byzantine Empire, the successor state to the Roman Empire and the predecessor to the Ottoman Empire, with its centre in Istanbul.


Poles are amongst the largest diasporas in Germany, the population encompassing 2.9 million people. Germany is home to the largest Polish diaspora in Europe and the second-largest in the world after the United States. The population is widely dispersed throughout the country, with the state North Rhine-Westphalia being home to the largest centre with 786,000. Berlin is home to a sizeable Polish community, numbering at over 101,000.


Polish presence in Germany has existed for centuries, dating back to the late 18th Century. The Partitions of Poland caused Poland to become partially annexed by Prussia, which subsequently caused a portion of the population to fall under modern-day German control. This saw the beginnings of the Polish community in Germany, which slowly grew over the following centuries.

The next major turning point in the Polish community’s history in Germany came towards the end of the 19th Century with the advent of industrialisation. The Ruhr region in particular underwent considerable change and attracted over 300,000 Polish labourers, who were drawn to the region for the new wealth of employment opportunities. In addition to the Ruhr region, Poles settled in a number of other areas of the country, which were also undergoing rapid industrialisation. Despite this, this new wave of Poles experienced rising racial tensions upon their arrival. Following their arrival, they came under significant pressure to conform to ‘Germanisation’. A particular point of conflict between the Polish minority and Germans was the conflict between the former’s adherence to Catholicism and the latter’s adherence to Protestantism. A large number of high-ranking Polish Catholic officials were exiled and imprisoned, which heightened tensions between the two ethnic groups and stoked nationalistic sentiments.

The First World War saw another major turning point, as Polish-dominated territories were absorbed into the new Polish Republic. Despite this, a sizeable Polish minority remained in parts of Germany such as Upper Silesia and East Prussia. In the inter-war years, resentments from the brutal economic depression caused by wartime reparations, were stoked against the Poles by the ascendant Nazi Party. The Polish community in territories such as Upper Silesia were repressed and their community leaders arrested and executed, often at concentration camps. The outbreak of the Second World War saw Poland invaded and annexed by Nazi Germany and the Polish population undergo significant persecution and abuse.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, significant movement between the two countries occurred as Poland’s borders shifted westwards. Over 3.2 million Germans living in Poland were removed. The Polish community in Germany remained a sizeable one and steadily grew as the remainder of the 20th Century progressed. The late 20th Century saw large numbers of Poles migrate to East Berlin due to the economic opportunities there, whilst some fled for West Berlin to evade Communist rule.

Another major turning point occurred upon Poland’s admission into the European Union in 2004, which saw a renewed spike in emigration. Germany was, by some distance, the most popular destination, due to its close proximity and the wealth of economic opportunities. The Polish community remains a prevalent demographic throughout the country, with major hubs in urban centres, particularly Berlin. As the closest major city other than Warsaw, Berlin was a major draw for Poles leaving their homeland for economic or sometimes political reasons. The Polish community is not particularly centralised in a single neighbourhood but rather is widely dispersed throughout the city.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Tak Tak


Address: Brunnenstrasse 5, 10119 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-10pm

A much-loved Polish delicatessen in the Mitte district specialising in. Classic dishes such as dumplings.

  1. Restaurant Breslau

Address: Sredzkistrasse 67, 10405 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 5pm-11pm (Monday-Friday), 3pm-11pm (Saturday), 12pm-11pm (Sunday)

One of the city’s finest and more up-market Polish restaurants, specialising in the traditional staples.

  1. Maly Ksiaze

Address: Lilienthalstrasse 6, 10965 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-9pm

A no-frills neighbourhood restaurant in Kreuzberg.

  1. Marjellchen

Address: Mommenstrasse 9, 10629 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 5pm-11.30pm

A popular Polish-German restaurants specialising in East Prussian cuisine.

  1. Gastatte Schaferstubchen

Address: Grindelwaldweg 2, 13407 Berlin, Germanu

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday-Thursday), 4pm-12am (Friday-Saturday), 4pm-11pm (Sunday)

A top-quality Polish restaurant.

Things to Do
  1. Polish Institute Berlin

Address: Burgstrasse 27, 10178 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Tuesday-Friday)

The city’s most essential Polish cultural institution, which promotes the country’s rich culture through a number of different activities and programs, most notably the annual Polish Film Festival.

  1. Club of Polish Losers

Address: Ackerstrasse 168, 10115 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: N/A

A vital Polish cultural institution established in the 1990’s as a means of fostering cultural exchange between the two countries. The institution organises a vast array of programming, including concerts, plays and art exhibitions.

  1. Buch Bund

Address: Sanderstrasse 8, 12047 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-7pm (Monday-Friday), 11am-6pm (Saturday)

A Polish bookstore and one of the most important cultural sites for Polish expatriates in the city.

  1. No Wodka

Address: Pappelalle 10, 10437 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 11am-7pm

A Polish design concept store, which hosts a number of exhibitions and pop-ups aiming to promote Polish artistry.

  1. Polish Thursday Dinners

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

A popular Polish supper club modelled by the famous parties of Polish King Stanislaw II Augustus, known for their delicious food and celebratory atmosphere.


A very recent demographic in Berlin, and Germany, is the Syrian diaspora. The country’s population experienced considerable displacement in the wake of the Syrian Civil War, which caused a major refugee crisis. Over 6 million people have been forced to flee their homes amid the carnage of war raging throughout the country. Germany is, by some distance, the largest base of the new Syrian diaspora, with nearly 700,000 relocating to the country following the outbreak of the civil war. Heavily based in urban centres such as Berlin, the Syrian population has faced a number of issues including problems concerning prejudice and assimilation. As the newest major diaspora in the country, its vast size and the traumatic origins of its displacement have made its adjustment to life in Germany a challenge.


As mentioned above, the Syrian diaspora is a very new immigrant population in Germany. Prior to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, the Syrian population was fairly small and could be easily lumped together with other Arab diaspora populations in the country. The history of the Syrian population in Germany is very much divided into pre-Civil War and post-Civil War periods, and is very much a developing story, that continues to dominate cultural and political discourse in the country today.

Berlin "Refugees Welcome", Jeanne Menjoulet, Flickr Creative Commons

Berlin “Refugees Welcome”, Jeanne Menjoulet, Flickr Creative Commons

As the Syrian Civil War intensified and continued to wreak irreparable damage upon the country, a refugee crisis developed as a result. The European Migrant Crisis of 2014-15 was a major humanitarian crisis, which generated considerable political discord throughout the continent. Germany emerged as a major destination for Syrian refugees after a lengthy, protracted process. In part due to its economic status and subsequent comparative ability to support such a massive influx of immigration, Germany took on far more refugees than any other European country.

The Syrian population, despite its many struggles involving racism and integration, has found success in some cases. In major urban centres such as Berlin, which has a reputation for being open-minded and accepting of immigrant populations, a number of community organisations and cultural institutions have been established to help ease the often difficult process of adapting to a new society.

Top Five Restaurants
  1. Yarok

Address: Torstrasse 195, 10115 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-10pm

One of the city’s finest Middle Eastern restaurants, known for its reasonable prices, authentic Syrian dishes and high popularity.

  1. Habibi

Address: Goltzstrasse 24, 10781 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 11am-3am (Monday-Thursday, Sunday), 11am-5am (Friday-Saturday)

One of the best Syrian restaurants in Berlin, well-known for its high-quality falafel and pastries. Reasonably priced and open deep into the night, it is immensely popular and has a few additional locations.

  1. Fatoush

Address: Simon-Dach-Strasse 41A, 10245 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 11am-11pm

Another Middle Eastern gem, known for its top-notch takes on signature dishes such as falafel, hummus and tabbouleh.

  1. Aldimashqi

Address: 28 Reuterstrasse, 12047 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-12am

A Neukolln institution known for its fantastic shawarma. Reasonably priced and authentic, it is one of the best Syrian restaurants in the city.

  1. Lawrence Berlin Mitte

Address: Oranienburger Str. 69, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 11am-12am (Monday-Friday), 10am-12am (Saturday-Sunday)

A more upmarket experience. The prices are higher than most Syrian restaurants, but it makes up for it with some of the finest Middle Eastern cooking in all of Berlin.

Things to Do
  1. Syrian Storytelling Arena

Address: N/A

Opening Hours: N/A

One of the most essential cultural institutions for the nascent Syrian community, the Syrian Storytelling Arena was set up in 2015 as a means of Syrian immigrants from all walks of life sharing their experiences in the wake of a traumatic national tragedy. The series features discourse from intellectuals and public figures as well as musical performances.

  1. Museum of Islamic Art

Address: Am Kupfergraben 5, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

One of Berlin’s great museums, this cultural institution draws from a vast resource of art and artefacts from throughout Islam’s history. There are over 93,000 distinct works in this museum, spanning the immense geographical and historical breadth of Islamic culture.

  1. Museum of Byzantine Art

Address: Am Kupfergraben, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Tuesday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

One of Berlin’s finest historical museums, the Museum of Byzantine Art has a vast collection of antiques and artworks from the Byzantine Empire, the successor state to the Roman Empire and the predecessor to the Ottoman Empire, with its centre in Istanbul.

  1. Vorderasiatisches Museum

Address: Bodestrasse 1-3, 10178 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

Another essential Berlin museum concerning the history of the Middle East, this features extensive artistic and archaeological items from throughout Syria’s history (in addition to many other countries).

  1. Syrian Heritage Archive Project

Address: Am Kupfergraben 5, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-6pm (Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Sunday), 10am-8pm (Thursday)

A major initiative undertaken by the Museum of Islamic Art in response to the ongoing brutalities of the Syrian Civil War dedicated to carrying out important research on the damage to the country’s many surviving cultural relics.


Berlin’s Vietnamese community is amongst the largest in the world, numbering around 40,000. The Vietnamese community is not only the city’s largest East Asian population, but also one of the city’s major immigrant populations. Berlin’s Vietnamese are widely dispersed throughout the city but with major hubs in Lichtenberg, Mitte and Neukolln.


