From the fourth century B.C. in China, where tea was used as an aid in Buddhist meditation, to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when its destruction became a rousing symbol of the American Revolution, to its present-day role as the single most consumed beverage on the planet, "The Empire of Tea" explores the effects of the humble Camelia plant?both ...
From the fourth century B.C. in China, where tea was used as an aid in Buddhist meditation, to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when its destruction became a rousing symbol of the American Revolution, to its present-day role as the single most consumed beverage on the planet, "The Empire of Tea" explores the effects of the humble Camelia plant?both tragic and liberating?in the history of civilization. Alan MacFarlane explains, among other things, how tea became the world's most prevalent addiction, its use as an instrument of imperial control, and how the cultivation of tea led to the invention of machines and technology during the industrial revolution. "The Empire of Tea" also incorporates personal stories of the people whose lives have been affected by their contact with the global obsession with tea, including the elegantly detailed account of Iris MacFarlane about her life on a tea estate in the Indian province of Assam, the world's center of tea cultivation. A fascinatingly tour of the world's great tea cultures?Japan, China, India, France, the United Kingdom, and others?"The Empire of Tea" brings into sharp focus one of the forces that have shaped history.
Publishers Weekly, 2003-12-15 Iris MacFarlane, a tea planter's wife, lived on a tea estate in Assam, India, for 20 years, and in the first chapter of this informative story of tea, she gives a moving account of her futile attempts to better the lives of the Assamese laborers, whom the British looked down upon as "irremediably inferior" to themselves. Then she and her son Alan, who was born on the estate and is now a professor of social anthropology, delve into the history of the leaf that over thousands of years became "the world's favorite drink," emphasizing the links between tea and political, cultural, social and economic events in China, Japan, India and England, where the British obsession with that "nice cup of tea" fueled the rapid growth of the British Empire. They also expound on the health benefits of tea, listing its many medicinal properties and contending that when tea was first introduced into China, Japan and England, it led to a decline in mortality rates because boiling the water to make it kills harmful bacteria. The story comes full circle in the final chapters, which concentrate on the hardships of the "coolies" who labored to harvest and process tea under the control of their rapacious British overlords. Although the book is more scholarly and less provocative than Roy Moxham's recent indictment of the British tea industry, Tea: A History of Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire (Forecasts, Aug. 25), it presents an equally fascinating picture of tea's impact on the lives of millions of people around the world. Illus. not seen by PW. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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