Tea Writings

A blog about tea from the desk of Cecilia Tan

Archive for June, 2010

Idleness and Industry

June 05, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Books, Tea Musings

It’s one of life’s inherent paradoxes–isn’t it?–that we associate sipping a cup of tea with slowing down and taking a moment to relax, and yet the tea trade is one of the most labor intensive of all industries. I have now had the pleasure of reading Sarah Rose’s For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History and so can say that this has been true for over a century.

The tea industry would never again be the same in the wake of the massive global changes brought about by British Empire-building. The shift of the English taste from green to black tea and the fate of India and the East India Company (the world’s first multinational corporation) hinged on the clandestine expeditions of botanist Robert Fortune. He traveled into remote areas of China where no white man had ever gone in order to unlock the secrets of Chinese tea production, so that the British colonies in India could seed massive plantations to break the Chinese monopoly.

The book and the historical tale it recounts is fascinating, but I only had the leisure to read it thanks to an unexpected afternoon free while visiting the city of New Orleans. (more…)