Berlin’s Vietnamese population has a fairly recent history in the city, having arrived in large numbers following the Vietnam War. The history of the Vietnamese population in Berlin prior to this is almost non-existent. The population can be divided into two major groups. The first of which are refugees from the Vietnam War. This is, by some distance, the smaller of the Vietnamese populations, mainly hailing from capitalist South Vietnam. Following the end of the conflict and the Communist victory, many fled the ascendant regime. While mainly settling in the United States, Australia and France, a number of Vietnamese migrants settled in West Berlin, forming a small yet close-knit community.

The larger Vietnamese population arrived about a decade later, settling in East Berlin. This was a part of the country’s ‘economic miracle’, which lead to a major demand for labour. This in turn caused a massive influx of immigrants from countries such as Turkey, Italy and Greece to arrive in West Germany. The Communist Vietnam struck a labour agreement with the East German government, which saw large numbers of Vietnamese workers arrive in the country, mainly in East Berlin, a major industrial centre.

The collapse of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of East Germany and West Germany was a major turning point in the history of the Vietnamese population in the city. The industrial identity of East Berlin faded as jobs were outsourced to other countries, causing many Vietnamese immigrants to lose their jobs and return home. Despite this, the majority of the population remained in the city, and the divided population was slowly reunified. The divisions between the North and South Vietnamese was initially very clear, and the populations struggled to reconcile given the historical and geographical divisions between them.

A large number of Vietnamese settlers in other former industrial centres such as Leipzig soon arrived in Berlin due to the larger community having formed there and slowly the Vietnamese community of the city became a more unified entity.

Today, the population is fairly unified, as supported by institutions such as the Dong Xuan Centre, set up in the 1990’s. Predominantly based in East Berlin, remnants of the South Vietnamese population in West Berlin remain, with restaurants often named for its locales such as the former capital city of Saigon.

Top Five Restaurants

Vietnamese cuisine is amongst the most unique culinary styles in the world, easily distinguishable from other forms of Southeast Asian cooking. Known for its healthiness and wide variety of ingredients, it has become increasingly popular throughout the world as the diaspora has spread throughout the world. Major ingredients include lemongrass, ginger and birds eye chillies. Major dishes include pho, a noodle soup. Berlin is a premier destination for Vietnamese cuisine given the large diaspora population in the city.

  1. Si An

Address: Rykestrasse 36, 10405 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm

One of Berlin’s most popular and authentic Vietnamese restaurants, known its novel approach to Vietnamese culinary classics at a reasonable price.

  1. Monsieur Vuong
Saigon Paradise @ Monsieur Vuong, thornet_, Flickr Creative Commons

Saigon Paradise @ Monsieur Vuong, thornet_, Flickr Creative Commons

Address: Alte Schonhauser Str. 46, 10119 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-11pm (Monday-Thursday), 12pm-12am (Friday-Sunday)

A classic, relaxed, banquet-style Vietnamese restaurant with a rotating selection of daily specials. Experience and explore the scent of curry, lemongrass and roasted sesame seeds in original Vietnamese recipes.



  1. Saigon and More

Address: Geisbergstrasse 12, 10777 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 6pm-11pm (Tuesday-Sunday)

One of Berlin’s finest and most authentic Vietnamese restaurants.

  1. District Mot

Address: Rosenthaler Str. 62, 10119 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am

A slick, modern Vietnamese restaurant in Berlin’s Mitte neighbourhood.

  1. Chen Che Tea House

Address: Rosenthaler Str. 13, 10119 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 12pm-12am

A unique treat amongst Berlin’s wealth of Vietnamese restaurants. A tea house and restaurant known for its authentic clay-pot dishes and desserts.

Things To Do
  1. Dong Xuan Centre

Address: Herzbergstrasse 128-139, 10465 Berlin, Germany

Opening Hours: 10am-8pm (Monday, Wednesday-Sunday)

The cultural epicentre of Berlin’s Vietnamese community is by a large margin the Dong Xuan Centre. In the East Berlin neighbourhood of Lichtenberg, of which 10% of the population is Vietnamese, this market is a major cultural development consisting of a number of warehouse hangars. Inside are restaurants, hair salons and numerous vendors peddling a vast range of goods. A thoroughly unique cultural experience in Berlin where one can spend endless hours.


Main Image: Daniel Grothe, #Berlin, Flickr Creative Commons

A Short History Of Tea

A Short History Of Tea

Food Facts:

Where: Began in China, now consumed throughout the world, most notably in Japan, England, America, Russia and India.

Serving Suggestion: Green Tea – serve without milk and honey to sweeten. Black teas – take with or withut milk and sugar to taste.

*Why not try: An English cream tea served with scones or cake and cream at 4pm.

Health: Teas cleansing properties are thought to alleviate pains and strengthen the immune system.

Derived from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis tree, the infusion is valued for its medicinal properties, as well as enjoyed as a beverage.


Drinking Tea plays a central part in our lives. It is a universal phenomenon with millions of people the world over enjoying it on a daily basis. It is hard to imagine a world without tea. In fact it  has become the most widely consumed beverage on earth after water.

Tea has a long history that spans across numerous countries over thousands of years. Legend says that tea originated in 2737 BC when the highly disliked Emperor Shen Nung of China was removed from power and driven out to an isolated spot in Southern China. Having no money to drink anything else but water, Shen Nung happened to be sitting under a tree one day when a gust of wind dropped a few leaves into his cup of boiling water. He loved the blend and found it so relaxing that he sat under that tree for the next seven years and wouldn’t drink anything else.

Origins and History:

Tea Pickers, Cisarua Bogor, Danumurthi Mahendra, Flickr Creative Commons

Tea was first discovered in China, in the mountains around Sichuan and Yunnan. According to earliest legend Emperor Shen Nung first sampled the drink when some unidentified leaves fell into his pot of hot water. Allegedly, Shen Nung used to wander the country recording the effects of infusions made from the leaves and berries of various plants. He discovered that tea cured him of a stomach ache contracted as a result of drinking a toxic herb. It has since been scientifically proven that the polyphenols in tea inhibit the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, and helps good bacteria to flourish, along with having antimicrobial properties that can kill off harmful substances.

Tea drinking became an elaborate art form during the Tang Dynasty (616 – 907). This was the heyday of the Chinese Empire, and traders journeyed to China from the Middle East to obtain silk, porcelain and tea. Over time, the practice of drinking tea spread across Asia, and later to Europe and the America.

People in China were the first drinkers of tea, and they did so for hundreds for years before it was eventually discovered by European explorers. The Chinese thought tea to be both hugely beneficial for health and appropriate to use as a religious offering.

A scarce and rare product, tea was only consumed by royalty and it wasn’t until the discovery of more kinds of tea plants during the Tang Dynasty that tea became available for people of lower classes. It was also during this time that knowledge of tea began to spread; Japanese priests studying abroad in China brought tea back to their homes and shared it with their fellow priests and the rich. Buddhists made good use of tea. While meditating they’d often drink a cup to stay awake during their mediations and soon the Japanese Tea Ceremony was developed, which made tea drinking a spiritual and serious experience. The Emperor of Japan loved tea so much he ordered tea seeds and had them grown in Japan so that everyone could access it. Japan today produces over 80,000 tonnes of tea every year.

At this point, tea came in the form of bricks. Leaves of tea would be crushed and pressed into a mold and then dried. When it came time for preparation, a small portion of the brick would be ground and boiled in water. Powdered tea was also popular for green teas; after pouring boiling water over it, the tea would turn into a frothy drink.

Asia is by far the biggest producer supplying 80-90% of all tea, mainly from India, China, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. India is the largest individual tea-producing country, growing nearly 30% of the world’s tea. Tea was introduced to East Africa at the beginning of the 20th century. It has become an important crop there, particularly in the highlands of Kenya.

Teas Around the World:

Fresh Tea Leaves, Matthew Guay, Flickr Creative Commons 

There are three basic types of tea. Black tea is fully oxidised and is the most popular variety in Europe & the US, green tea, a staple in the Orient, is non-oxidised and has more delicate flavour, and Oolong tea, which is partly oxidised and is a cross between the other two in terms of flavour and taste.

Whatever the type of tea they favour, different countries have their own unique history of tea-drinking tradition and taste.


Yeisei, A Buddhist Priest, was the first person to bring tea seeds from China to Japan. He had observed the beneficial use of tea in meditation, and tea has since continued to be associated with Zen Buddhism and used in ceremony.

It quickly gained popularity in the Imperial Court and other sectors of society, and became elevated to an art form universally known as the ‘Japanese Tea Ceremony’. The ceremony involves making and serving tea in the most perfect, polite and gracious manner. It requires years of training to perform a tea ceremony.


The first tea was brought to the United States in the 1650s by Peter Stuyvesant, a Dutch colonialist, to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, which is today known as New York.

By 1720, the global tea trade was centred in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, and tea was traded between England and its colonies in America. However, taxes on tea were ridiculously high and smuggling became very common. One piece of legislation in particular, the Tea Act of 1773, angered the American colonies, as it was meant to increase profits for the English by skipping over local merchants and selling directly to the people. After continued rejection of tea shipments, the colonists eventually had enough; a group called the Sons of Liberty, led by Samuel Adams, planned to raid a new shipment that was meant to be unloaded in Boston on December 16th, 1773. On that same night, a small group of other protesters decided to dump tea into the Boston Harbor while dressed up as Mohawk Native Americans. Over the course of three hours, over 340 tea containers were thrown into Boston Harbor. These events went down in history as the Boston Tea Party, and precipitated the American Revolution.

Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum, Robert Lindsell, Flickr Creative Commons

Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum, Robert Lindsell, Flickr Creative Commons

Years and years later, although Americans separated themselves from the British, they’ve still kept up a few traditions and contributed a few inventions of their own. During the country’s first World Fair in 1904, iced tea was introduced by a man named Richard Blechynden, who knew that no one would be interested in hot tea during the summer fair. In 1908 Thomas Sullivan, a man from New York, accidentally developed the tea bag. He always sent out his loose tea in silk muslin bags and it wasn’t until he delivered them to local restaurants that he saw them brewing their tea with the bags still on. Right away, he began marketing the tea bags for their convenience and no fuss packaging and the rest is history!


