When setting out to pen a book on tea, writers of previous centuries didn’t really concern themselves much with coming up with a snappy title. I’ve written about a number of such tomes in the past here and the subject of this article is hardly no exception. Then again, perhaps a title like The Past and Present State of The Tea Trade of England, and of the Continents of Europe and America: and a Comparison Between the Consumption, Price of, and Revenue Derived From, Tea, Coffee, Sugar, Wine, Tobacco, Spirits was considered to be rather snappy back in the day.
In any event, the book was written in 1832, by one Robert Montgomery Martin, who apparently wrote a number of other books on commerce, history and whatnot. If you guessed that this one is not a real gripping read, you’re right. That’s the case with many of these dusty old electronic tomes, but they do provide valuable and occasionally interesting insights into tea history.
After kicking things off with an introduction that seems to be as much about politics as tea, Martin moves on and gets underway with the book. The first chapter, Rise and Progress of the Tea Trade, obviously considers the historical context of that trade, mostly in Europe and the United States. Chapter two takes a look at the consumption of tea in Europe, America and England (which, the way I learned it in school, is actually part of Europe). He also considers the “erroneous opinion” that tea is capable of supporting life (oh, darn).
As the title of the book indicates, some of what follows takes a look at other such substances as coffee, sugar, wine and more in chapters that can be a bit dry. But there are several more interesting chapters that take a closer look at the tea business in China, mostly with regard to the East India Company, the big player in the industry in Martin’s day. Needless to say most of the trade discussed herein is with China, since in 1832 the British were still in the very earliest stages of preparing what would eventually become a booming tea industry in India.
Not a beach read, but worth a look for fans of tea history. For a free electronic edition, look here.
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