Keeping Cozy With a Captivating Cuppa
December 01, 2011
With my previous articles on Bowler hats and Steampunk, it should come as no surprise that I love tea. I began drinking tea many years ago to impress a lady. No—I hadn’t heard about the many health benefits, I didn’t like the taste, and I had no idea tea came in colors, let alone know the difference between black and green teas. Like many a lad gone courting, I was ready to try new ideas to win a smile.
Drinking tea is most likely the least stupid thing I have done to impress a lady, and I found myself quite enjoying myself after a few cups. Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world and is only beaten out by water in volume consumed. At its most basic, tea is quite simple. Boil water, add tea leaves, pour, and drink. It gets much more complicated, and reading the side of a box of tea bags can be a similar experience to listening to a wine connoisseur.
Entering into this veritable fog of confusion is For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World's Favorite Drink and Changed History by Sarah Rose. Rose follows the adventure of Robert Fortune as he is hired by the British East India Company. He is tasked with not only single-handedly stealing the secrets of tea cultivation from China (who was not on friendly terms with the British), but also hiring native workers to transport the tea to India in order to save the company from utter destruction.
The book takes the reader on a tour of the 19th century world of empires and trade agreements. It explains not only the difference between green and black tea, but also why the English prefer black teas (turns out green tea was being dyed with poisonous dyes to give it a richer color). It introduces us to India and Assam, the local tea that was grown there, and gives us a glimpse into the past when the Terrarium (known at the time as the Wardian Case) was the newest technological advancement in botany.
So on the next chilly winter day, brew a cup of your favorite drink, check out a good book, and relax by the window. Take a trip into the past and relive facing down pirates, becoming the world’s foremost expert on the flora of Imperial China, and bringing the Darjeeling region 20,000 tea plants all while in disguise and under constant threat of discovery.
Until next time, stay classy Raytown.