The Russians first encountered tea in 1618, when the Chinese made a gift of several chests to Tsar Alexis. By the end of the 17th century China and Russia were engaged in trade relations, but the journey between the two countries was long and hazardous and the cost of tea was extortionate. It was another hundred years before the price of tea fell sufficiently for the habit to percolate through to all sectors of society. These days tea and vodka are the Russian national drinks. The Russians make tea in using a samovar, a large water heater and tea pot, and drink it strong and sweet.


Chai Latte, Theo Crazzolara, Flickr Creative Commons

India is responsible for cultivating much of the world’s tea, and Indian varieties such as Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri are amongst the most popular. Although the first commercial tea plantations in India were only established by the British colonisers in the late 1830s, the tea plant had been growing wild in the jungles of north east Assam for many years.

Discovery of these Indian tea bushes was regarded by the British as exciting news. Envious of China’s monopoly on tea, and resentful of the money they had to spend on their habit, the British had long wished to be able to grow their own tea. The British saw the Indian Assam as inferior to the Chinese bush, but thought that the evidence of local plants indicated good soil for transplanting Chinese seedlings.

They immediately procured some seedlings of the Chinese variety (the British smuggled thousands of seedlings during the opium wars) and undertook to grow them in the Assam valley and the mountainous Darjeeling region. Fourteen years later, and after many unsuccessful attempts were made, the British resigned themselves to growing the native Assam.

Soon after, the British-owned Indian Tea Association began an earnest effort to popularise tea in India. They organised several promotional campaigns – tea stalls were set up in cities and towns, factories were encouraged to give tea breaks to their workers, and even home demonstrations were organised. When the railways arrived, tea stalls were set up at rail stations as well. Tea drinking gradually spread in India, gaining momentum after the Second World War. By the end of the 1900’s, Indians were drinking almost 70 percent of a huge crop of 715,000 tonnes per year.

Tea is now grown widely in India. There are over 2000 producers of tea, with the majority of the estates located in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Many of these estates produce very high quality teas and have earned a place for themselves in the international tea market.  Today, India is one of the world’s largest producers of tea with 13,000 gardens and a workforce of more than 2 million people.  It also provides the tea leaves that go into the world’s biggest brands – Tetley and Typhoo.

The most popular form of tea in India is masala chai; sweet, milky tea spiced with cardamom and cinnamon. “Proper” English tea is also drunk among many communities and classes, especially those who had trading and social relations with the British. Chai is such an integral part of the Indian culture, and as a result is ubiquitous. Even in the most remote places you may not be able to get food or drinkable water but there will always be someone there to give you a hot cup of Chai.  The spices used in Indian Chai tea vary from region to region and among households in India. The most common are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pepper. Indian Chai produces a warming, soothing effect, acts as a natural digestive aid and gives one a wonderful sense of well being. It’s difficult to resist a second cup.


When the British acquired the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam they were astonished at how popular tea was with the colonial women. By the 17th century Dutch traders had also brought tea to Europe, where it rapidly gained popularity. When the Portuguese Catherine Braganza married King Charles II in 1662, she brought with her to England a chest of tea. It immediately became the beverage of choice in English high society, replacing ale as the national drink. Today, the average Brit gets though almost 2 kilograms of tea a year!

The English serve black tea with milk and sugar to taste, in a brew referred to as ‘builders tea’. Afternoon tea is an English institution, accompanied by sandwiches, scones or cake. The English and Irish also have a custom of ‘dunking’ biscuits (cookies) into their tea, and eating once soaked through but with the added importance of avoiding the biscuit disintegrating completely and falling into the tea.

The Opium Wars: England and China 1830 – 1860

Chinese Opium Fiends Smoking Opium, Midnight Believer, Flickr Creative Commons

Two things happened in the eighteenth century  made it difficult for England to balance its trade with the East. First, the British became a nation of tea drinkers and the demand for Chinese tea rose astronomically. It is estimated that the average London worker spent five percent of his or her total household budget on tea. Second, northern Chinese merchants began to ship Chinese cotton from the interior to the south to compete with the Indian cotton that Britain had used to help pay for its tea consumption habits. To prevent a trade imbalance, the British tried to sell more of their own products to China, but there was not much demand for heavy woollen fabrics that Britain specialised in,  in a country accustomed to either cotton padding or silk.

The only solution was to increase the amount of Indian goods to pay for these Chinese luxuries, and increasingly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the item provided to China was Bengal Opium. With greater opium supplies had naturally come an increase in demand and usage throughout the country, in spite of repeated prohibitions by the Chinese government and officials. The British did all they could to increase the trade: They bribed officials, helped the Chinese work out elaborate smuggling schemes to get the opium into China’s interior, and distributed free samples of the drug to innocent victims.

The cost to China was enormous. The drug weakened a large percentage of the population (some estimate that 10 percent of the population regularly used opium by the late nineteenth century), and silver began to flow out of the country to pay for the opium. Many of the economic problems China faced later were either directly or indirectly traced to the opium trade. The government debated about whether to legalize the drug through a government monopoly like that on salt, hoping to barter Chinese goods in return for opium. But since the Chinese were fully aware of the harms of addiction, in 1838 The Emperor decided to send one of his most able officials, Lin Tse-hsu (Lin Zexu, 1785-1850), to Canton (Guangzhou) to do whatever necessary to end the traffic forever.

Opinion in England was divided: Some British did indeed feel morally uneasy about the trade, but they were overruled by those who wanted to increase England’s China trade and “teach the arrogant Chinese a good lesson”. Western military weapons were far superior to China’s.  The emperor therefore had no choice but to accept the British demands and sign a peace agreement. This agreement, the first of the “unequal treaties,” opened China to the West and marked the beginning of Western exploitation of the nation. The British saw to it that Indian opium remained a legitimate article of commerce in China until 1908.

The commerce in tea and the opium that paid for it continued without interruptions even during the hostilities. And by 1844 Britain was importing 24,000 tonnes annually, well over twice as much tea as she had at the beginning of the century, including significant tonnage of black teas for the first time.

Afternoon Tea – A Quintessentially British Pastime

Afternoon tea, Malmaison Hotels, Flickr Creative Commons

Afternoon tea, Malmaison Hotels, Flickr Creative Commons

Whilst the custom of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China and was popularised in England during the 1660s by King Charles II and his wife, it was not until the mid 17th century that the concept of ‘afternoon tea’ first appeared.

Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter (some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread) and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.

This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change their gowns for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock.  The Etiquette of Modern Society points out that “a thoughtful hostess should always provide biscuits with tea, since these can be eaten more easily than sandwiches without removing one’s gloves.”

Some poorer households also adopted the practice of afternoon tea, but more common among the working classes was ‘high tea’. During the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, when most people worked in agriculture, the working classes tended to have the main meal of their day at midday, with a much lighter supper in the evening. After the industrial revolution, more and more people were employed for long shifts in factories or mines, and hot midday meals were thus less convenient.  The custom developed of having a high tea in the late afternoon, at the end of the working day, consisting of strong tea, and hearty, hot food. Unlike afternoon tea, high tea was the main meal of the day, rather than a stop-gap between lunch and dinner.

More information:

Watch: The Story of… Tea

Buy: The Story Of Tea

Website: Tetley Tea’s guide to How Tea is Produced

Website: Find the best Afternoon Tea

Website: The Fortnum and Mason Guide to Tea

Website: Debretts Modern Etiquette Guide on Beverages

Book: Tea: A History of the Drink That Changed the World by John Griffiths

Website: Tea Time

Book: For All the Tea in China: by Sarah Rose


Written by: Zaynin Kanji

Editor: Sofi Pickering

The Story Of Chocolate

The Story Of Chocolate

Our love affair with chocolate began at least 4,000 years ago in Mesoamerica, in present-day southern Mexico and Central America, where cacao grew wild. When the Olmecs unlocked the secret of how to eat this bitter seed, they launched an enduring phenomenon.

Since then, people the world over have turned to chocolate to cure sickness, appease gods and show love. In fact, the making of chocolate has evolved into an industry so large that forty to fifty million people depend on cocoa for their livelihoods—and chocolate farmers produce 3.8 million tons of cocoa beans per year.

This study guide takes you from the ancient civilizations who first devised methods to eat cacao beans through its journey to Spain, the colonial owned slave plantations and into the factories of Pennsylvania, Broc and Yorkshire.

The Olmecs 1500 B.C.-100 B.C.

The Olmec’s, famous for carving colossal stone heads, were the first people known to process and eat cacao beans, which they called kakaw. They devised the fermenting, drying, roasting and grinding process that remain the basis of chocolate production as it is known today. The Olmec’s passed this knowledge down to the Mayans.

Mayans 1800 B.C.-1500 A.D.

Perhaps the first chocoholics, they referred to cacao as ‘food of the gods,’ and carved the shape of the pods into their stone templates, artwork, drinking vessels and even used the beans in human sacrifice as well as for medicinal purposes.

South-Western Americans 1000-1125 A.D.

The early Mesoamericans traded cacoa with their neighbours living many miles to the north. People living in northwest New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon drank cacao from cylindrical jars as part of ritualistic practices. The closest cultivated cacao grew in central Mexico.

Aztecs 1420 A.D.-1520 A.D.

While the Aztec royals continued the tradition of drinking cacao at ceremonies, they could not grow it in the central highlands of Mexico, so they too traded for it, with their southern neighbours the Mayans and others.

Aztec rulers also demanded that their tributes, an early form of taxation paid by citizens and those they conquered, be paid in cacao. In the communities themselves, cacao seeds were used as currency, traded at the market and kept locked up. A rabbit cost between four and 10 beans, a mule worth 50 and a turkey hen went for 100. In fact, cacao was so valuable in early times that it was counterfeited. People would hollow out the pods, fill them with dirt and pass them off as newly harvested.

Aztec. Man Carrying a Cacao Pod, 1440–1521. Volcanic stone, traces of red pigment. Brooklyn Museum

Believing that the god Quetzalcoatl brought the cacao tree to them, Aztecs also used the beans as offerings to the gods. They also are said to have used chocolate to calm those who were about to become human sacrifice.

The scientific name Theobroma cacao was given to the species by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, when he published it in his famous book Species Plantarum. He used Sloane’s text and drawings as the basis for descriptions of new species. Theobroma means ‘food of the gods’ in Latin, and cacao is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec language) word xocolatl, from xococ (bitter) and atl (water).
Present day Chocolate culture

While cacao is no longer used as money, today it plays a central role in cultures around the world. Chocolate features in holidays and special occasions and to some extent still doubles as medicine.

