Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire

Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire

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Roy Moxham
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Tea came late to popularity in England—after its arrival in Portugal, Holland, and France—but it quickly became a national obsession. And business. Tea gardens and tea shops sprang up everywhere in seventeenth-century England. Demand soon spread to the colonies, where the heavy taxation on tea led to smuggling on a massive scale and, in the New World, cost England her American empire. Tea also drove the British to war with China, to guarantee the supply of pekoe, and it prompted colonists to clear jungles in India, Ceylon, and Africa for huge tea plantations. In time the cultivation of tea would subject more than one million laborers to wretched, often inhuman working conditions. Hundreds of thousands of them would die for the commodity that for four centuries propelled Britain's economy and epitomized the reach of its empire. Bringing colorful detail and narrative skill to this history, author Roy Moxham—once a tea planter himself—maps the impact of a monumental and imperial British enterprise. In this book, he offers a fully fascinating, and frequently shocking, tale of England's tea trade—of the lands it claimed, the people it exploited, the profits it garnered, and the cups it filled.