Photograph of blue painted tea cup and saucer


Photograph of blue painted tea cup and saucer


A Nice Cup of Tea


Buying fairly-traded tea means a fair wage for workers in India, China and other tea-producing areas.

How do you take your tea? One sugar or two? We are all used to the welcome of a nice cup of tea. But for the Nice Cup of Tea project we looked behind the familiar English cuppa to the history of Empire and transatlantic slavery with which it is intimately linked. To reach a wide audience we held tea parties, hosted performances, handling sessions and toured a pop-up exhibition. We explored how British trade with China for tea led to the brutal ‘Opium Wars’ in the mid- 1800s. Following the history of the British in India revealed how the tea industry exploited local people for the profit of British companies. And looking to the Caribbean we learnt of the huge cost in lives and suffering of enslaved people that went into producing the sugar to sweeten the tea drunk in Britain, and to increasing the riches of the white slave-owning families.

The Museum of Oxford is now able to use the handling collection of historic cups, ranging from a Chinese tea-bowl from the 1780s, to a 1990s cup and saucer, to help children in local schools learn about trade, Empire and the reality behind ‘a nice cup of tea’. Our local partners included BKLuwo, Pitt Rivers Museum, OU History Faculty Race Equality Working Group, Oxford Windrush Planning Group, Euton Daley, Amantha Edmead, Common Ground student activist group, Oxford University African Caribbean Society (ACS), portrait photographer Fran Monks, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford City Council and the Museum of Oxford, ACKHI (African Caribbean Kultural Heritage Initiative, Oxford Arts Consultants Angeli Vaid and Myfanwy Lloyd, artists Lois Muddiman & Enam Gbewonyo, as well as individual local activists such as Michelle Codrington-Rogers.

Photo by Fran Monks (


A Nice Cup of Tea project, with Mimi Goodall, Elisabeth Grass, and photographer Fran Monks


Museum of Oxford


June 2018


Angeli Vaid and Myfanwy Lloyd,


A Nice Cup of Tea Project, Fran Monks

Original Format


Add your thoughts

Allowed tags: <p>, <a>, <em>, <strong>, <ul>, <ol>, <li>