Tea: The Drink That Changed the World
March 10, 2013
Author Laura C. Martin
Publisher Tuttle Publishing
Publication Date 2007
While studying Chinese, I decided to read this tea history, as a window into Chinese culture. Five thousand years of culture is a little overwhelming, and I thought picking a small corner might be more manageable.
Thus, a tea book, in spite of the fact that I have never been much of a tea person. In reading Tea: The Drink That Changed the World by Laura Martin, I reflected on the following:
- Wow, I am truly a tea ignoramus.
- Tea is much more than tea; it is business and culture and a way of life.
- Despite my yoga and decaffeination experiments, the art of serenity that seems closely allied to the whole tea thing is not really my bag.
- Tea—or the drive for profits through tea—has led to a shocking amount of global suffering, including widespread opium addiction in China, where drugs were swapped prolifically for the tea the world craved. There are quite a few very sad stories in this book.
I appreciated Martin’s elegant blend of tea with a wide range of other human interests: politics, business, botany, geography, food and beverage tastes, art, and questions of socioeconomic status. This book is a fairly brief superficial romp, but a quick read has its place in a library and may be just right depending on your purposes.
Having read it, I can say I now feel slightly more prepared for New York’s Chinatown tea shops.
In conclusion, although Tea: The Drink That Changed the World focuses, not surprisingly, on Asia and England, I did like this 1925 quote from Dr. Royal S. Copeland, once the New York City health commissioner: “The most trying hours in life are between four o’clock and the evening meal. A cup of tea at this time adds a lot of comfort and happiness.”