Who Eats The Most?

In 2010, Switzerland led, at 22 pounds per person. Austria and Ireland followed at 20 pounds and 19 pounds. The United States comes in at 11th place, with Americans gobbling nearly 12 pounds apiece each year.

Special Occasions

In the United States, many of the chocolate dollars spent go toward celebrating holidays, to bring home Valentine’s hearts or Easter bunnies, Halloween candy and chocolate Santa’s.

In Mesoamerica, where humans first ate cacao, ritual use survives. In Mexico, hot chocolate may accompany festive foods for two Christian holidays, the 12 Days of Christmas and Candlemas. Mexicans also celebrate Dia de la Muertos (Day of the Dead) from October 31 to November 2 by giving balls, bars and drinks of chocolate to friends and family and honouring the deceased with chocolate offerings.

Medicinal Use

chocolate-4Throughout history, chocolate has been used to treat a wide variety of ailments—most commonly to help thin patients gain weight, to stimulate the nervous systems of feeble people, to calm those who are hyperactive, or to improve digestion and kidney function.

It is used as an ingredient in cosmetic ointments and in pharmacy for coating pills and preparing suppositories. It has excellent emollient properties and is used to soften and protect chapped hands and lips. Theobromine, the alkaloid contained in the beans, resembles caffeine in its action, but its effect on the central nervous system is less powerful. Its action on muscle, the kidneys and the heart is more pronounced. It is used principally for its diuretic effect due to stimulation of the renal epithelium; it is especially useful when there is an accumulation of fluid in the body resulting from cardiac failure, when it is often given with digitalis to relieve dilatation. It is also employed in high blood pressure as it dilates the blood-vessels.

The Spanish

At the start of the 16th century, Christopher Columbus had presented cacao beans from the Caribbean to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella as a curiosity, but they were considered them further. In 1519, the Aztec emperor Montezuma served chocolate drink to his new guest, the conquistador Hernando Cortes. The Aztecs thought that Cortes was the reincarnation of an exiled god-king. Instead, he had come-calling to find the much rumoured Aztec gold, and within three years he brought down the Aztec empire.

Cortes brought cacao to Spain in 1529 and sweetened the cacao drink for Spaniards, adding copious amounts of sugar that was unavailable in Mesoamerica. Before sailing home, he also planted cacao trees in the Caribbean. For nearly 100 years, Spanish aristocrats secretly enjoyed this new delicacy, adding cinnamon and vanilla to the sugar and serving it steaming hot. As the drink gained popularity, the Spanish planted more cacao trees across their colonies in Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Jamaica.

Soon after, the Spanish opened their first cocoa processing plant in 1580 and news of cacao was out, as it were and the use of cacao spread across Europe, the earliest uses recoded in France and Italy.


In 1672 Sir Hans Sloane details in the American Physician a medicinal recipe using milk in drinking chocolate and brings a cacao tree specimen back from Jamaica to England two years later in 1689. Whilst in Jamaica Sloane becomes interested in the bitter drink Jamaicans make by boiling roasted beans from a local tree in water. He believes it to have therapeutic properties but because the taste is unpalatable, he boils the beans in milk and sugar, creating the first milk chocolate drink—hot cocoa. He brings his recipe back to England and sells it to an apothecary who markets the product as “Sir Hans Sloane’s milk chocolate.”

Trade-card ‘Sir Hans Sloane’s Milk Chocolate’. Image Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Trade-card ‘Sir Hans Sloane’s Milk Chocolate’

Soon after, William White sold it in his White’s Chocolate House and so, Sir Hans Sloane’s Milk Chocolate was launched. The Cadbury brothers later used the same recipe for over 35 years.

Upon Sloane’s returned to England in 1689. He published in two volumes the information he had gathered in Jamaica. This work contains careful and very readable descriptions of not only the plants and animals he encountered but also how natural resources were used by the islands’ inhabitants. Hans Sloane’s collections went on to found the British Museum, and his chocolate specimen can be seen on display in the Darwin Centre in the Natural History Museum in London.

The scientific name Theobroma cacao was given to the species by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753, when he published it in his famous book Species Plantarum. He used Sloane’s text and drawings as the basis for descriptions of new species. Theobroma means ‘food of the gods’ in Latin, and cacao is derived from Nahuatl (Aztec language) word xocolatl, from xococ (bitter) and atl (water).

The first official shipment of cacao beans arrived in Europe from the so called New World in 1585 and by early 17th century, it was all the rage in the palaces, mansions and monasteries of Baroque Europe, a mark of exquisite gentility. As the drink spread through the continent it was ever-more refined, drunk hot, sweet, and mixed with cinnamon. Surviving recipes give us cause to lament the powdery, watery froth that passes for hot chocolate in so many of London’s cafés and restaurants today! The Third Duke of Tuscany, also known as the gluttonous tyrant Cosimo de’ Medici, liked to take his chocolate infused with fresh jasmine flowers, amber, musk, vanilla and ambergris. No wonder chocolate was described in 1797 as the drink of the gods.

The impetus for London’s chocolate craze seems to have come from an unlikely quarter: France. In 1657, various newspapers were reporting that the public could sample, buy or learn how to make an ‘excellent West India drink’ called chocolate from a Frenchman, ‘the first man who did sell it in England’ at a chocolate house tucked away in Queen’s Head Alley in Bishopsgate Street, in the east of London’s business district.

For a city with little tradition of hot drinks (coffee had only arrived five years earlier), chocolate was an alien, suspect substance drink associated with popery and idleness (i.e. France and Spain); a market had to be generated. Within the next decade, a slew of pamphlets appeared proclaiming the miraculous, panacean – cure all – qualities of the new drink, which would boost fertility, cure consumption, alleviate indigestion and reverse ageing: a mere lick, it was said, would ‘make old women young and fresh, create new motions of the flesh’. For Samuel Pepys, chocolate was the perfect cure for a hangover, relieving his ‘sad head’ and ‘imbecilic stomach’ the day after Charles II’s bacchanalian coronation. The commonest claim, however — one inherited from the Aztecs and still perpetuated by chocolate companies the world over today — was that chocolate was a supremely powerful aphrodisiac.

The public was sold on this mendacious publicity campaign. Unlike in Paris and Madrid, chocolate drinking was not confined to the social elite; it was available in many of London’s coffeehouses (albeit in a more rough-and-ready and milky form than Cosimo’s brew) but since it was more expensive, and less of a caffeine hit, it was never drunk as widely. It was only around St James’s Square that a cluster of super-elite self-styled ‘chocolate houses’ sprouted and flourished.

Harvested in appalling conditions by African slaves in Jamaica, chocolate was thus consumed in one of the most exclusive addresses in Europe by the crème de la crème of British society, cementing chocolate’s association with decadence and luxury in the popular imagination.

The principal chocolate houses were Ozinda’s and White’s, both on St James’s Street, and the Cocoa Tree on Pall Mall. As befitted their location their interiors were a cut above the wooden, workmanlike interiors of the City coffeehouses, boasting Queen Anne sofas, polished tables, dandyish waiters and, at least in Ozinda’s case, a collection of valuable paintings for the customers to admire. It must have been unsettling for George I, the new Hanoverian King, to know that mere yards from the entrance to his palace, crypto-Jacobite’s were huddled together, sipping chocolate, and plotting his downfall. At the height of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1715, the king’s messengers burst into a packed Ozinda’s and dragged away its proprietor along with some of his customers as Jacobite traitors and incarcerated them in Newgate. Ostensibly, the Cocoa Tree was more respectable — in the early 18th century, it was the informal headquarters of the Tory party where policy and parliamentary strategy were concerted over chocolate and newspapers. Yet a significant wing of the party were crypto-Jacobite’s and it’s no surprise to read in the Manchester Guardian of 1932 that workmen drilling into St James’s Street discovered a secret underground passage (or ‘bolt hole’) leading from the site of the Cocoa Tree to a tavern in Piccadilly for Jacobite’s to flee to safety.

For what we might term ‘kamikaze gambling’, though, nothing compared to White’s Chocolate House and few London venues can have had such opprobrium heaped upon them by satirists and moralists. ‘Hell’, the inner gaming room at White’s, is depicted in the sixth episode of Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress in all its debauched glory (fittingly, it is also on fire, though few customers seem to notice or care). It is a picture of greed and despair; the posture of the ruined rake, hands held high as though for divine intercession, seems oddly prescient of Gericault’s Raft of Medusa except in White’s, everyone is an author of their own destruction rather than cast adrift on the mercy of nature.

The legendary White’s Betting Book, an archive of wagers placed between 1743 and 1878, by which point the chocolate house had evolved into a club, lends credence to Hogarth’s attacks. Much of the time it reads like a litany of morbid and bizarre predictions: ‘Mr Howard bets Colonel Cooke six guineas that six members of White’s Club die between this day of July 1818 and this day of 1819’, reads one typical entry (Colonel Cooke won). Elsewhere there are bets on which celebrities would outlive others; the length of pregnancies; the outcomes of battles; the madness of George III; the future price of stock; and whether a politician would turn up to the Commons in a red gown or not.

Yet middle-class moralists such as Hogarth were looking in on a world they didn’t understand and from which they were excluded. Just as Henry Jermyn’s St James’s Square was laid out in competition with the Earl of Southampton’s Bloomsbury Square, for the beau monde living in such close quarters, life was one big game of conspicuous consumption. To place the modern-day equivalent of £180,000 on the roll of a single die, as happened at the Cocoa Tree in 1780, may strike us as downright nihilistic but for the Georgian nobility it was a way of projecting their status, giving every meaning to their frequently idle, chocolate-guzzling existence.

White’s still exists today as a super-exclusive private members’ club at 37 St James’s Street with 500 members and a nine-year waiting list; supposedly the only woman ever to have visited is a certain Elizabeth Windsor in 1991. Yet lost its association with chocolate and indeed in London as a whole, traditional chocolate houses for “drinking chocolate, betting and reading the newspapers”, as one American visitor to eighteenth-century London put it, are few and far between.

What Is Cacao And Cocoa?

