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Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  187 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Tea came late to England—after its arrival in Portugal, Holland, and France—but quickly became a national obsession. Tea gardens and 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 drove the British ...more
Paperback, 271 pages
Published 2003 by Carroll & Graf, Publishers
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Ms. Burleson
Jan 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
This book provided a solid overview of tea cultivation, imperialism and economics; the organization of these topics by setting (China, India) and chronology (18 century, Victoria era) kept the broad overview well-organized. Within chapters, however, the chronology and discussion felt muddled -- particularly in the last few chapters of the book. Compounding this feeling were the author's introductory and concluding chapters, which focused upon his own experience in the tea industry. Although inte ...more
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love tea. More than coffee these days. I have to have my morning cup! So I was interested in reading about the history of tea. I thought it would be a fun and interesting "story". I was really shocked and amazed while reading this book. There is a lot to this story that is amazing in this interesting and well researched book. And in many ways, it is a shocking statement about what a colony really is. I had never really thought about what it means to be a colony. But through both of Roy Moxham' ...more
Roopesh Kohad
Aug 27, 2019 rated it liked it
The book has lot of details about how it was grown, experimented with and flourished in different parts of the world including China. However, the names, the places and geography is so detailed and having not been to those places doesn't evoke any visuals. The part about Darjeeling and surrounding was fascinating to read having visited them but even Assam couldn't relate. The Tea Planter's life which is described is fascinating. Didn't finish the entire book but not looking forward to. ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Une excellente vue d’ensemble des liens historiques entre l’empire Britannique et le thé, qui permet également de mieux comprendre les conditions dans lesquelles les grands pays producteurs de thé ont commencé. De quoi se sentir mal en buvant sa tasse du matin...
Également intéressant pour quiconque s’intéresse à l’histoire du colonialisme.
Dec 09, 2019 added it
Shelves: 2019
Lots of interesting info. The colonists just take take take.
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
I read this in one day on vacation. Interesting to read the exploitive history of tea and what lengths Britain went to get their cup of tea fix. (Getting China hooked on opium so they can keep trade open? Not cool.) Moxham's language was pretty colonistic, though he strongly disapproves the abuses Britain did to workers in India and Cylon. His word choices sometimes rubbed me the wrong way (gangs of Africans, for instance). His opening and ending chapters were a head scratcher, as well. He start ...more
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2010
This book sucked me in initially because it started with the author's own experiences about working on a tea estate in Africa.

Then, he takes a nosedive into the historical context of how the tea empire started, grew, and basically took advantage of the local populations. There's a lot of awful, terrible behavior to account for. This part, which was the bulk of the book, was also the most dry and seemed vaguely repetitious. It contains a good deal of useful information, and a well constructed ge
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
First few pages were fascinating. Then it got really boring. Tea is a hobby and I was intrigued by the subtitle of 'Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire'. I had hoped this book would address the less "romantic" aspects of tea (tea parties held by people in nice clothes, etc.) and more about the darker side of tea, its place in history, how it's harvested, etc.
Initially we start off with Moxham's own history of picking up and working on a tea estate in Africa and that definitely perked my interes
Max Graef
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire is about how the power of an empire can take something as simple as leaf water and turn it into a massive industry that runs off of conquering others and bloodshed. Britain’s obsession with Tea is what made it what it is today. They weren’t even the first to have discovered Tea. Britain’s power is what was able to make Tea such a common commodity today. It wasn’t always this way. Tea was once only for the very wealthy. My favorite parts of the book are th ...more
Library of the Field Museum
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: botany
A great book on economic botany, exploring the seedy underbelly of tea. Part memoir, part entertaining expository, Moxham weaves an intriguing history of war, smuggling, agriculture, and enterprise all fueled by a love of tea. Definitely told from the British point of view, sometimes lacking sensitivity towards slavery and local worker which is a touch cringe-worthy at times addressing topics of local customs and abusive conditions with a dry detachment typical of many historical non-fiction. -M ...more
May 07, 2021 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Quite interesting and informative history of the British relationship with tea. The first and last chapters comprise autobiographical anecdotes from the author's experience of working in a tea plantation in Nyasaland around 1960. ...more
Lara Samulenok
Jul 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lara by: JM
Shelves: non-fiction
I like how the author sandwiched the history of tea between his own personal experiences.
Brooke Lyndaker
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Provides an excellent overview of the subject without sacrificing details. I found interesting quotations throughout the book that were worth underlining for future reference.
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Interesting and informative story of tea - the growth, trade and the social history of planters and labour. It covers China, India, Ceylon and touches upon East Africa. Fascinating side facts - did you know that Jardine-Matheson bank - Jardine made his original profits on opium traded to the Chinese and joined up with Matheson who was also in the opium business...
Also - to quote - 'The Americans were also in the opium business. As Indian opium was monopolized by the British they had to find su
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: teetotalers
Recommended to Kate by: 382.45663 M
Shelves: history
"Tea is utterly improper for food, hitherto useless in physick, and therefore to be arranged among the poysonous vegetables. Were it entirely wholesome as balm or mint, it were yet mischief enough to have our whole populace used to sip warm water in a mincing effeminate manner once or twice a day...In this manner the bold and brave become dastardly, the strong become weak, the women become barren; or if they breed, their blood is made so poor that they have not the strength to suckle, and if the ...more
Aug 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, tea
Moxham writes with authority; as a young man, he managed a tea plantation in Africa, so he brings both immediate experience and meticulous research to his explanation of the development of the British tea trade.

