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A Brief History of Tea

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  220 ratings  ·  38 reviews
From the plantation to the breakfast table—the stimulating history of the world's obsession with tea from its first discovery in China to the present day. Moxham first became fascinated by the history of tea when he applied for a job to manage a plantation in Nyasaland, Africa. His book is a historical journey which includes all levels of society from the royal family to p ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 6th 2009 by Running Press (first published January 5th 2009)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
* Updated* Adds Review To Rating 4.2⭐
The book blends Roy Moxham's memoir of running a tea plantation in Africa during the waning days of the British Empire, with the story of tea itself. The two compliment each other very well. Even the history portion concerns itself more with the human aspects of tea - the people who grew it and the people who drank it and made it popular, rather than economics or geopolitics ( though these have their place). Moxham also goes into detail of the human cost of p
Aug 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I gotta say, this book destroyed any romantic ideas I had about tea. I'll never be able to watch a British period drama where the characters are drinking tea without thinking of the hundreds of thousands of Indian workers who died on British tea plantations. ~Yay British Empire~

In general this book is very dry and factual, which is why it took me a long time to finish. The part I found most interesting was the description of the author's time working as a manager of a tea plantation in the forme
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I find the history of commodities to be endlessly fascinating, and I heartily enjoyed this concise and readable account of tea.
Dave Courtney
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
A must read for anyone interested in the history of tea. The caption on the back suggests the story as a "dark history". The ensuing pages could very well lead you to rethink any sentimental appreciations of this popular drink (as we know it today).

One of the more fascinating elements of this brief history, which comes from author Roy Moxham's own journey in to Africa to participate in a plantation as a worker, is the sheer number of familiar crossroads with the formation of empires and institu
Janet Deaver-pack
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was surprised by the depth of history revealed in this book. The author named it correctly. For those who enjoy a good cup of Oriental or Indian tea, this is an excellent choice. I was also surprised regarding the close ties of the opium and tea trades in the 1800s. Mr. Moxham also goes into detail about tea picking, as well as how various teas (such as fermented and semi-fermented, smoked, and green) are produced.
Rucha Patkar
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read for tea lovers! Maxhom's writing is simple and interesting. he doesn't throw jargon at the readers. His book flows seamlessly and he weaves facts beautifully in his story telling. I would highly recommend this book! ...more
Andrew Little
I liked it for the most part. It started and ended pretty well, but at times it got bogged down in the middle with talking way too much about the mistreatment of workers on tea plantations. I understand the importance of discussing the mistreatment of workers and I know it is an important topic, but too much of the book was devoted to it and really slowed it down. I think the ending was closer to being what I thought the book would be about.
This book basically skips over China. While I understand that the author's expertise is mainly about India and Britain, the level of detail given suggests that he was perfectly capable of doing the extra research.

The title should really be "A Brief History of British Tea" or "A Brief History of Tea and Colonialism."
Eustacia Tan
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-about-tea
I thought I’d read most general histories on tea but clearly, I am wrong. I came across A Brief History of Tea while having a session at Cher’s house and immediately asked if I could borrow it because, well, I haven’t read this particular history yet.

So the thing is, I’m probably a bit biased by this point. I read the book not expecting a general history of tea, but more with an eye of finding out what makes this book different from the others. And I found it!

Unlike its title, A Brief History of
Kylie McGenniskin
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: tea, history
Not just a History of Tea, but a history of things that were directly and indirectly effected by tea growing and trade worldwide, including; smuggling, opium, mistreatment of anyone the Europeans could, war, the movement of silver, operation of plantations in different parts of the world, politics, major tea companies, The East India Company. A very good starting point with plenty of references to dive into afterwards. Relatively easy to read. Recommend pairing with a nice cup of your favourite ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A rather interesting book that I took my time reading.

This was the book I took for flights so slowly chapter by chapter it got done.

The content is informative and the writing easy. The last chapter was a nice touch to give you an idea of a tea planters life from the authors point of view.

