Hamid Dabashi, the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Colombia University states that whenever people think of ‘the typical English’, one tends to think of ‘a group of white people with a stiff upper lip and a cup of well brewed Ceylon Tea’, because tea is closely associated with the Colonials who started growing tea in old Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Consequently, English became more or less addicted to drinking tea, especially what was known as ‘Typical Ceylon Tea’. Not only that, but the English were clever enough to very skillfully manage to indoctrinate the tea-drinking culture around the whole world. According to Hamid Dabashi, Portuguese were the first to enthuse the popularity of Tea in England due to a Portuguese Princess who started sipping teas as part of her daily routine.
Such history goes as far back as 1705 when the Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza, the daughter of Portugal’s King John, got married to King Charles II and became the Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1662 to 1685. Apparently, her dowry included spices, treasures, money, tea and two sea ports in Tangiers and Bombay. Portugal had been involved in direct trading with China (via its Colony in Macau), while tea had been already popular among the Portuguese aristocracy.
The English and Tea
People in England were consuming Tea only as a medicinal resolve when Princess Catherine arrived in England. However, when the Queen continued with her daily routine of sipping tea in England, it transformed into a beverage as a health concoction.
At that time England did not have any direct trading with China as such and the Dutch had to do the importing and selling tea in smaller quantities, but at a very high premium. The ordinary working-class citizen in England could only manage one whole year with just a pound of tea! Evidently, tea drinking in England was restricted exclusively to the most elite and wealthiest section in society, such as the privileged woman’s cordiality around the Royal Court towards the end of the 17th Century. They used pretty porcelain cups and saucers that were part of Catherine’s dowry, while the poor who could not afford porcelain had to make do with earthenware. Therefore, Portuguese believe that Catharina was responsible for making Ceylon tea popular.
Professor Hamid Dabashi, referring to the British, maintains that “the English do not know how to make a cup of tea properly” and call ‘tea is a travesty’. The British have built a splendid ceremony around what they identify as ‘the afternoon tea,’ which is a nonsensical disaster. They make this miraculous herb about which they do not understand the most basic fact and killing to nothingness that Henry James and others have helped build around the
He further emphasizes that a proper cup of tea needs to be poured into a see-through cup. What is basic about making tea should be that a ‘beautiful cup of tea should have its splendid ruby colour’. The first rule where the British shockingly breach in drinking tea is described as the cups that contain tea are not see through, and the proper way to make a cup of refreshing tea would be to pour tea into a see-through cup where one is able to enjoy just by looking at its miraculously crimson colour!
A proper cup of Ceylon tea should be able to see-through once it is brought to up to one’s face, and its aroma needs to rise up to the perceptible human faculties (nose and the mouth).The British tend to pour milk into the cup first, before pouring tea from a jug, which rudely destroys the delicately combined features of colour, aroma and taste. The criminal atrocity of the British becomes exposed when saturating their tea with merciless spoons of sugar, thus poisoning the wretched tea they drink (Dabasi).
Historians have revealed that the rise of tea and sugar as a ‘power duo’ was a boon for British government coffers. By the mid-1700s, tea imports accounted for one-tenth of overall tax income. The same goes for sugar: According to one analysis … “in the 1760s, the annual duties on sugar imports were enough to pay off, and to maintain all ships in the navy … Those ‘tea-and-sugar monies’ seemed to have helped to supply the British navy with better foodstuffs … and the navy was a key factor to spreading British might across the globe. It’s this dominance of the British Navy that allowed Britain to become the major Colonial power in the 19th century.”
What was the cost of this horrid British “cup of tea”? asks this learned Professor and says that cost will have to be measured in human misery. “This fad for tea came in just as sugar was under attack and had started to fall out of favour. By creating a new and lasting use for this sweetener, tea helped to buoy the demand for sugar from the West Indies, and indeed, it continued to support the expansion of slavery there.”
James Taylor, known as the Father of Tea Industry in Ceylon, invented a machine to roll tea leaves and finally the shipments of Ceylon tea reached the London Auctions in 1875. Ever since tea has contributed to the National economy. In 1995 Sri Lanka became the world’s leading exporter of tea. Only very lately some cracks seemed to appear from Russia and Japan. In the year 2016, more than 65% of the Ceylon Tea exports were to Russia, with 34 million kilos at an income of US$146 million. Decline in Russia came in 2014 as some of the Russian consumers preferred to buy tea at a lower price. Not so long ago Russia placed a complete halt on Ceylon imports of tea after they found an insect known as the Khapra beetle in a tea consignment from Sri Lanka.
However, it was ironed out subsequently treating it as an “isolated incident”
Not so long ago, after the Russian experience, Sri Lanka Tea Board Chairman Dr,Rohan Pethiyagoda, during a regulatory inspection found that ‘fifty three factories were facing the prospects of having their licenses revoked due to adulteration of tea during their processing. Warning bells also started to toll from Japan, as well as within the government political circles surrounding the banning of Glyphosate. Sri Lanka at present, use a chemical in the tea industry known as MCPA, whereas Japan has stricter residue limits for MCPA.
According to Herman Gunaratne, one of the senior planters attached to the Tea industry in Sri Lanka, on a video clip in the you tube gives a graphical account of the Tea Industry from the time Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike appointed Dr. Colvin R. de Silva as the Minister of Plantations, and the recruitment process of people to the plantation industry.
When American colonies began their revolt against the British and disguised themselves as Native Americans and called the initial uprising as the ‘Tea Party’, threw an entire shipment of tea that was sent to American colonies by the notorious East India Company into the Boston Harbour. But this very American Revolution itself degenerated into the genocide of those very Native Americans and created a more murderous chapter in African slavery. After all these criminality atrocities around the world, stealing, pillaging, trading in slaves, mass murdering, and people to rob them of their natural resources started to take place.
According to Professor Hamid Dabashi, drinking tea in the British style is an act of redemptive suffering, and just a punishment the British have done to the world at large. ‘Every time they sip from that accursed cup, they are paying penance for the terror they have visited upon this earth’ says the professor.
Professor Hamid Dabashi remembers how he, as a toddler, accompanied his mother to Hajj Abduh’s grocery store in Ahvaz, in Iran, where no tea on this earthly abode had these three qualities of colour, aroma and taste together, which made a composite cup of tea, judiciously made of at least three different kinds of tea.’.
Professor Hamid Dabashi poses a vital question: “Are you surprised at what the British have ended up with? Drinking that kind of tea is an act of redemptive suffering, a just punishment for what the British have done to the world at large. Every time they sip from that accursed cup, they are paying penance for the terror they have sown on this earth.”
References: Prof. Hamid Dabashi.
pic. credit: goole pics