World history of tea

Original article published by Beverage Blog - Tuesday 26 September 2017

A new 568 page book has been written by Erika Rappaport, with the ambitious title of ‘A Thirst for Empire: How Tea Shaped the Modern World.’

A review in the Financial Times of 19th August shows the claim is not altogether unfounded. It is a story of how “moralists and marketers” turned “an obscure China drink to a universal beverage imbued with civilising properties.”

• In the 1700s, temperance campaigners promoted tea as “a pleasure that cheered but did not inebriate”.

• Industrialists used this to advance the case for free trade.

• Factory owners appreciated the benefit of having a sober workforce.

• Christian missionaries found tea “would soothe any colonial encounter.”

• In the Second World War, tea service was seen as a “social and patriotic activity that uplifted soldiers and calmed refugees.”

Reviewer Pietra Rivoli summed up the contribution of tea to society as ”more an idea – friendship, community, respect – than a drink.”

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