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Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  148 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
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 Amer ...more
Hardcover, 271 pages
Published 2003 by Carroll & Graf Publishers
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Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book!!
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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.
More about Roy Moxham...