The cacao fruit tree, also known as Theobroma Cacao, produces cacao pods, which are cracked open to release cacao beans. From there, cacao beans can be processed a few different ways. Cacao butter is the fattiest part of the fruit and makes up the outer lining of the inside of a single cacao bean. It is white in colour and has a rich, buttery texture that resembles white chocolate in taste and appearance. Cacao butter is removed from the bean during production and the remaining part of the fruit is used to produce raw cacao powder.

Cocoa is the heated form of cacao that forms cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is produced similarly to cacao except cocoa undergoes a higher temperature of heat during processing. Surprisingly, it still retains a large amount of antioxidants in the process and is still excellent for your heart, skin, blood pressure, and even your stress levels.
The difference between dark, milk and white chocolate.

Milk chocolate is a solid chocolate made with milk (in the form of milk powder, liquid milk or condensed milk). The difference between dark chocolate and milk chocolate is that it does not have any milk solids added. Dark chocolate will generally have a higher percentage of cocoa solids and can range from 30% to 80% in cocoa solid make-up. Because of this, it is fuller in real chocolate taste and results in a drier, chalkier texture. Perhaps the most pronounced difference in taste is the deeper bitterness of dark chocolate which tickles the palette in aftertaste. Whereas milk and dark chocolate are produced from various proportions of the non-fat part of the cocoa bean, white chocolate contains no cocoa solids whatsoever. Instead, white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, a pale yellow edible vegetable fat, which has a cocoa aroma and flavour. Because cocoa butter doesn’t taste good on its own, milk, sugar and sometimes vanilla are added to deliver a sweet and creamy product.

Production And Process

ChocolateMost of the world’s cocoa is grown in the narrow belt 10 degrees either side of the Equator because cocoa trees grow well in humid tropical climates with regular rain and short dry season. How is Chocolate produced? Chocolate is a product that requires complex procedures to produce.


Cocoa comes from tropical evergreen Cocoa trees, such as Theobroma Cocoa, which grow in the wet lowland tropics of Central and South America, West Africa and Southeast Asia.
Cocoa beans grow in pods that sprout off of the trunk and branches of cocoa trees. The pods are about the size of a football. When the pods are ripe, harvesters hack the pods gently off of the trees. Workers must harvest the pods by hand, using short, hooked blades mounted on long poles to reach the highest fruit. The pods are split open and the cocoa beans are removed. Pods can contain upwards of 50 cocoa beans each.

The beans undergo the fermentation processing. They are either placed in large, shallow, heated trays or covered with large banana leaves or simply heated by the sun. The beans are stirred to create equal fermentation. This process may take five or eight days to turn the beans brown. After fermentation, the cocoa seeds must be dried before they can be scooped into sacks and shipped to chocolate manufacturers.

Manufacturing Chocolate

Firstly, fermented and dried cocoa beans will be refined to a roasted nib by winnowing and roasting. Then, they will be heated and melted into chocolate liquor. Lastly blend chocolate liquor with sugar and milk to add flavour. After the blending process, the liquid chocolate will be poured into moulds. Finally the chocolate is wrapped and packaged.

Chocolate For The Masses

The new craze for chocolate enhanced the international slave market between the 1600s and 1800s as cacao plantations spread throughout the English, Dutch and French colonies. Due to the laboriousness of the production process, chocolate remained a luxury for the wealthy until the Industrial Revolution when steam-powered engines were introduced to speed the production of the bean.

chocolate-3As innovations were made to increase the speed of production, new techniques and approaches altered the texture and taste. In 1815, Coenraad van Houten, a Dutch chemist, introduced alkaline salts to chocolate to reduce its bitterness. In 1828, he created a press to remove about half the natural fat (cacao butter) from chocolate, making it cheaper to produce and more consistent in quality. Known as “Dutch cocoa”, the machine-pressed chocolate led to the transformation of chocolate to the solid form we know today. With Van Houten’s breakthrough, the British chocolate manufacturers, J.S. Fry & Sons, found a way to mix a blend of cacao powder and sugar with melted cacao butter instead of warm water. This produced a thinner paste, which could be cast into a mould. By the latter half of the nineteenth century, J.S. Fry & Sons were the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world, in part because they were the sole supplier of chocolate and cacao to the Royal Navy. But the firm always had to contend with its greatest rival Cadbury’s, who had released the first “chocolate box.” Chocolate confections had now become big business in Great Britain, Europe and in America. Many candy manufacturers now began using cocoa powder in liquid form to hand-coat sugar confections. Cocoa powder also became a widely used flavouring ingredient in cake, ice-cream and biscuit recipes.

Since the end of the 19th century, Switzerland has dominated the world of chocolate, and today its citizens are the number one consumers of the substance. The invention of true milk chocolate was a collaborative effort between Henri Nestle, a Swiss chemist who discovered a process to make powdered milk by evaporation in 1867, and Daniel Peter, a Swiss chocolate manufacturer who decided to use Nestlé’s powdered milk in a new kind of chocolate. In 1879 the first milk chocolate bar was produced.

Milton Hershey, “The Henry Ford of Chocolate Makers”, became a formidable rival to his European competitors, when he applied a version of mass production to the chocolate industry. Hershey’s mass-produced milk chocolate required huge amounts of milk and sugar. The milk was supplied by the 8000 acres of dairy farms, owned by Hershey, in the surrounding area. The sugar used in the Pennsylvania factory was supplied by Hershey’s sugar-mill in Cuba. Everything was mechanized, in true assembly-line fashion; by the late 1920’s, 23,000kg of Hershey’s cocoa was produced each day at the factory. The most famous and popular of Hershey’s products were the “Hershey’s Kisses” – bite-sized, individually wrapped, flat-bottomed drops of milk chocolate. By the 1980’s twenty five million Kisses were made daily.

More information:

Watch: The Story of… Chocolate

A Global Guide To Coffee Tasting

A Global Guide To Coffee Tasting

Coffee primarily grows within a belt thirty degrees north and south of the equator, between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. Within this belt, more than eighty countries grow great coffee throughout Asia, Africa and the Americas. Within each region, different countries and even different areas within countries have even more specific qualities. Like fine wines, if you really want to explore and imbibe, the world of coffee offers unlimited opportunities for your palate.


African coffees are known for their high acidity and floral tones. The acidity is not a result of the type of plant grown, rather it is because farmers in Africa tend to soak their beans in water for up to five days, much longer than elsewhere in the world, a much longer period of fermentation for the beans and acidity to more fully develop. Some of the great African coffees include Ethiopian – There are several amazing growing regions in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. In the northeast of the country is Harar, an exceptionally arid region in a very arid country. The coffee grows in the hills surrounding the ancient walled city of Harar, where medieval trade routes from the south and north once met. Many farmers in Harar dry their coffee inside the cherry, rather than stripping the cherry fruit off first (largely for lack of water to enable the process). This is called the sun-dried method. This method of processing results in a fruitier cup. Hara is known as one of the milder, softer Ethiopian varieties.

In the south are the regions of Yirgacheffe and Sidamowhere coffee was originally found by the goatherd Kaldi, who watched his goats prance crazily after eating red cherries off a bush. Yirgacheffe is one of the most prized coffees in the world, noted for its citrus and lemony tones, as well as a floral aroma. The Yirgacheffe and Sidamo regions intertwine around various mountain passes, and the coffees are often indistinguishable.

Sidamos tend to be a little milder or smoother than Yirgacheffes. Less popular coffees from Ethiopia include Limu, Jimma, Bebeka and Lekempte.


Coffee from Kenya has an amazing, high acidity combined with a bright, winey taste. Unlike other origins, there is hardly any shade used in Kenya, meaning there are no certified organic coffees available from this area. Kenyan coffee comes in at a high price in their national auction system, a holdover from the British colonial days, but little of that money reaches the farmers. Look for Kenya AA or Peaberry (only one bean per cherry instead of the typical two)
for quality Kenyan coffee.

Other African Coffees To Look For

Rwandan coffee has really come up in the last ten years as the government and foreign aid groups have poured money into new processing stations, thereby increasing the quality and consistency of this coffee. Rwandan coffee tends to be full-bodied and acidic. The newest entry in African speciality coffee is Burundi, which has also received large aid for upgrading processing. Similarly, coffee from Congo is beginning to appear as aid groups work to create a decent economy in that ravaged land. Ugandan and Tanzanian coffees share similar characteristics with Kenyan at a lesser price but tends to be a milder cup.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony


There are a wide variety of great Asian coffees coming from a kaleidoscope of cultures. The overall character of Asian coffees is their full body and resilience. They are wonderful in lighter roasts and due to their denseness, also hold their character well into the dark roast stage. Differences in processing mean that many Asian coffees carry a distinct earthiness that differentiates them from other regions.


Coffee was introduced to Indonesia (the East Indies) by the Dutch in the mid-1600’s to break the monopoly of the Turkish and Arabic traders over the beans that were, at the time, only grown in Ethiopia and Yemen. The Indonesian archipelago is made up of well over a thousand islands, big and small. Many of these grow spectacular coffee, some of which are the most in-demand in the trade, particularly for organic coffees. Lush forest cover and rich volcanic soils of the region make for extremely full-bodied coffees. The highest rated coffees in

Indonesia come from northern Sumatra where the Gayo Mountain, Lintong, and Mandheling coffees take top prizes as among the best in the world. Super full-bodied, amazingly low in acidity, slightly sweet and syrupy, with a touch (or sometimes rather more!) of that earthiness that so distinguishes these coffees.


Produces another great Indonesian coffee from the Toraja region in the north part of that island. These coffees are smooth and clean, often with hints of nuts or spices underneath, perhaps because Sulawesi is on the outer fringe of the fables Spice Islands, the birthplace of nutmeg, mace and cloves. The island of Java produces coffees that are solid, with good body and a milder flavour than the Sumatrans, but still worth a try. Bali and Flores are more recent entries into the speciality coffee markets, sweet, full-bodied and slightly herbal or floral.

Papua-New Guinea (PNG)

A wild, untamed land that is relatively new to the coffee world. PNG coffee growing only began in the 1920’s when stocks of Jamaican coffees were transplanted there. But it takes many hands to make a great cup and most PNG coffees suffer from erratic processing or poor roads and infrastructure. At the same time, well-tended and processed PNG from the Central Highlands can match a good Sumatran in body and earthiness.