Give the book a go.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fluid narration, full of interesting tidbits -- sometimes funny, mostly horrifying. Makes for a useful primer into British relations with China and India amongst many other things. Not as comprehensive as it could have been, and very centred on the UK, but I found it as engrossing as a novel. Now I'm full of (mostly) useless facts about my favourite drink! ...more
Sandesh Nayak
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Books brings out the exceptional story of cup of tea. How business minded britishers brought revolution in the plantation ,economic and demographic nature of British colonies.
Very detailed and full of facts which makes your cup of tea appear to be costly.
Mariano Abilleira
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very "fact heavy" for a casual read, although quite enlightening on the bloody background of a seemingly innocuous beverage. It really changes your perspective on some modern day luxury commodities like cacao, coffee... all come with an appalling human cost. ...more
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book. It doesn't talk (much) about the different kinds of teas but focuses on the history of tea instead which was what I wanted to learn about. Recommended. ...more
Grant Arundell
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've ruined way too many conversations with anecdotes from this book. ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A very enjoyable read. A bit of mildly-confusing time jumping though. Further proof of Europeans being money-hungry bullies to all races of people.
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A well-written, well-research history of the production and consumption of tea. The author bookends his book with his own experiences managing a tea plantation in Africa in the early 1960's. ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love tea. Black tea, the English way. So I thought this would be a fun book with teas, recipes, chat etc. No! It tells he dark and historic story of the impact of tea on countries, their wars and independence, the treatment of workers, as well as enough of the personal history of the author to show his expertise and awareness of history and plantations.
And then I discovered that the author was in my year at school- Prince Henry's Grammar School in Evesham, which is not a name I often see in p
Jun 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 2011
Although this is a work of popular, not academic, history, some indication somewhere of sources would occasionally be useful. Moxham traces the history of tea production and consumption, mostly in Britain and the Empire (he mostly ignores the history of tea-drinking in Asia except where it affects the European trade in tea), linking it to the histories of colonialism, empire, and slavery; like most such stories (coffee, chocolate, oil--all equally unedifying), it's marked by a great deal of viol ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An interesting read, but I felt that it spent too much time wandering around the British Empire. I guess that I was anticipating something a bit different, not the economic focus of the majority of the book. Moxham spends a lot of time discussing the impact of various plantation histories on the growth of the tea industry (ex. opium, coffee, indigo).
He also discusses the different plantations and tea varieties, starting in China, and then to Assam, then Celyon (aka Sri Lanka), and finally Afric
Alison C
I do not drink tea; I don't like the taste of it and never have. Nevertheless, I found A Brief History of Tea: The Extraordinary Story of the World's Favourite Drink, by Roy Moxham, to be a vastly entertaining and informative book. In it, Moxham traces the origins of tea from ancient China through to modern India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and various nations of Africa. Moxham himself ran a tea plantation in the early 1960s, in what was then called Nyasaland and is now known as Malawi, and he begin ...more
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Strictly alright. As a history-lover, I found the many pages of pure information on the tea 'colonies' of India and Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) quite interesting. But, they are just that - pure facts, rarely broken with anecdotes or so much as a details-oriented descriptive paragraph. The way the book begins and ends, with a story of an adventurous young Moxham, are really bookends that do not match the content in between. This could mislead potential readers who may 'try out' the first chapter or f ...more
Lorna Van kley
May 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am a tea connoisseur and enjoy reading about anything to do with tea. "A Brief History of Tea: The Extraordinary Story of the World's Favourite Drink". written by Roy Moxham is a very well written book, quite detailed and quite enlightening. It covers all the major growth areas of tea production and how they started. It also deals with all the challenges and the authors own plantation experience in Africa.
I found his information on the plantation workers very important as it shows the huge dis
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I now understand why colonization was disliked by so many countries. For example, when China clamped down on opium trading (the only way Britain could get at the tea in China) because of all the addition, Britain went to war with China to change this. In India workers were indentured by British tea plantation owners.

History-wise it was interesting to learn that only the wealthy could afford tea in the early days and that it was sold in coffee houses.
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Excellent readable history book about tea. I will never drink tea again without acknowledging the amazing way it came to be in front of me. If you think the topic of tea to be boring I highly recommend this book to change your mind.
Oct 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a good book about the history of tea. It focuses particularly on political and economical questions concerning the tea trade in the British Empire. A good read, although not a comprehensive one.
Pin Stripe
Mar 08, 2014 rated it liked it
I become tea-addict after reading this book. Interes'tea'ing. ...more
Mallee Stanley
Jun 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Loved this! But then I'm a tea drinker. ...more
Car Mint
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent readable book about tea. It's written in personal tone with fact of histories of tea. I become my love one ! ...more
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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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