World history of tea
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.”