London Tea Auction

The establishment of the London Tea Auction (LTA), also known as the Mincing Lane Auction, was an important landmark for the global tea industry. For over 300 years it played a crucial role in the development of the tea trade and helped establish London as a centre for tea trading. However, like all thing’s, times changed, and today the LTA is obsolete. 


PMD’s spiritual home of Maskeliya has a tea estate named Mincing Lane after the famous London Lane which was known as a fish market. The name “Mincing” was derived from a small, salted fish called "mynce" or "minch" that was sold in the area in mediaeval times. The street was first recorded as "Mynchen Lane" in 1276 and was later known as "Myncherylane" and "Mynechynlane" before evolving into its current name, Mincing Lane. 

In the early days Tea was sold on the banks of the river Thames straight from the clipper ships that docked from China. As the trading volumes increased, a more formal and structured way of tea trading was needed. The East India Company who had a monopoly on the China tea trade set up the first tea auction in 1680 from its company offices, East India House on Leadenhall Street.

From 1873 small quantities of Ceylon teas started to make their way out to the London auction and James Taylor’s Loolecondra Estate was the first tea plantation on the island to trade at the LTA 

As the new markets of India and Ceylon became tea producers and the monopoly of the East India company wrapped up the role of the tea brokers became important. They were responsible for showcasing teas from origins to buyers and evaluate teas and matching the correct tea to the correct buyer.

The London tea auction eventually moved to Plantation House in 1936 until 1970. In 1940’s the auctions were suspended due to tea rationing. This suspension gave way to more tea being sold at the point of origin and auctions in Calcutta and Colombo started to keep more of the teas for sale. This marked the beginning of the end of the LTA’s importance. It also coincided with the demise of the London docks as containers and ships became larger. 

The final London tea auction took place on the 29th of June 1998. The final consignment of tea sold in London was a Ceylon tea from Hellbodde Estate in Kandy which holds the record for the highest price per kilo in the LTA’s history at £555/kilo.

 The new buildings of Mincing Lane. Minster Court was once home to Colombo Commercial, one of the largest sellers of Ceylon tea.

If you would like to see what Mincing Lane looks like today, click here.