East Timor

screen-shot-2015-10-30-at-16-19-17A small independent island at the eastern edge of the Indonesian archipelago, East Timor coffee generally gets blended into two large growing regions of Maubesse and Ermera. That means the crop quality fluctuates year to year as buyers can’t know what’s in each bag. When the coffee is identified and segregated by growing village, like Timor Atsabe, the cup can be full-bodied, slightly nutty and very aromatic. This is a hard one to find but worth the effort for a real Javatrekker!

The Americas

Central and South America offer many wonderful coffees with surprisingly different characteristics. Factors accounting for the differences include altitudes, soils (whether volcanic or fertile Amazonian), processing techniques and varying coffee plant varietals used. Most Latin American coffees, however, have lost the earthier tastes as a result of the harmonisation of processing and drying techniques across the lands that have occurred in the last decade. The coffees range from smoky (Guatemala), sweet and mild (Peru), classic body and smoothness (Colombia) to slightly edgier and tart (Costa Rica).


Nicaragua has become a leading coffee producer in the Americas due to the great volcanic soils and the increased professionalism of the farmers. Nicaraguan coffees are bold yet smooth, relatively low acidity, consistent and well processed. Look for coffees from Esteli, Jinotega, Matagalpa and Nueva Segovia.


screen-shot-2015-10-30-at-16-25-19A mountainous country speckled with a dozen different indigenous peoples trying hard to hold onto their cultures in an increasingly globalizing era, Guatemala produces amazing coffees. There are actually eight identified microclimatic regions around Guatemala and each produces a slightly different flavour profile. Notable regions include Huehuetenango (acidic and winey), Chimaltenango (sweet, acidic, citrusy), Lake Atitlan (full-bodied and citrusy) and Antigua (rich aroma, sweet taste). The dominant characteristics of Guatemalan coffees are their smoky, bold taste, pleasant acidity and hidden sweetness.


Colombia has traditionally set the standard for Latin American coffees, particularly with the power of the state and Juan Valdez brand behind them. It is consistently sweet, medium bodied and notably smooth with medium acidity. The best Colombians are really good, but the average Colombian is, well, pretty average, and has been used forever as a grocery store and diner coffee. Try and seek out a named coffee from Colombia, from regions such as Narino, Magdelena, Medellin, Bucaramanga, Popayan and Huila. If it doesn’t have a regional identification, it is probably pretty mundane.


This is the forgotten child of the speciality coffee world. Peru is a huge country, so much so that the growing seasons differ by a month or so even within the same country. Peruvian coffees are noteworthy for their mildness and sweetness, despite being grown at exceptionally high altitudes on the Amazonian slopes of the Andes. As the flavour and mild acidity roast away, they are better in a light roast than dark. But a soft, sweet Peruvian is a subtle charm and can really be appreciated if you take your time with it. One of the most easily drinkable black coffees, with wonderful coffees coming from the Chanchamayo, Pangoa and Lamas.


Another mild coffee from Central America. There are several coffee regions in Mexico and each has slightly different characteristics, but by and large you can count on Mexican coffee to be smooth and round in the mouth, medium acidity, not too bold, whether they come from Chiapas (nutty and sometimes slightly spicy), Vera Cruz (slight cocoa taste), or Oaxaca (almonds).

Of course, Brazil is the largest coffee producing country in the world, yet it does not top the charts for taste. Brazilian coffee makes some great espressos, and the flavours can range from bittersweet and cocoa dry to mild, nutty and low acid, but you won’t know which until you try it. Notable growing regions include Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, Espirito Santo, and Parana. Other coffee growing countries in the Americas include El Salvador, Honduras and Panama.

More information:

Watch: The Story of… Coffee

Watch: Coffee: The Drink That Changed America


The Journey of Spices

The Journey of Spices

Spices conjure images of tempting culinary art, fascinating travels and bitter struggles for supremacy. Expressions like variety are the spice of life and sugar and spice and all that is nice illustrate how spellbound were people of letters about the fascination of spices.

In the global south or as was commonly the East, spices are indeed the soul of food. In the global north or West, they evoke dreams of exotic tropical islands, exciting expeditions to the sources of Spice, and the rise and fall of empires.

Columbus headed westward from Europe in 1492 to find a sea route to the so-called, ‘Land of Spices’, instead he found the New World. Eight years later Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa touching Kozhikode on the South West coast of India. Long before that, Arabs were trading with the then known ‘Orient’ through land routes, and during the 13th century, Marco Polo experienced the attraction of spices in his travels.

Vast fortunes made and squandered, powerful rulers seduced, ailments cured, and nations discovered – all in the name of spice. Always casting a spell on our imaginations, spices flatter our senses: sight with their vibrant colours, smell with their enticing fragrances and taste with their distinct flavours.

Story of SpiceSpices have been the catalysts of some of the greatest adventures in human history, from Christopher Columbus to Vasco da Gama, as well as being the driving force for the British East India Company and the British Empire, whose merchants turned London into the greatest spice market in the world for 200 years.

More dramatic, through the book Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, is the transfer of Manhattan Island in 1667 to England in exchange for the nutmeg rich island, Run to the Dutch.

Though the word “spice” didn’t appear until the end of the 12th century, the use of herbs dates back to ancient eras. Early civilisations wrapped meat in the leaves of bushes, accidentally discovering that this enhanced the taste of the meat, as did certain nuts, seeds, berries – and even bark.

It is claimed that the lavish use of spices in ancient times was a way to mask the often unpleasant taste and odour of food, and later, to keep food fresh. However, this myth is dubious as the cost and value of spices has always been very high, so it would be unlikely that you would use something very expensive on cheaper, less fresh, food.

Precious Commodities

The first spice expeditions were organized in ancient times to ensure that these coveted commodities would always be in supply. Legend has it that in 1000 BC the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon in Jerusalem to offer him “120 measures of gold, many spices, and precious stones.” A handful of cardamom was worth as much as a poor man’s yearly wages, and many slaves were bought and sold for a few cups of peppercorns.

Arab traders were the first to introduce spices into Europe. Realizing that they controlled a commodity in great demand, the traders kept their sources of supply secret and made up fantastic tales of the dangers involved in obtaining spices. At the crossroads of land trade from India and sea trade from the Mediterranean, spices played a huge role in Phoenician trade. The

Phoenicians were expert merchants and smooth navigators; so much so that at the end of the 14th century BC, spices were called “Phoenician merchandise.” These slick middlemen knew how to offer their services to kings as well as pharaohs in order to extend their supply sites and possibly pave the way to India.

Pepper Reigns The Roman Empire

The Roman Empire, whose boundaries progressively extended from one side of the Mediterranean to the other, couldn’t ignore these bewitching spices. Cleopatra herself used a “very stimulating” food to seduce Caesar. Huge quantities of saffron were strewn on the streets of Rome to celebrate Nero’s entrance into the city. The reputed excesses of ancient Roman food consumption were apparent in the wide variety of seasonings used in the meals of the rich. Long pepper, the Roman spice of choice, was as omnipresent as garum Iberico (a special salty fish paste from Portugal) on the Roman tables. Without a doubt, spices were elevated to a status symbol.

Story of SpiceIn the biblical story of the Magi, three kings from the exotic reaches of the Orient give gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn Jesus Christ. Frankincense and myrrh were rare, very expensive spices of the time. And in the 5th century, the Prophet Mohammed, from the merchant tribe of the Quora sites, took advantage of the spice trade to spread his Holy Message.

Spices In The Middle Ages

From the 10th century on, the crusades prompted a rediscovery of spices; seasonings made an obvious comeback to the tables of the great and powerful European courts. It was mainly from what was then referred to as the ‘Orient’, overland via Arabia and the Red Sea, Egypt and the ports of Venice and Genoa that spices reached Britain. Venetian merchants, strategically located midway between the Levant and Western Europe, became the great middlemen of the spice trade. They sent their cargoes via Flanders and the Low Countries for sale in local markets to supply the Northern European countries.

Certain spices were worth so much that one of them even became currency, such as pepper. In court, litigants bribed judges with spices. Culinary and medicinal uses overlapped, and grocers and apothecaries often worked in the same companies. Besides traditional black pepper, some of the other prized spices of the era were long pepper from Sumatra, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and galangal (a ginger-like spice from Southeast Asia).

The European Navigators Set Sail

As with any great discovery, the opening of the Southern seaboard spice route was no accident. Portuguese navigators and geographers had been working at it for over a half-century. Henry the navigator, who encouraged exploration of the African coast, was the most famous of them. Christopher Columbus set sail in 1492 to head west and find gold and spices, hoping to hit the Indian coast where these precious commodities could be found. Controlling and supplying the spice market were key objectives for the Portuguese and Spanish powers at the time in their goal to overturn the Arab and Venetian monopoly in the Mediterranean.

The virtual monopoly that Venice had held of the European spice trade and which had made the Serene Republic rich – was doomed. One day in May 1498 Vasco da Gama anchored his ship off the coast of India. The Arab merchants were shocked to see a Portuguese man on Indian shores. “We are looking for Christians and spices,” stated the Portuguese navigator, and with that, the Arabs saw their monopoly crumble. The sea route to India was discovered at last.

Three months later da Gama set off on his return voyage to Lisbon, bearing news that the ruler of Calicut was prepared to barter cinnamon and cloves, ginger and pepper for gold, silver and (strangely) scarlet cloth. The European spice trade passed into the hands of the Portuguese, who held on to it – with difficulty – for a century, only to lose it to the Dutch, whose trade with Java and the Spice Islands, as the Moluccas came to be known, led to the formation in 1602 of the powerful Dutch East India Company.

By the 1680s, the Dutch had established a total monopoly of the highly profitable trade in cloves and nutmegs, while the Portuguese retained a corner in the cinnamon business. At this period, British cooking was still heavy with ginger and pepper, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. The food of Italy, Portugal, France, Holland and Germany was similarly spiced and scented.

p1010906It was not until towards the middle of the seventeenth century that the British East India Company held a monopoly on all trade with India and that the British began developing its cooking along lines we recognise today. Spices and sugar were readily available and became relatively cheap, and were, therefore, less prized and used with more discretion. But the economic value of these products declined as farming sites increased.

