Saturday, July 4, 2009

Pouring through the history of the world

Started a new book this weekend, one of my purchases from The Green Teaist. It's a plainly written, very matter-of-fact account of The True History of Tea by Victor H. Mair and Erling Hoh. Just thought I'd share the second graf in the book, since it's a nice way of connecting the tea in our cup (or, in this case, the harbor — happy Independence Day, American readers!) to its massive cultural, political and commercial background in one fell swoop:

The tea that filled Boston Harbor on that historic night had been picked at dawn in the hinterlands of the Fujian province of China, withered, tossed, oxidized, fired, rolled, packed in wooden chests lined with lead, carried by coolies shod in grass sandals, tasted and haggled over by plump merchants, journeyed four months in the damp storage of an East Indiaman round the Cape of Good Hope to London, broken, warehoused, and then reloaded by stevedores for the final fateful voyage across the Atlantic. From its humble origins in the Himalayan foothills of Southwest Asia, the salubrious tea plant has been traded by humans to every nook and cranny of the globe, and adopted by every people under the sun. Long before igniting the American War of Independence, it abetted the poets of China in their greatest achievements. It has burrowed itself to the core of the Japanese soul, solaced many a weary Tibetan yak herder, fueled the midnight cogitations of Britain's great inventors, and offered untold numbers of Russian peasants a path to sobriety. Through the centuries, it has provided a safe, stimulating beveragethat played a crucial role in reducing human epidemics and making habitation in crowded, bustling cities possible. In the modern world, it marks the day's rhythm for hundreds of millions of people, from the Koryaks of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia to the Samburu pastoralists of northern Kenya.

And me — a cup at mid-morning, a cup around 4. At least. Every picture tells a story, baby, and so does every cup.

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