Moxham's book provides a detailed account of the trade, from its inception through the Opium Wars to present-day plantations in India and Africa.

The book is a dense read, often crammed with statistics. Overall, though, it provides a useful history of the tea trade, with plenty of informat
Julian Walker
Dec 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is my favourite drink so it made sense to know a little more about it and in Tea, Roy Moxham has created a special brew.

Part history, part observational commentary, full on enjoyment, he puts history into perspective through the rise of the humble cuppa.

Well written, eminently readable and a gold mine of interesting facts, this fascinating account of the impact a few leaves have had on society is a rare treat.

Put the kettle on and settle down for an eye-opening insight into our lives.
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Tea served as a vehicle for British imperialism in it worst form. The plantation system virtually enslaved large population of workers for the sake of a cheap drink in England. I would have like more of the book devoted to tea's natural history and more time spent on the dynamics of tea in the twentieth century rather than on nineteenth century colonialism. The final chapter describes the author year spent as a manager on a tea plantation in Africa. ...more
Apr 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-history
This is not only entertaining, but more informative than the other brief histories out there. The author traces the history of tea largely through economics and politics, but uses enough examples and anecdotes to keep it interesting. I was surprised that there wasn't more about tea growing in Africa, as the author was a tea estate manager in Malawi at one time, but I would recommend this book. ...more
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
A very well written and concise introduction to tea. For the somewhat more enlightened reader, it may seem to gloss over the finer details, however, it is undeniably a very good staring point. Well researched and very aware of the absurd, often frightfully terrible history this pant has had, Moxham deserves mad props for this book.
I enjoyed this introduction to the history of tea and how closely its growth was linked to colonialism and wars in both India and China. I did also enjoy the bookend chapters of the author's experience as a tea grower in Africa in the 1960s - it gave a unique perspective into the world he'd spent a book describing. ...more
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
An interesting exploration of the history of tea cultivation and its impact on the various regions of the world. It starts and ends as a memoir of the author as a young man working in a tea plantation in Africa.
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book!!
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: tea
The beginning and end sections about his tea estate working experience were enjoyable, but the middle/history of tea was not told in the most interesting manner.
Jennifer Bentley
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Feb 11, 2019
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Feb 04, 2016
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Apr 13, 2011
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Nov 27, 2020
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Feb 18, 2018
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Roy Moxham is author of The Great Hedge of India (2001). After thirteen years in Africa, he became first a dealer in African Art, then a book conservator, now in charge of preservation and conservation at the University of London Library.

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