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The Empire of Tea by Alan Macfarlane


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This is an interesting and readable introduction, but nothing more. Iris, the co-author's, memoirs of growing up in an Indian tea "garden" are more interesting than the rest of the book. I think of books like this as "history lite," interesting anecdotes, major figures, not much analysis of how it fits into larger historical context. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
Barely a 3 ... maybe 2.5 for "ambivalent"? There are bits and pieces of interesting story here, but it is rather dull throughout. Edit this down to what is interesting and it would take 50 pages.

Overall: Dull and not worth much time. ( )
  deldevries | Jan 31, 2016 |
Interleaves a worldwide overview history of tea consumption and trade, with a focus on the case of the British-controlled plantations in Assam and the (mis)treatment of workers there. Recommended especially if you're looking for info specifically on the British Indian trade, but it's still possible to skip the more case-specific chapters (not that it's not a fascinating story!) and emerge with a decent sense of the surprisingly significant role of Camellia sinensis in world history. ( )
  adlpr | Jan 14, 2016 |
Iris MacFarlane wrote a touching story about her life on the tea garden in India. Then Alan MacFarlane proceeded to write the kind of history that lifts tea up to its rightful place above all other beverages. I like it better than other perspectives on history because its focus is that superiority of tea.

Of particular note was how tea was compared to wine and beer. It was explained how the alcoholic drinks could never conquer the world because they take too many resources of land and labor. They were always meant for the elites in moderation while tea could be enjoyed by the masses--the drink of everyman. This history was the most inspiring when it came time to write my own book.
  jasonwitt | Oct 29, 2009 |
Another tea history book. It was okay. I couldn't understand what the writers were getting at. Obviously many have suffered hardships as a result of the tea industry, and it has affected history and health in many ways. That's what they were saying, but it was a bit scattered in making its point. ( )
  PensiveCat | Sep 23, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alan Macfarlaneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Macfarlane, Irismain authorall editionsconfirmed
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"From the fourth century B.C. in China, where it was used as an aid in Buddhist meditation, to the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when its destruction became a rousing symbol of the American Revolution, to its present-day role as the single most consumed beverage on the planet, The Empire of Tea explores the effects of the humble Camelia plant - both tragic and liberating - in the history of civilization. Incorporating research from a wide range of sources, renowned cultural anthropologist Alan Macfarlane recounts the history of tea from its origins as a wild plant in the Eastern Himalayas, and details its past and continuing effects on culture, art, politics, and environment around the world. He explains, among other things, how tea became the world's most prevalent addiction, how tea was used as an instrument of imperial control, and how the cultivation of tea led to the invention of machines and technology during the industrial revolution and beyond." "The Empire of Tea also incorporates personal stories of the people whose lives have been affected by their contact with the global obsession with tea, including the elegantly detailed account of Iris Macfarlane about her life on a tea estate in the Indian province of Assam, the world's center of tea cultivation."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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