Thursday, October 11, 2012

The history of tea: Going Dutch

In histories of tea, we read often about the origins of tea in China, about England's swiping of tea from China, about England's American colonies and our notorious harbor-steeping. Rarely do we get a good look at the direct relationship between the United States and China. Eric Jay Dolin's new book, When America First Met China, attempts to tell the story from a Pacific perspective rather than an Atlantic one.

One of the first ships to sail under an official U.S. flag was the Empress of China, sailing 18,000 miles to what was known then as Port of Canton in China.

Dolin also debunks a common presumption that it was English colonists who brought a taste for tea to these shores, noting:

In fact it was the [Dutch] colonists of New Netherland who first drank tea in America. And since they drank Chinese tea supplied from Holland, the Dutch colony is where America's infatuation with things Chinese began.

Thus when England took over New Netherland in 1664, transforming it into the colony of New York, the English inherited a community of tea drinkers. From that point forward the consumption of tea spread through the American colonies in much the same way as it had throughout England.

Read an excerpt of the book here.

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