The Tea Climate in England – Early 19

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The Tea Climate in England – Early 19th Century

The British opinion on selling drugs to China did not change after the Opium Wars. The East India Company closed its doors in 1858, and the private firms that transported opium on the Company’s behalf took over the growing and processing of opium within India. One such firm was Jardine & Matheson. James Matheson, founder, reportedly said, “Selling opium was the moral equivalent of selling brandy.” It may be understandable that little distinction was made between the two in England, when one considers it is likely there were many more British alcoholics than there were British opium addicts (Hyam, 28).

Drinking tea was associated with the respectable, civilized, and mild England, and this was set against the association of opium, and China, as barbaric and strong. This cultural delineation was used to justify the continuation of the opium-tea-silver triangle for as long as they could (Fromer, 44). Surprisingly, both tea and opium were identified with the consumer and not the producer. Opium was made by the British, but smoked by the Chinese; tea was made by the Chinese, but drank by British. This identification with both products was convenient only for the British (Fromer, 320).
Through marketing and advertising, the tea British industry tea helped create Britain’s national identity. The tea drinking public envisioned themselves as contributing to the growth of British naval, economic, and colonial power every time they purchased tea (Fromer, 29). New national themes in favor of expanding the British Empire began to take root among the people: competition among industrialized nations, national greatness, new international markets, and the revival of Christian missionary work in the British colonies (Hodge, 216).
In the early 19th century, tea drinking began to affect the inner workings of British daily life (Fromer, 59). “There are several things that Englishmen like to do without their women-folk (yet without any lack of love for them), but drinking tea is not one of those things – quite the reverse.” (Scott, 152). Men took tea in the teahouses and at home. In the 1850s, women began having tea in each other’s home, in public tea gardens, and by the 1880s shops began to serve afternoon, and women begin to frequent teahouses without a male chaperon.
The end of smuggling in the late 18th century did not stop the adulteration of tea, but it did start a strong national interest the field of botany (Tea Smuggling, np). The interest in botany led to one important discovery that was crucial for Britain in growing their own tea: one plant, the Camellia sinensis, makes all tea, and from this one tea plant, all four kinds of tea can be made: white, green, oolong, and black.
The differences between these major types of tea are determined only by manufacturing, such as steaming the leaves to make green tea and fermenting the leaves to produce black. The term “fermenting,” which is a chemical change, speaks to Western inexperience and ignorance of tea production, and their centuries of experience in making wine and beer. However, no chemical change actually takes place in manufacturing tea. A more suitable term would be “oxidizing” as the differences in manufacturing the four types of tea have to do with heat and exposure to air (Scott, 172).

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