The Dutch jealously protected access to the Moluccas for fear of seeing their clove and nutmeg trees exported to other regions, which would have ruined their monopoly. Thievery of this sort was punishable by death. After many attempts, a few pepper and nutmeg trees were successfully transplanted to Mauritius Island. This eventually led to a dispersion of plant production sites across Dutch, English, and French colonial empires, which involved spices in addition to coffee, cocoa, and many other plants. The tight reins on the industry were loosening.

Where Are We Now?

Today, colonial empires have all but vanished, physically speaking of course and spices are used in almost everything we eat, and costs are relatively low. It is hard to imagine that these fragrant bits of leaves, seeds, and bark were once so coveted and costly. For centuries wars were waged, new lands discovered, and the earth circled, all in the quest of spices. However, many of the spices have other purported properties as well as their culinary uses, such as nutmeg which is believed by some to be an aphrodisiac.

Thanks to the vogue of international travel, we can engage in our own spice conquest now. We can stroll through market stalls around the world where spices, perfumes, and exotic plants and flowers enchant the senses. And when we take these scents and tastes of far-reaching places back to our homes, we are again compelled to discover the allure of the unknown.

More information:

Watch: The Story of… Spice

A Short History Of Beer

A Short History Of Beer

Many anthropologists and archaeologists now believe that it was a taste for beer, not bread that started people farming barley around 9000 BC. Known as the agricultural revolution, it ended hunter-gathering and led to the world’s first ever civilization – Mesopotamia.

10,000 BC – 5,000 BC: Beer is first discovered, and perhaps responsible for the formation of society.

4000 BC: In the Middle East the Sumer people were fermenting a form of bread to make a fermented pulp which had an intoxicating effect – a “divine drink”.

3,000 BC – 500 BC: Ancient Egyptians drank beer daily, and it was often prescribed as Medicine. The Babylonians had up to 20 different types of beer. The early beer was cloudy and unfiltered and was usually drunk through a straw to avoid drinking the solids from the brew, which could be very bitter.  Beer also featured in wedding traditions.  The father of the bride made a Beer Month for the bridegroom during the first month after the wedding. This means that the newly married man could drink beer chock-full at his father-in-law’s expense.

2000 BC: Beer was commonly drunk because it is more nutritious than bread and less likely to contain harmful pathogens than drinking water, which can make you ill. During harvest, instead of payment, participants are rewarded with a special feast, often involving quantities of alcohol, which also transformed the work from a chore into a social event.  The people of the Bronze Age, it seems, were well aware of the relaxing properties of alcohol.

1772 BC: Hammurabi’s Code regulates daily rations of beer depending on status.

1550 BC: The Egyptians were also keen brewers and beer and malt has been found buried in the tombs of the Pharoahs to provide sustenance for the afterlife.

100 AD: Beer was extensively drunk throughout the Roman Empire. The Romans preferred wine and introduced grapes into much of the Southern part of the Empire including the South of England. The local inhabitants tended to drink beer. Beer from this time had to be consumed fresh, was served cloudy and would have produced little or no foam. To aid its taste and keeping properties bitter herbs and spices may have been used.

The Middle Ages: In the Middle Ages the largest brewers were the monasteries. The refreshing beer made a welcome break in a very austere lifestyle and could still be enjoyed during times of fasting. Monks soon acquired a taste for ale and records show that in some monasteries consumption up to five litres a day was allowed.

c. 800 AD: Hops are first used to flavour beer. The first recorded use of hops in beer dates back to 822AD in Northern France, but it wasn’t for another 300 years that Germany caught on and it only became commonplace in the 13th century.  The addition of hops slowly spread throughout Europe, reaching Britain by the middle of the 15th century.  Before people used hops to flavour beer, they used spices and herbs – a mixture known as gruit.

c. 1300: Beer shifts commercial production from home sin to pubs and monasteries.

1516 Medieval Germans nearly ruined beer forever.  The world’s first food ingredient regulation is the Reinheitsgebot German Purity Law and extended to the whole of Bavaria in 1516.  It later included the rest of Germany.  The law stipulated that beer could only be brewed from water, hops and malt (the use of yeast was not yet known).  This created a very bland lager.

The Brewer designed and engraved in the sixteenth century by J Amman

Beer In Early European History

By the 14th and 15th centuries, beer-making was gradually changing from a family-oriented activity to an artisan one, with pubs and monasteries brewing their own beer for mass consumption.

In 15th century England, an unhopped beer would have been known as an ale, while the use of hops would make it a beer. Hopped beer was imported to England from the Netherlands as early as 1400 in Winchester, and hops were being planted on the island by 1428. The popularity of hops was at first mixed — the Brewers Company of London went so far as to state “no hops, herbs, or other like thing be put into any ale or liquor wherof ale shall be made — but only liquor (water), malt, and yeast.” However, by the 16th century, “ale” had come to refer to any strong beer, and all ales and beers were hopped.

In 1516, William IV, Duke of Bavaria, adopted the Reinheitsgebot (purity law), perhaps the oldest food regulation still in use today. The Gebot ordered that the ingredients of beer be restricted to water, barley, and hops, with yeast added after Louis Pasteur’s discovery in 1857. The Bavarian law was applied throughout Germany as part of the 1871 German unification as the German Empire under Otto von Bismarck, and has since been updated to reflect modern trends in beer brewing. To this day, the Gebot is considered a mark of purity in beers, although this is controversial.

Most beers until relatively recent times were what are now called ales. Lagers were discovered by accident in the 16th century after beer was stored in cool caverns for long periods; they have since largely outpaced ales in terms of volume.

The Caledonian Brewery, founded in 1869, Edinburgh, Scotland

The Caledonian Brewery, Scotland

Beer During The Industrial Revolution

With the invention of the steam engine in 1765, industrialization of beer became a reality. Further innovations in the brewing process came about with the introduction of the thermometer and hydrometer in the 19th century, which allowed brewmasters to increase efficiency and attenuation.

Prior to the late 18th century, malt was primarily dried over fires made from wood, charcoal, or straw, and after 1600, from coke.

In general, none of these early malts would have been well shielded from the smoke involved in the kilning process, and consequently, early beers would have had a smoky component to their flavors; evidence indicates that maltsters and brewers constantly tried to minimize the smokiness of the finished beer.

Writers of the period describe the distinctive taste derived from wood-smoked malts, and the almost universal revulsion it engendered. The smoked beers and ales of the West Country were famous for being undrinkable – locals and the desperate excepted. This is from “Directions for Brewing Malt Liquors” (1700):

“In most parts of the West, their malt is so stenched with the Smoak of the Wood, with which ’tis dryed, that no Stranger can endure it, though the inhabitants, who are familiarized to it, can swallow it as the Hollanders do their thick Black Beer Brewed with Buck Wheat.”

So, a bit of an acquired taste, then. Here’s an even earlier reference to such malt by William Harrison, in his “Description of England”, 1577:

“In some places it [malt] is dried at leisure with wood alone, or straw alone, in other with wood and straw together, but, of all, the straw-dried is the most excellent. For the wood-dried malt, when it is brewed, beside that the drink is higher of colour, it doth hurt and annoy the head of him that is not used thereto, because of the smoke. Such also as use both indifferently do bark, cleave, and dry their wood in an oven, thereby to remove all moisture that should procure the fume…”

Not exactly an unequivocal endorsement. Here’s what “London and Country Brewer” (1736) has to say:

“Brown Malts are dryed with Straw, Wood and Fern, etc.The straw-dryed is the best, but the wood sort has a most unnatural Taste, that few can bear with, but the necessitous, and those that are accustomed to its strong smoaky tang; yet it is much used in some of the Western Parts of England, and many thousand Quarters of this malt has been formerly used in London for brewing the Butt-keeoing-beers with, and that because it sold for two shillings per Quarter cheaper than Straw-dryed Malt, nor was this Quality of the Wood-dryed Malt much regarded by some of its Brewers, for that its ill Taste is lost in nine or twelve Months, by the Age of the Beer, and the strength of the great Quantity of Hops that were used in its preservation.”

Wood-dried malt had a horrible taste, but some London brewers did once use it because it was cheap and after long aging in a heavily-hopped beer you didn’t notice the vile smokiness any more.

However, the straw-dried brown malt preferred in London was the least affected. That was the very reason it was valued above the wood-dried variety. In “Town and Country Brewery Book” (approx. 1830, p.47), there is a chapter about what can go wrong during malting. Smoking malt was seen as a serious mistake:

“The third error consists in the drying of malt. They are apt to be tainted by the smoke, through the carelessness, covetousness, or unskilfulness of the maker. Every care ought to be taken to guard against this accident as one of the most prejudicial that can befall malt drinks.”

The hydrometer transformed how beer was brewed. Before its introduction beers were brewed from a single malt: brown beers from brown malt, amber beers from amber malt, pale beers from pale malt. Using the hydrometer, brewers could calculate the yield from different malts. They observed that pale malt, though more expensive, yielded far more fermentable material than cheaper malts. For example, brown malt (used for Porter) gave 54 pounds of extract per quarter, whilst pale malt gave 80 pounds. Once this was known, brewers switched to using mostly pale malt for all beers supplemented with a small quantity of highly-coloured malt to achieve the correct colour for darker beers.

The invention of the drum roaster in 1817 by Daniel Wheeler allowed for the creation of very dark, roasted malts, contributing to the flavour of porters and stouts. Its development was prompted by a British law of 1816 forbidding the use of any ingredients other than malt and hops. Porter brewers, employing a predominantly pale malt grist, urgently needed a legal colourant. Wheeler’s patent malt was the solution.

The discovery of yeast’s role in fermentation in 1857 by Louis Pasteur gave brewers methods to prevent the souring of beer by undesirable microorganisms.

The Free Mash Tun Act 1880: Malt was first taxed in Britain in 1660, and the legislation prohibited the use of other cereals in brewing. The repeal followed a bad barley harvest and pressure from the colonial sugar growers to allow sugar cane to be used in the beer. The new law enabled “the brewer to brew from what he pleases and have a perfect choice of his materials and methods”.  The predominant beers of the day were dark quite sweet and malty – and often served at different alcoholic strength – strong ale, medium ale and weak ale made from different extracts of the same brew.

Without beer there would have been no Napoleonic Wars as beer was the first commodity to be taxed – principally to fund the British Empire.  By the 18th & 19th centuries the British government concentrated the industry into big London breweries, primarily for ease of tax collection.

Bottling beer in a modern facility, 1945, Australia

Bottling beer in a modern facility, 1945, Australia

Modern Beer

Prior to Prohibition, there were thousands of breweries in the United States, mostly brewing heavier, European-style beers. Beginning in 1920, most of these breweries went out of business, although some converted to soft drinks and other businesses. Bootlegged beer was often watered down to increase profits, beginning a trend, still on-going today, of the American palate preferring lighter beers. Consolidation of breweries and the application of industrial quality control standards have led to the mass-production and the mass-marketing of huge quantities of light lagers. Smaller breweries, including microbreweries and craft brewers, and imports, have serviced the segment of the American market that prefers fuller-bodied beers.

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The Story Of Cheese

The Story Of Cheese

Cheese is one of the most ubiquitous foods in the world, ever-present across the world. Its many different variants reflect the cultural and culinary identity of each corresponding country.


Cheese is one of the most ubiquitous foods in the world, ever-present across the world. Its many different variants reflect the cultural and culinary identity of each corresponding country. There are over 500 recognised types of cheese, each distinct from the other.

Cheese has a long and extensive history stretching back prior to recorded history. The earliest trace of cheese-making was found following excavations of Lake Neuchatel around 6000 BC. The earliest visual evidence dates back to 2000 BC as indicated by murals on Egyptian tombs.

Cheese-making was clearly common by the point of Hellenic civilisation. Many major Ancient Greek texts make mention of cheese as a common food item, most notably Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’.

The development of more common modern-day cheeses began in Europe during the end of the Middle Ages during the 16th Century. Cheddar was first historically noted in 1500 with parmesan following in 1597. This period saw cheese begin to diversify and shift to reflect each region’s cuisine and culture. Production increased significantly and the amount of cheeses skyrocketed. Despite this, cheese is generally less popular outside of non-European indigenous cuisine, although it has become popular since the advent of colonialism.

During the industrial revolution, cheese production methods modernised considerably with the first cheese-making factory opening in 1815 in Switzerland. Mass-production methods were popularised in the United States, which changed the process forever. This effectively democratised cheese, making it far more affordable and accessible to poorer people and less associated with the upper class.

How It’s Made

Cheese production varies depending on the particular type but there is a generalised process which applies to all variants. As a dairy product, cheese is derived from milk. Cow’s milk is the most popular and widely-used although sheep’s, buffalo’s and goat’s milk is also used for some major cheeses (such as feta or manchego).

16437592489_28cfdd1716_bThe cheese-making process includes a process called curdling, which sees acids added to the product such as vinegar, lemon juice or bacteria. This causes the milk sugars to become lactic acids. The milk is acidified into solid curds through the addition of this as well as rennet. This changes the cheese into a soft, moist gel. In the case of soft cheeses, the process is virtually complete. For the bulk of other cheeses there is more to be done.

The curd is cut into small portions and the water drained from individual pieces. Hard cheeses are often then heated at a temperature between 35-55 degrees Celsius. Following this, each cheese is treated with a different flourish to give it its specific identity. For example, mozzarella is stretched.

Finally, the cheese is stored under controlled conditions and allowed to age to achieve its ripest flavour. This period ranges from a matter of days to a number of years.

Top French Cheeses

There is perhaps no other country where cheese is more important to its culinary and cultural identity than France. Former President Charles de Gaulle famously asked ‘How would you govern a country that has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?’ Indeed, France is known for its immense breadth of cheese, most of which are strictly protected.


Arguably the most famous and popular of the French cheeses, brie is produced from cow’s milk with added rennet. It is served as a part of a circular wheel and is known its white mould rind, which is edible. It is often served alongside fruit.


Very similar to Brie is Camembert. First produced in the eponymous Norman town at the end of the 18th Century, Camembert is highly popular both in France and abroad. It is known for its white mould rind, but has a softer, gooier texture than brie and a stronger flavour.


France is highly regarded for its wide variety of blue cheeses. However, Roquefort is probably the most well-known and popular of these. Dating back several hundreds of years, it is one of the most distinct cheeses in the world, known for its lack of rind, crumbly consistency, strong smell and highly tangy taste.


One of France’s most distinct cheese, Boursin is one of many hailing from the Gournay region of Normandy. It is known for its soft, creamy texture and is often used as a spread, not dissimilar to cream cheese. It originated in 1957 and has since become highly popular, now available in a variety of different flavours.


16003635413_36fdb1c9b2_kOne of France’s most distinct cheeses, Rebolochon is made from raw cow’s milk and is notably unavailable in a number of countries, such as the United States due to its not being pasteurised. It is a soft, smear-ripened cheese known for its nutty taste and soft consistency. It is a major ingredient in the iconic Alpine dish Tartiflette.

Top Spanish Cheeses

While its cheeses are perhaps less internationally known than those of France and Italy, Spain is one of the continent’s finest cheesemaking countries, known for its wide variety of products.


Spain’s most iconic cheese is Manchego, made from sheep’s milk. Manchego is known for its lengthy ageing process, which takes a minimum of two months and often up to two years. The cheese is known for its firm consistency, creamy texture and mild taste. It is highly popular in the Americas, with a number of derivative cheeses existing there.


Another major Spanish cheese, Arzua is made from cow’s milk both pasteurised and raw. It is known for its circular shape, thin rine and soft and creamy texture. It has a sweet flavour. It is made in the town of the same name in the Spanish region of Galicia.


Spain’s most well-known blue cheese, Cabrales is generally made from unpasteurised cow’s milk, but is sometimes mixed with sheep’s or goat’s milk as well. It is known for its strict artisanal manufacturaing process and is only available in the Asturias region. It has a strong, acidic flavour.


16597430116_0558c27843_kOriginating from the island of Menorca on the Spanish Mediterranean coast and named for a natural port, Mahon is one of Spain’s most prestigious, versatile and sought-after cheeses. It is a distinct cheese which comes in both soft and hard forms. It has a sweet, salty and sharp taste and is known for its distinct orange rind, which is rubbed in a combination of butter, oil and paprika.

Top Italian Cheeses

Italy is one of the most prolific cheese producing countries in the world, the third largest behind France and Germany and has over 450 distinct varieties. Italy’s cheeses are known for being unique in character and incredibly popular overseas.


Italy’s most iconic cheese, mozzarella is one of the most iconic soft cheeses in the world. Made from buffalo’s milk, mozzarella is known for it stretchiness, distinct white colour and mild taste. It is a very versatile cheese, used in a number of different ways, most commonly as part of the base for pizzas. Outside of Italy, cow’s milk is most commonly used.


Another distinct cheese, ricotta is a whey cheese made from the milk of a variety of different animals. It is made from the whey left over from cheese production. It has a creamy white texture and a slightly sweet taste. It has a number of culinary uses, being present in a number of Italian deserts as well as having savoury uses, such as a filling for ravioli or a pizza topping.


One of Italy’s most popular exports, parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano as it is originally known is sometimes labelled the ‘King of Cheese’. Known for its hard texture, strong flavour and ubiquitous association with pasta dishes, parmesan is one of Italy’s many iconic dishes.


A hard cheese made from sheep’s milk, pecorino is one of Italy’s most popular cheeses. There are a number of different variants, the most notable of which being Pecorino Romano, which is a major food export. Pecorino is one of the country’s oldest cheeses, dating back to 2000 years ago. It is known for its crumbly texture and nutty flavour.


Italy’s most well-known variety of blue cheese, Gorgonzola is known for its strong and salty flavour while its texture varies from buttery to crumbly. It is a staple product of Northern Italy, mostly produced in the regions of Lombardy and Piedmont.

Top Greek Cheeses

Greece is one of the finest cheese-producing regions in the world. While there is some variety, their cheeses are generally fairly similar and have a unique character and can be eaten in a number of different contexts.


16622277481_a8a68a89de_bWithout a doubt Greece’s most popular and most-exported cheese, feta is a soft cheese generally made from sheep’s milk and sometimes in combination with goat’s milk. It is a brined curd cheese known for its crumbly texture and salty taste. It is most often used in salads or in pies such as the iconic Greek dish spanakopita.


The country’s second-most popular cheese, Graviera is a hard cheese produced throughout the country. It is made from sheep’s milk and is known for its versatility. It is used in salads, for pasta dishes, fried or simply sliced and eaten plain.


A fresh cheese made generally from goat’s milk but also from sheep’s milk, Anthotyros is known for its versatility, used in sweet and savoury dishes. It can be both soft and hard depending on its freshness.


One of Greece’s most sought-after and specialist cheeses, Manouri is similar to feta but with a few distinct characteristics. It has a slightly sour smell and is far less salty than feta but also more creamy. It is mainly produced in Macedonia and Thessalia.

Boutique Cheeses of the UK

The United Kingdom is one of the most cheese-obsessed countries in the world. While it perhaps lacks the same extensive historical legacy of cheesemaking boasted by countries such as France and Italy, it boasts a number of boutique cheeses which have emerged into international prominence in recent decades.

Cornish Blue

One of Britain’s most famous blue cheeses, the Cornish Blue as its name indicates is made in the Southern English region of Cornwall. It has won many national and international cheese awards. It is distinct from other English blue cheeses, known for its mild, creamy flavour and a slightly sweet, buttery taste.


16622731812_7bb8986e76_kOne of the most iconic English cheeses, Stilton comes in two varieties but is best known for its distinct blue variant. Dating back to the early 18th Century, Stilton is known for its distinct taste and strict manufacturing process.

Lincolnshire Poacher

One of Britain’s finest boutique cheeses, the Lincolnshire Poacher is not dissimilar to cheddar and is known for its extensive maturing process, which can take up to two years. It has won a number of awards and is often smoked.

Cornish Yarg

One of the country’s most distinct cheeses, the Cornish Yarg is a fairly recent contribution to British cheesemaking, dating back to the 1980’s. It is a semi-hard cheese made from cow’s milk. It is known for its unique maturing process, wrapped in nettle leaves, which forms an edible rind.

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Watch: The Story of… Cheese